“There is overwhelming evidence in the public record that Denmark participated in the US operation to track and kill Anwar al-Awlaki,” says Amrit Singh, Senior Legal Officer at Open Society Justice Initiative and explains why the organization is interested in the Danish government’s involvement in the operation to track and kill al-Awlaki, a senior al-Qaeda in Yemen.
“But the Danish authorities have never meaningfully acknowledged this fact, and have refused to inform the public and Danish Parliament about their role. By participating in the operation, it appears that the Danish authorities may have violated both Danish law and international law, as part of support for the U.S. government's so called "war on terror”."
“After 9/11, a vast number of Europe's governments were enlisted to secretly participate in "extraordinary rendition," secret detention and torture. Now it appears they are being enlisted into a war that is being waged in secret around the world-with no geographic boundaries, and without any kind of oversight.
If Denmark is part of this potentially limitless global war, the Danish people have a right to know about it."
You have read and analyzed the articles in Jyllands-Posten, videos etc. on jp.dk about the Morten Storm case and other material about the killing of al-Awlaki. What is your point of view of PET's role in the US operation to track and kill Awlaki in relation to national Danish law and international law?
“The evidence uncovered by Jyllands-Posten is extremely concerning. It shows that PET actively collaborated with the CIA in the operation to track and kill Anwar al-Awlaki. It shows that PET engaged in a cover-up of its role in the operation. It shows that PET tried to hide the truth from the Danish public. The evidence suggests that PET may have violated Danish Penal Code provisions relating to murder, as well as international legal prohibitions relating to the right to life, among other laws. These are very serious violations.”
“Significantly, in February 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the use of armed drones. The resolution condemns the use of drone strikes "outside a declared war by a state on the territory of another state without the consent of the latter or of the UN Security Council" as "a violation of international law." It further calls on Member States to "oppose and ban the practice of extrajudicial targeted killings" and to "ensure that the Member States, in conformity with their legal obligations, do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states." What we know about Denmark's conduct so far does not appear to comport with these standards.”
Why do you file a request for information relating to the Danish government knowledge of and involvement in the operation to track and kill al-Awlaki?
“The US government has publicly acknowledged that it killed Anwar al-Awlaki-President Obama himself acknowledged this fact publicly in May 2013. But the Danish government has refused to acknowledge the role it played in this operation, despite overwhelming evidence of this role. Especially in light of the human rights violations at issue, it is essential for the Danish government to disclose the full truth about its involvement.”
Of cause, you have done your homework thoroughly before filing a freedom of information request with Danish authorities, and you have hired Danish lawyers with knowledge of Danish law. Therefore you know that it is almost for sure that you don't get anything from the Danish authorities except what already have been published, eg. from the Ministry of Justice to the parliament, Folketinget. So why file a freedom of information request?
“We have to ask. If the government refuses, we can look at further steps, since covering up evidence of involvement in grave human rights abuses is a breach of Denmark's commitments under international human rights law. Denmark needs to own up to the truth about its involvement in the Awlaki operation.”
Open Society Foundation have previously taken judicial steps when you think there have been a violation of the law. Is your actual request for information part of a strategy where the next step e.g. can be a report to the police or a trial in the Danish courts?
“The request for information is an important first step in pursuing accountability for Denmark's possible unlawful complicity in a killing operation. I cannot at this time disclose all the elements of our legal strategy, but we intend to do our best to ensure that the truth comes out and government officials are held accountable for any participation in grave human rights violations.”
Danish lawyers have said - after seeing the evidence - that PET have violated the Danish criminal code by trying to help CIA to kill Awlaki, and they have called for an independent investigation. Are you surprised there has never been an independent investigation of the accusations of PET?
“Unfortunately, I am not surprised. The evidence uncovered by Jyllands Posten shows that PET did everything in its power to suppress the truth, including by trying to keep Morten Storm from going public with his account of PET involvement in the Awlaki operation. The truth is inconvenient for the Danish authorities. A recent European Parliament resolution on drones, that was passed by an overwhelming majority, stresses the importance of "prompt, independent investigations" and "public attribution of responsibility, punishment of those responsible and provision of access to redress, including payment of compensation to the families of victims." The Danish government's conduct thus far does not comport with these standards.”
I'm sure you have knowledge of other cases in Europe where media reports have raised questions regarding the behavior of national authorities in terror cases and "war on terror". Why have you decided to get involved in the Danish authorities' knowledge and involvement in the Awlaki case?
“We are monitoring the involvement of numerous other governments around the world that have also been reported as assisting in various ways with US drone killings. Unfortunately, Denmark is not the only European government to have been involved. There are credible reports that the UK and Germany may also have been involved in various ways. There is a pattern here, and that only underscores the gravity of the problem. This is a very dangerous situation-if European governments continue to secretly participate in such killing operations all over the world without any kind of oversight, this would undo the entire system of international law that was designed to prohibit the arbitrary use of lethal force.”