This forms part of CAGE’s report Operation Luxor: Unravelling the myths behind Austria’s largest ever peacetime police raids
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- In the early hours of 9th November 2020, the Austrian government carried out its largest wave of peacetime police raids in post-war Austria, against Muslim citizens of the country: codenamed Operation Luxor.
- The raids, overseen by Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, were carried out simultaneously at 70 homes across four federal states, mobilising 930 people including police officers, special unit agents and constitutional protection officials.
- To date, no-one affected by the raids has been charged for any offence, despite having their lives turned upside down – and Austrian courts have declared the raids unlawful, while rejecting the ‘academic’ rationale which formed the basis of the raids.
- Yet in the year since, legislative means to crack down on ‘Political Islam’ have continued apace in the country, including with the introduction of the draconian Anti-Terror Bill.
The Austrian government’s claims to be cracking down on so-called ‘Political Islam’ have served to create a very hostile environment for Muslims in the country, compounded by the work of the official Documentation Centre for Political Islam run by figures with connections to the far-right globally.
- This report documents developments around Operation Luxor, as the state narrative on the raids came undone, as well as maneuvers by the Austrian state over the past year. For the first time, we document testimonies from individuals directly impacted by the raids of Operation Luxor.
- What this year-long campaign since November 2020 has obscured is deep failings on the part of the Austrian government to keep its citizens safe.
It has emerged that foreign and national intelligence services, including the military, had warned the government beforehand of an expected attack on Austrian soil.
When attacks struck Vienna on 2nd November 2020, the government was reportedly too focused on preparing for Operation Luxor to deal with intelligence on this actual attack.
- Yet rather than reflect on this as a failing within the existing political system of Austria, the government has sought to grant itself greater powers to surveil and manage Muslims in the country.
- Institutions like the Documentation Centre for Political Islam, as well as its ‘Islam Map’ documenting the names and addresses of Muslim organisations in the country, are enabling Islamophobic attacks by the Austrian far-right with the tacit approval of the Austrian state.
- Alongside such institutions, Austrian media commentators have played a central role in legitimising the actions of the Austrian state, including with regards to Operation Luxor.
- The entanglement of the Austrian media and the government was exposed in a major corruption scandal unveiled by the Office of the Public Prosecutor for Economic Affairs and Corruption, which culminated in the dramatic resignation of Sebastian Kurz as Austrian Chancellor in October 2021.
- In the context of counter-terrorism, Operation Luxor fits in with an international trend whereby the use of unilateral executive powers against those suspected of involvement in terrorism has increased, limiting judicial checks and eroding the rule of law and accountability.
- Despite facing a series of scandals and setbacks, the Austrian government seems determined to develop and export their draconian policies internationally.This report provides a window into the realities behind the rhetoric and bluster of the Austrian government, and issues an urgent call for those inside and outside of Austria to firmly resist and oppose the country’s troubling turn.
For the Austrian government:
- All open investigations against victims of the Operation Luxor raids must be dropped and the victims have to be fully vindicated by due process, especially after the higher regional court declaring Operation Luxor as unlawful.
- As demanded by Farid Hafez Support Committee, which consists of almost 350 experts we urge the political leadership in Austria, especially the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Justice, to appoint an independent investigative commission to investigate Operation Luxor and issue its findings.
- The Documentation Centre for Political Islam, which is financed and led by the government, should be closed.
- An official, formal public state commitment to investigate Operation Luxor, especially the human and children’s rights violations and the violations of the right to a fair trial.
- Independent non-government external authority must be established to hold police misconduct to account.
- To reject the draconian Anti-Terror Bill, and cease exporting its divisive campaign against ‘Political Islam’.
- The resignation of public prosecutor Mag. Winklhofer and the dismissal of Documentation Centre ‘experts’ Heiko Heinisch & Nina Scholz, all of whom materially contributed to Operation Luxor.
- Stop harassing and terrorising its Muslim minorities and allow them to fully exercise their freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and freedom of speech as much as everybody else in the country.
- Support and fund psychosocial support for the children and adults impacted by Operation Luxor.
- Muslims are the only religious group in Austria where the intelligence service regularly meets with community leaders. We call for an end of the extraordinary means and state surveillance that the Austrian Muslim community is currently subject to.
For civil society and NGOs
- Civil society and NGOs should extend immediate solidarity and support to those individuals and organisations impacted by Operation Luxor in their struggle for accountability and justice.
In doing so, they should avoid legitimising state-sponsored binaries between ‘good Muslims’ and ‘bad Islamists’.
- Oppose the Anti-Terror Bill as repressive and Islamophobic, and opening the door for a broader crackdown across Austrian society. If it passes into law, Austrian civil society should campaign for its repeal.
- Organisations like CAGE alongside UN Human Rights Rapporteurs have long documented the use of flawed ‘science’ in legitimising repressive ‘counter-extremism’ policies.
- Civil Society organisations in Austria should educate themselves, inform others and campaign forcefully against the counter-extremism policies now taking root in the country.
- Campaign for the closure of the Documentation Centre of Political Islam and its projects, including the Islam Map.
- Challenge Austrian media and hold them to journalistic standards and ethics to stem the worrying trend of media-disseminated false information, of the media whipping up Islamophobia or of the media uncritically promoting the government line.
For targeted communities in Austria
- Extend solidarity and support to those individuals and organisations impacted by Operation Luxor – the ostracisation of those targeted by such campaigns and policies can often serve as a compound injustice.
- To ensure that community leaders do not continue to serve as ‘middlemen’ with intelligence services or contribute to the securitisation of Muslim communities.
- Mosque and community leaders should cease their practice of regular engagement with Austrian security services, which is not expected of other faith communities.
- Defend the right of Muslims in Austria to practice political freedoms, and challenge censorship of Islamic expression – rather than accepting ‘second class citizen’ status.
- Oppose the Anti-Terror Bill. If it passes into law, campaign for its repeal.
- Refuse the Austrian state’s agenda criminalising Muslim communities, and nourish those networks within the community.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)