(Blogging will probably be sporadic over the next 2 weeks or so, since my daughter is visiting.)
Here's an interesting story from Denmark. It turns out that Greenpeace the organization has been fined for actions conducted by individual Greenpeace members, after those people were convicted for "violating public space" under a new Danish anti-terror law.
The Environmentalist group Greenpeace was fined 30,000 kroner (4,900 dollars, 4,000 euros) by a Copenhagen court, becoming the first organization sentenced under a new Danish anti-terror law.
Greenpeace was charged under new legislation introduced after the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, following a protest in October 2003 against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the Scandinavian country's booming pork industry.
The 15 individual protestors, who entered the Copenhagen headquarters of the Danish Agriculture association and reportedly hung a banner reading "No to GMO swine" from a window, were each fined 1,500 kroner several months ago for violating domestic peace.
The terror legislation allows the courts to hold organizations responsible for the actions of their individual members, which prosecutors said cleared the way for the charges to be brought against Greenpeace.
The group has meanwhile claimed that the charges constitute a violation of the new laws, which it insists are meant to lay responsibility for terrorist acts on the organizations that support them, and not punish "peaceful" groups for activist protests.
"When the terrorism laws were introduced, the rule was that organizations could be punished for doing something illegal. But it was clear that the aim was to target organizations that supported terrorism... Now, they are trying to use the laws against a peaceful group like Greenpeace," Greenpeace lawyer Steen Beck said when the charges were pressed last month.
Greenpeace Denmark spokesman Mads Christensen told AFP on Friday that the group was "shocked by today's judgement".
"This shows that the courts have now found a law paragraph that can be used to clip the wings of the civil society," he insisted.
The group also told Danish newswire Ritzau that it feared the court ruling would have a negative impact on the work of Danish grassroot organizations going forward.
Greenpeace, which has two weeks to file an appeal, will probably decide next week whether or not to do so, Christensen said, adding that the organization most likely would try to get the public to help sway politicians to change the law.
"The way the court has interpreted the word of the law doesn't seem to give us much room to maneuvre," Christensen said.
Police prosecutor Jens Rasmussen meanwhile told Ritzau that he was satisfied with the outcome of the case, though he said he had hoped for a fine of 100,000 Danish kroner, which he felt would have been a stronger signal with greater preventive effect.
This might well be described as an example of the worm having turned. When radical environmental and AR organizations disclose alleged (and I stress the word "alleged") wrong-doing by an organization's employees, they attempt to hold the entire company responsible for the alleged bad actions of a few, who may or may not have been abiding by corporate policy.
Indeed, we've recently seen just this tactic used by PeTA against Covance: their operative, Lisa Leitten, produced over an 11 month period video tapes of alleged animal abuse. PeTA went public with the tapes and allegations that the alleged (and I stress "alleged" . . .) abuses were routine, calling on local authorities, FDA and USDA to investigate Covance.
In short, even if the charges of abuse hold water (I have a source who suggests the tapes do not show abuse, though they are disturbing to watch), PeTA would hold the corporation responsible for the unauthorized actions of a few of their employees.
In Denmark, it looks like the government is holding Greenpeace the corporation responsible for the actions of some of their members, irrespective of whether or not Greenpeace gave them their marching orders, or, indeed, was aware of what they were doing.
I myself believe you have to be very careful when holding superiors, or entire organizations, responsible for the unauthorized/illegal actions of their people. Its just too easy to make the slippery-slope case that because the private did the deed, the president should be impeached.
Knowing what I know about the animal care and use policies and inspections regimen that research institutions are required to abide by, it is inconceivable to me that Covance as a corporation should or will be heavily punished for what a few rogue individuals might (and I emphasize "might") have done. Covance couldn't routinely abuse animals (except if the word "abuse" is expanded to meaninglessness) and stay in business.
In the case of Greenpeace, I am agnostic about their culpability or non-culpability: I don't know what they might or might not have instructed, incited or encouraged their foot soldiers to do, or what their corporate policies might be towards law-breaking, be it of the civil disobedience or "other" variety.
But — if a research or business corporation is to be punished for the illegal actions of its rogues, then environmental and animal rights groups should be similarly punished for the actions of their members. If environmental and AR corporate groups are to be protected from the actions of their individual members, research and business groups should receive similar corporate protection.
The fact that Greenpeace is being fined gives whole new meaning to the aphorism that the sword can cut both ways.