Specific human rights violations by states vis-a-vis legal and illegal corporate entities

The problem of‘criminalization’

The ‘criminalization’ of organisations that have a licit status under the law serves a political purpose and takes place at both the international and the national level. No organisation is immune from (inter)governmental efforts to label organisations as criminal—whether that organisation be legally established as a cooperative, a charity, a foundation, or an association—or enact criminal laws that would restrict nongovernmental and corporate activities. Examples include such actions as the criminal charges (piracy) brought against Greenpeace by Russian investigators, the acceptance of the 1267/1999 Al-Qaeda Sanctions List by the UN Security Council/1 or the enactment of counter-terrorism and organised crime laws that enable the taking of legal action against biker groups.

‘Outlaw’ motorcycle clubs have acquired a considerable criminal reputation since US clubs distanced themselves from the official American Motorcyclists Association, which was established in 1924. Many members of outlaw motorcycle clubs have been subjected to legal proceedings and initiatives to restrict their entrance into public and private buildings. While entrance may not be restricted on grounds of public appearance and/or membership, members of motorcycle clubs may be obliged to remove their colours, because of the twin assumptions of provocation and violence/2 Similar cases are reported from Australia and Canada.

The efforts of national governments to ban outlaw biker clubs has not as yet been very successful. In 2007, the Dutch Ministry of Justice was rebuffed by the court in Amsterdam. In the words of the court, ‘the case transcends the violation [of] the rights of the individual suspects in a criminal case, but affects public trust in the rule of law in general’.[1] [2] The position of the Dutch government with respect to what they call ‘outlaw bikers’ is exemplary. In a letter to the Dutch Parliament, the Minister of Justice and Security refers to ‘signals’ that ‘particular motorclubs are obtaining positions in organised crime’/4 The main problem according to the Minister is the ‘gathering of legal proof’. The ‘integrated approach’ that the Ministry adopted combines administrative law, tax law, and criminal law instruments that affect both members and the clubs. The Minister ends his letter with the following paragraph:

In addition, we cooperate sometimes with Europol. Europol actively promotes expertise and information exchange, and transnational cooperation, such as Joint Investigation teams (JITs). The engagement with outlaw bikers is the longest running project of Europol. ... A number of other European countries have intensified their action against outlaw bikers/5

In his letter, human rights and global initiatives against organised crime are ignored. While most of the outlaw biker groups have a well-known global network of local ‘chapters’, the transnational element of this alleged form of organised crime is overlooked. In particular, where these organisations are considered to be involved in drugs trafficking, money laundering, the arms trade, and prostitution, maintaining links with other criminal organisations, the main investigative focus seems to revolve around intimidation, extortion, violence, and gun possession, i.e. crimes that would require less transnational organisation. Criminalizing these organisations seems to have a predominantly national political purpose and has no wider transnational policy implications.

  • [1] Cited from NRC 20 December 2007, available at: http://vorige.nrc.nl/nieuwsthema/hellsangels/arti-cle1853741.ece, accessed 12 February 2016.
  • [2] Letter of the Minister of Justice and Security to the Chair of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, 25 January 2012, available at: http://1percent.nl/PDF/20120125BriefGeintegreerdeAanpakOutlawbikers.pdf, accessed 12 February 2016. 75 Ibid, p. 6.
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