FECL 02 (November 1991):


The refugees were told that the men questioning them in fluent arab were "nordic colleagues" and believed that their detailed accounts on their biographies, political activities and organizational links were confidential information to be used exclusively by the norvegian authorities to determine their refugee status. But the arab speaking men were Israelis, officers of Mossad. During months they questioned Palestinian refugees with the consent and in presence of Norway's security (Overvakningspolitiet). Thus, the refugees unknowingly became informers of the state they view as the arch-ennemy of their people. The Norwegian government was not informed on this "informal cooperation".
Just one more case of blatant violation of the rights of asylumseekers by European secret services out of democratic control.

The scandal came to light, when a norwegian speaking Palestinian discovered that the "policeman" interviewing him did not understand a word of norwegian.

The Mossad was particularly interested in 19 refugees, all of them former members of the PLO who had left this organization. Two of them were offered money in exchange for working as informers. Norwegian security also sent lists containing the names of Palestinian and other Arab refugees to the Mossad which filed them in its data system. In one case Norwegian police handed over a list containing more than hundred names to Mossad - for "identity check", as an official explains. According to him, 8o of them were already filed in the israeli databank. Among those, 55 were rated by Mossad as "involved in terrorist activities" or "members of terrorist organizations". Israeli authorities rate all PLO organizations as "terrorist".

Norwegian-Israeli secret service cooperation runs within the framework of the so called "Kilowatt group". This is a loose "informal and practice oriented" network of secret services including the NATO-countries, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and South Africa. It was created in the early seventies on Israeli initiative with the declared aim to combat terrorism.

In first statements the chief of Overvakningspolitiet Svein Urdal declared that such cooperation was "natural and justified under certain circumstances" and his predecessor asserted that "we decide, how the cooperation is carried out and how eventual hosts shall behave." Norwegian security officials also point out the "give and take" character of Kilowatt. Mossad, they say, is an invaluable source of information, but asks for services in exchange.

The Swedish journalist and secret service expert Jan Guillou asserts that Israel's influence on opinion making within the Kilowatt group is great: "Israel determines, what must be rated as dangerous." And with regard to the "give and take" game he notes: "When e.g. Israel expresses the wish that Palestinians or other Arabs be expelled from a scandinavian country, it can ask indirectly that this should happen. And it happens that it happens."

Indeed, Sweden has repeatedly expelled Palestinians regularly residing in the country without trial and on the ground of mere suspicion of S"po (security police) which never was substantiated that they posed a threat to national security.

In the meantime the Norwegian Minister of Justice Mrs. Kari Gjesteby and the head of security have publicly "regretted" that the refugees were not informed on the true nationality and function of their interviewers and the Minister of Justice noted that she should have been informed by security on this unusual practice. The state committee in charge of controling the security's activities has produced a report which sharply condemns the practice of the security police and calls for stricter guidelines, more transparency and better control.

In spite of the governments attempts to prevent this the chiefs of Overvakningspolitiet and of the "anti-terrorist" unit finally had to resign. But the government has not given in neither to the request of lawyers and refugee defense organizations to immediately grant asylum to the refugees affected by the "Israeli connection" nor to the lawyer's association's demand, that all police interviews of asylum seekers shall be inhibited, until it can be guaranteed that police does not hand over such confidential information to foreign services.

Instead, the 19 refugees concerned were granted residence permits on humantarian grounds. In the minister of justice's view the 19 are no political refugees and their having been interviewed by Mossad would not expose them to any risk in case of deportation back to their countries of origin.

One of an additional group of 9 refugees whose names had been handed over to Mossad has been denied any form of residence in Norway and is since held incommunicado, awaiting his expulsion. The incommunicado detention has no legal base and the government has refused to justify it with a hint at alleged "national security interests".

NOAS, the Norwegian organization for asylumseekers, has signified that also non Arab refugees as e.g. Kurds from Turkey now fear that they are subject to similar intelligence cooperation between Norway and their home country.

NOAS anounced legal action against Overvakningspolitiet and a complaint with the European Commission of Human Rights for violation of article 8 of the ECHR (right to respect for private life).

Nicholas Busch


Sources: "Aftenposten" and other Norwegian press dispatches; NOAS)