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Liberty Dies by Inches: German Counter-Terrorism Measures and Human Rights, Part 1 of 2

By Verena Zöller
Read the Full Contribution as a PDF

[Editors’ Note: Due to its size, this article is published in its HTML version in two parts. This is part 1/2.]


“I believe there is no trade-off to be made between human rights and terrorism.  Upholding human rights is not at odds with battling terrorism: on the contrary, the moral vision of human rights – the deep respect for the dignity of each person – is among our most powerful weapons against it.”

A.  Human Rights After September 11*

  On February 5, 2004 Abdelghani Mzoudi walked free from court in Hamburg, Germany. The Moroccan engineering student had been suspected of aiding and abetting the planning of the heinous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon of September 11, 2001 and of being a member of a terrorist organization. Even though the court expressed discomfort with its judgement, not being entirely convinced of Mzoudi’s innocence, it acquitted him due to the lack of sufficiently compelling evidence. The main problem was that the crucial testimony of an alleged co-plotter, Ramzi Binalshib, had been withheld by the United States. Subsequently, Bundesgerichtshof (Germany’s highest court of appeal) basically on the same grounds ordered a retrial for Mounir el-Mossadaq, who had been the first person to be convicted in relation to the 9/11 attacks. He had been sentenced to 15 years of prison for accessory to murder on more than 3,000 counts.

  While the rulings are deplorable if Mzoudi and el-Mossadaq in fact are guilty and certainly there should be no doubt that persons involved in terrorist acts must be brought to justice, there is a positive note on the case from a human...