Back to website

re: Hans-Martin Tillack, the former Brussels correspondent of Germany's Stern magazine.

(Photo removed with belated apologies to Peter-Vincent Schuld, photojournalist .)

Hans-Martin Tillack

"Hans-Martin Tillack was a Brussels correspondent of "Stern" magazine from 1999 until mid-2004. His reports on corruption and democratic deficits within the EU bureaucracy caused widespread interest and led to repeated harassment against him. Following his story on corruption in the EU statistical office Eurostat in March 2004 Tillack was arrested by Belgian police on the grounds of allegedly bribing officials. His office was searched while he was being detained and interrogated for hours without being able to contact anybody.

This set off a wave of worldwide protests by major media and journalist organisations."

He was made one of the Mediens-Tiftung Laureates of 2005 along with Seymour Hersh, Anna Politkowskaja (who continues to report on Chechna) and Britta Petersen chairwoman of the organization "Initiative for a Free Press"

Brussels accused of 'police state tactics'

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

in Brussels (Filed: 23/04/2004)

The European Union was accused of using "police state tactics" to stifle criticism after police raided the offices of a Brussels journalist and seized a vast archive of documents identifying his sources.

Hans-Martin Tillack, Brussels correspondent for Germany's Stern magazine, said Belgian police took computers, mobile telephones, address books, bank statements, and 17 boxes of documents.

They were acting on instructions from the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf.

Mr Tillack was held incommunicado by police without access to a lawyer for 10 hours last month. The second raid occurred on Wednesday. He is suspected of bribing an official to obtain an internal Olaf dossier in 2002. He dismissed the claim as pure fabrication intended to justify a "fishing expedition" through his files.

Herbert Bosch, an Austrian Socialist MEP in charge of overseeing Olaf, said: "What is happening is absolutely unacceptable. I don't believe there is a scrap of evidence against Tillack".

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory MEP, accused Olaf of "police state tactics" and said it was part of a pattern in which EU whistleblowers were singled out for harsh treatment.

Mr Tillack has clashed repeatedly with Olaf, accusing it of dragging its feet on serious corruption cases.


EU judges end human rights law for press

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Brussels

(Filed: 18/10/2004)

The European Court has quietly brushed aside 50 years of international case law in a landmark judgment on press freedom, ruling that Brussels does not have to comply with European human rights codes.

In a judgment with profound implications for civil liberties, Euro-judges backed efforts by the European Commission to obtain the computers, address books, telephone records and 1,000 pages of notes seized by Belgian police - on EU instructions - from Hans-Martin Tillack, the former Brussels correspondent of Germany's Stern magazine.

It is a test case of whether the European Court will adhere to the democratic freedoms and liberal principles upheld for the last half-century by Europe's top rights watchdog, the non-EU Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, or whether it will pursue a more authoritarian line as it grows in power.

Mr Tillack had written a series of hard-hitting exposes of EU fraud and skulduggery, relying on inside sources. By obtaining his archive of investigative files amassed over five years, the commission can identify key sources and "burn" a generation of EU whistleblowers.

He was arrested by the Belgian police in March and held incommunicado for 10 hours for allegedly bribing an official to obtain internal EU documents.

The action was requested "urgently" by the EU's anti-fraud office, which claimed Mr Tillack was about leave for America. In fact, he was moving back to Hamburg.

Leaked anti-fraud office documents have since shown that the allegation was concocted over dinner between two commission spokesmen.

Raymond Kendall, the former Interpol chief and now head of anti-fraud office oversight board, testified to the Lords in May that officials had acted improperly "purely on the basis of hearsay" and were "obviously" in collusion with Belgian police to identify Mr Tillack's sources.

Claiming that the anti-fraud office head had more power to launch raids and seize documents than any other police chief in the world, he said the body was a danger to civil liberties. "They can do whatever they want to do. There is absolutely no control whatsoever," he said.

Mr Tillack filed a lawsuit at the European Court with the backing of the International Federation of Journalists to block commission access to his records.

The federation pleaded that the EU's attempt to identify a journalist's sources in that fashion was a "flagrant violation" of press protection established over decades in European Convention law.

If the commission is allowed to sift through his records, it would render investigative journalism "virtually impossible" in Brussels.

Mr Tillack's lawyers cited extensive case law, including the case of "Goodwin v UK" in 1996, ruling that the protection of sources was the cornerstone of a free press and "genuine democracy".

The human rights court ruled against Luxembourg last year that identifying a source of leaks did not constitute a "pressing social need" that could justify a breach of Article 10 on press freedom.

But the EU's Court of First Instance ruled against Mr Tillack last week on the grounds that the case was a strictly Belgian matter.

Euro-judges accepted commission claims that it played no role in the arrest of Mr Tillack, even though leaked anti-fraud office documents show it orchestrated the raid from the beginning.

It is not the first time the European Court has appeared to ignore established human rights law.

It ruled in "Connolly v Commission" in 2001 that the EU could curtail civil rights to defend the "general interest of the communities" where necessary, despite human rights case law clearly and repeatedly banning recourse to such sweeping powers.

In theory, the European Court is obliged to defer to the court of human rights as the higher authority in all areas of rights protection. The Tillack and Connolly rulings offer the first evidence that Euro-judges may create their own very different brand of civil rights law.

You shouldn't mess with Olaf

Bookers Notebook March 20 2005

A year ago today I was in Brussels talking to Hans-Martin Tillack, a German journalist. At six the previous morning he had been woken by six Belgian policemen, who came into his flat, held him prisoner for 10 hours, then confiscated his computers and all his papers. This was done at the behest of the EU's anti-fraud unit, the "Office europien de lutte anti-fraude" or "Olaf", following what turned out to be a wholly fabricated charge that Tillack had paid for evidence to be used in articles exposing EU corruption in Stern magazine.

When Mr Tillack went to the European Court of Justice to prevent his papers being handed over to Olaf, the ECJ last Christmas found in the EU officials' favour, even though it was shown that the evidence on which they had ordered his arrest was concocted, and that the judgment was in clear breach of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that a journalist has the right to protect his sources.

Mr Tillack's ordeal fitted in only too neatly with what has now become a classic pattern. Anyone in Brussels who gets too close to the corruption rife in the Commission will face ruthless attempts to bully and intimidate them into silence. The list of whistleblowers subjected to this treatment grows ever longer, from Bernard Connolly and Paul van Buitinen, the auditor whose revelations forced the resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999, to Marta Andreasen, the Commission's former chief accountant.

Miss Andreasen, who was appointed to clear up the irregularities in the EU's accounts, was sacked last October for doing precisely what she had been hired for. All her efforts to improve the system had been rebuffed, not least by Commissioner Neil Kinnock, supposedly responsible for making the Commission more honest.

Further light was shed on the Andreasen affair last week by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Daily Telegraph. He quoted an email written by Jules Muis, a Dutchman who was brought in from the World Bank to act as director of the Commission's internal audit service. In evidence last year to the disciplinary tribunal hearing Miss Andreasen's case, Mr Muis said he had found her a "focussed and determined professional who was asking the right questions" about what he called the Commission's "chronically sordid" accounting systems.

But the most chilling passages in Muis's long email related to the "unforgiving" way in which the Commission uses its "collective firepower" to "trash" any individual who dares to challenge its corrupt and bullying culture. He recalled how he himself had once been warned not to step out of line, by an official who threatened "we have ways of breaking people like you".

What a far cry from the other face of the Commission presented by Margot Wallstrom, its vice-president charged with selling the EU to the peoples of Europe. Last week she regaled readers of her weekly internet "blog" with a toe-curling account of a recent visit to Ireland, where she described looking in on "a training centre for people with mental disorders", meeting representatives of organisations ranging "from churches to aid workers, to anti-poverty, to environment", and being moved by the sight of a young girl to think sadly that she is too old to have any more children.

Quite what this touchy-feely stuff has to do with the arguments for the European Constitution is not very clear. But then the two contrasted faces of such omnipotent institutions - the one bullying and tbe other soppily sentimental - are far from unfamiliar.

Democracy Watch Jan - April 2004
... Hans-Martin Tillack, European correspondent of the German magazine Stern, ... Last month, Mr Tillack was suddenly arrested by detectives on the orders ... -

... Mr Tillack's lawyers claim this is a breach of article 10 of the European ... prompted a police raid on Tillacks home and offices, the seizing of his ...