a c i s m K i l l s
|no-racism.net | Racism Kills | The Trial||
last update: 07.04.2002
Trial of three alien police officers
... or is it really the trial of Marcus Omofuma?
A résumé of the first two weeks of the trial
of the three alien police officers
- Reversing the roles of victim and perpetrator
- Independent Witnesses?
- The Right Lawyer
- Deportation as a Daily Business
- Schedule of trial
The first days of the trial which is scheduled to continue till the 15th of April was characterised by denial of responsibility, reversing the roles of victim and perpetrator and cynicism. Whenever Marcus Omofuma was mentioned it was as a berserk, aggressive, screaming, resisting person making animal noises. Thus the victim became the culprit, inflicting himself on the poor, unknowing victims who were only doing their duty. The accused Josef B. admitted to the court (18.03.02) that during the deportation he had called Marcus Omofuma a drug dealer in describing him to others so as not to have to explain the details of the asylum process - a justification for the mistreatment? The scenario produces a consistent picture - if Marcus Omofuma had gone quietly, if he had accepted his fate and allowed himself to be deported, then nothing would have happened to him. Trial witnesses talked of their own feelings - it was not a nice sight, you couldnt look at Omofuma in the eye because he would have regarded it as provoking, they were not informed, in any case deportations were a difficult task. Despite this alien policemen volunteered for the duty. The special allowance for police duties in foreign countries was apparently a strong attraction. How far racism could have been a motive is not the subject of the trial any more than the question of human rights. The defence argument was that all those responsible knew of the practice of tape gagging though it was never spoken of officially. According to the accused any talk about it took place in a semi-private situation. It was there the experiences were traded. In addition in the alien police duty room there was, for many years, a picture on the wall showing a taped deportee in an aircraft. Acording to the testimony of one of the accused even one of the three ex-Home Secretaries (all from the SPÖ - Austrian Socialist Party) who was to appear as a witness had seen the picture and not raised any objections. All three - Löschnak, Einem and Schlögl, deny this.
In his statement, Caspar Einem, Home Secretary from April 1995 till January 1997, said that had he seen the picture it would have meant he would have had to do something about it. He did not, however, remember any such picture. He stated further that in his opinion taping the mouth shut was not to be tolerated. He admitted that he knew of a case where a deportees mouth had been taped, but he had not accepted this as the rule. It was possible that in his ministry certain information was withheld from him. Apparently there was internal resistance in the Home Office to Einems humanist understanding of politics (which was of little consequence practically).
Einems predecessor, Franz Löschnak, Home Secretary from February 1989 till April 1995, was of the opinion that tape gagging was acceptable as an emergency measure. He knew of the practice from 1991 or 1992 onwards.
Karl Schlögl, Home Secretary from the 28th January 1997 till 4th February 2000, Stated that he knew nothing about tape gagging. He could not imagine tape being used during deportations, a measure of that nature was an attack on human dignity. But it was only after the 1st of May 1999 that steps had been taken. After that, only specially trained officers had carried out deportations. He had prohibited tape gagging. In addition, after the death of Marcus Omofuma the previously planned Human Rights Advisory Committee had been established.
In order to carry out the deportation the officers concerned had, at least up till the 1st of May 1999,a so-called set consisting of a roll of sticking plaster, a roll of adhesive tape and Velcro fasteners. The question remains - who provided the set carried, like a service pistol, at every deportation. Colleagues had had bought it privately because it was not an item in the budget. No-one thought of claiming reimbursement of the expense. Who provided the sets can no longer be determined with any certainty - they were handed down from one deportation officer to the next. The idea of tape gagging deportees surfaced at the beginning of the 90s. According to the statements of the accused, the practice was never mentioned in official reports even though it was common practice amongst the deportation officers. Like with eating and drinking. It was not planned that black African deportees should eat and drink. They were generally regarded as dangerous and often got nothing to eat, as a Balkan Air stewardess testified.
Herbert K., the former head and later deputy head of the alien police, who had personally been involved in carry out a number of deportations stated that in some records there was mention of tape gagging in problem cases of deportation. It was, however, always said to be an emergency measure to prevent bites. In this connection it is also interesting that in his statement on the 13th of March Christian Z. said that he had mentioned gagging in a report which was later sent back to him for re-writing. There was a post-it note attached to it to the effect that he should remove all mention of the gagging. He did as requested so as not to draw negative comment - at this time he had only been in the alien police a short time. The statement made by Karl H., a former head of the alien police is interesting as far as the outcome of the trial is concerned. He was the only officer questioned who criticised the practice of gagging. He became aware of the problem for the first time in 1996 when a complaint was made to the UVS (Independent Administrative Tribunal). He passed on the complaint to his superior, Dr. Stortecky, and waited for things to take their course. Karl H. was hoping for light to be cast on the matter and for a clear decision from the UVS. Without that decision he could not forbid the tape gagging otherwise he would have been leaving the policemen who carried out the deportations in the lurch. There was, however, no reaction. He thought that his superiors did not want to impose a behavioural corset detrimental to state interests. He himself did not want to take any action which his superiors might not wish for.
He thought it necessary to make the policemen aware of the tape gaging problem after Semira Adamu was suffocated with a cushion during a deportation in September 1998. He stated that in the autumn of 1998 he talked about the problem twice at an official meeting in front of the whole group. If the taping lasted for a long time someone could die. He also said that should a deportation only be possible with tape gagging it was advisable to break it off and to return to the prison. Officers should always check the reasonableness of their actions in the context. At the meetings some of the officers had been agitated when he gave them advice, and had more or less said, thats not right, nothing can happen to me. No one agreed with the witness that it could be dangerous.
In any case it is interesting that neither the accused nor any of the other alien police appearing as witnesses could remember any official duty meetings at which the problem of tape gagging was mentioned. When questioned, Karl Schlögl at least admitted to having heard of the practice, but he could not confirm that such a meeting took place.
Up to this point in the trial the only people who have been questioned are those involved in the deportation machinery - policemen, former Home Secretaries and the crew of the airline carrying out the deportations. Up till now there have been no independent witnesses. Passengers on the flight in question were summonsed but the summonses for Bulgarian passengers were simply handed over to them and no effort was made to provide visas or flight tickets. The defence (Messrs. Rifaat and Ofner) have been vehemently outspoken in their opposition to issuing summonses to any of the passengers on the flight on which Marcus Omofuma suffocated. Their argument is that the case can be quite adequately re-constructed from the statements of the accused and the officers at Schwechat Airport who are regularly involved in deportations. In any case ( they argue) statements had been made during the investigation of the case. However, during the trial there were a number of occasions where it became clear that there were contradictions between what the accused had said in their first statements and what they stated in court.
Three days before the trial was to begin it was announced that former Justice Minister and present FPÖ [Freedom Party] spokesman on justice Harald Ofner was taking over the defence of one of the accused alien policemen. It was an effective media coup. On top of that, it makes for an interesting constellation, something which has drawn little comment up till now - Harald Ofner (former Justice Minister and present FPÖ spokesman on justice) whose party comrade is Dietmar Böhmdorfer (Advocate and FPÖ Minister of Justice) and Public Prosecutor [District Attorney] Demler who is legally bound to report to the Minister of Justice and must follow his directives. In his opening statement Ofner portrayed the facts in such a way that Marcus Omofuma became the aggressor and the policemen carrying out the deportation the fearful victims. In addition, it was not too ridiculous for him to try and create doubt as to Marcus Omofumas identity. On top of that he used the trial to assert that the state would be unable to act if it was not allowed to use the necessary measures during a deportation. His emotional performance seemed specifically designed to impress the lay judges who, together with the judge, will decide the guilt or innocence of the alien policemen.
It became clear through the questioning the crew of the Balkan Air flight
that deportations were regarded as part of normal business. If criticism
was voiced at all it was only in connection with how the other passengers
and the crew felt about it. The airlines have to be attacked at the point
which hurts most - the finances. Tape gagging and tying up were part of
the routine in Austria, at least up until May 1999. This was the case
despite the fact that there was a binding decision of the UVS from 1996
which specifically prohibited the taping of the respiratory tract. The
question today is what are the procedures now? What measures are used,
especially in connection with the so-called problem deportations? These
are carried out in Austria by an IFRA (International Air Rescue Service)
charter flight. Here there are no witnesses from the so-called Human Rights
Advisory Committee involved, a committee which was brought into being
for the purpose of correcting shortcomings or disruptions
08/04/02, 9:15: Examination of six witnesses from the Netherlands.
Location: The trial takes place in the Schwurgerichtssaal (jury courtroom) of the Landesgericht Korneuburg (District Court) (Hauptplatz 1). Korneuburg is about 15km north of Vienna on the A22. By train it can be reached with the S3 which leaves every half hour..
The trial is open to the public and there are places free. Accompanying the trial there will be demonstrations against the practice of deportation.
Information and current reports of the trial at www.no-racism.net/racismkills
|..||.||back to index||..|