Despite being regarded a terrorist organization by the European Union,
the website of Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group ELN runs
comfortably on a server in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam. The internet provider is a leftist Spanish non-profit organization.
Due to a series of human rights violations, the National Liberation
Army (ELN) has been considered a terrorist organization by Brussels since 2004,
as is the case with the internationally more well-known FARC.
Groups on the
European terrorism black list are automatically banned in the Netherlands and are
not allowed to deploy any activities there. Bank balances can be frozen
and activities such as membership recruitment can be penalized with one
year of imprisonment.
The facilitation of websites of
organizations on the European list of terrorist organizations is also
prohibited, according to the Dutch Prosecution General’s Office. The degree of offense depends on the contents of the site, says a spokesman.
Therefore, he could not yet tell if action is going to be taken against
the ELN site.
Possible complicating factor is that the ELN site is hosted
by Spanish provider Nodo50
that has its servers in the Netherlands. According to the European
directive on electronic commerce an ISP is obligated to act when they
are hosting an illegal site, but not when they merely transmit
information from servers that are not their own.
?XS4ALL, the Dutch company facilitating the hosting of the website, does not check if any of their clients appear on a
terrorist list. “That is not only impossible but also undesirable,
because it would mean that we as internet provider decide what’s
allowed on the internet,” said spokesman Niels Huijbregts. “We are not
liable in any way, but if the judiciary informs us that a site on one
of our servers is prohibited, we will take it offline immediately.”
Because XS4all is not physically hosting the website on its own servers, but only allowing the server to be stationed in the company’s datacenter, the company could block the IP-address of the website, but this would take all nodo50 websites offline. According to XS4all, this would even be illegal. “A possible notice-and-takedown request would have to take place in Spain. We can’t do anything about that,” the spokesman said.
The ELN uses its Spanish-language website mainly to lay out its
alternative political views. President Alvaro Uribe is heavily
criticized, as is the US for its military involvement in Colombia. The
site furthermore offers messages from the war front, a video of a
training camp in the forests of Colombia and a possibility to get in
touch with the guerrillas.
Over the years, the Marxist
rebels have kidnapped thousands of people for ransom and still hold
over two hundred hostages. Moreover, the ELN is held responsible for
civilian casualties due to the use of landmines and attacks on
Colombian infrastructure. The guerrilla group was founded in 1964 and
now has between 3500 to 5000 fighters, less than half of the FARC.
Since the arrival of the Uribe government in 2002 the Colombian rebel
groups are on the defensive.?