monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
January-February 2001, vol 11 no 1
Front page lead
Civil liberties/human rights: Death by a thousand cuts
Civil liberties and human rights established in the post-war period have been under threat for more than a decade. Now, with little opposition in mainstream politics, they are under sustained attack.
UK: The annual "law 'n' order" Bill
The Criminal Justice and Police Bill published on 18 January proposes on the spot fines for "disorderly behaviour", the retention of DNA profiles and fingerprints from innocent people, powers to seize computers, provisions to allow the exchange of all police data with overseas law enforcement agencies, and at a stroke creates a UK FBI. Detailed commentary and analysis.
EU: The battle shifts to trying to undermine EU privacy
Having put in place extensive provisions on the surveillance of telecommunications and the internet, law enforcement agencies are now trying to undermine privacy guarantees in EC Directives. A main issue at stake is the retention of "traffic data" - EC law currently requires service providers to retain data for billing purposes only and then delete it - the law enforcement agencies want it kept for at least seven years. Examines the proposed legislation and the positions of the main players - the European Commission, European Data Protection Commissioners and the EU's Police Cooperation Working Party.
ACCESS TO EU DOCUMENTS: "Trialogue" talks collapse
A series of informal "trialogue" meetings have been held in an attempt to resolve the substantial differences between the positions of the Council of the EU (comprised of member states' governments), the European Commission and the European Parliament on the new code of public access to documents. However, they ended in failure and it is now clear that the deadline of 1 May 2001 set by the Amsterdam Treaty will not be met. This feature looks at the background to the fiasco and the positions of the three institutions.
EU: DNA: how long before we're all "profiled"?
The Netherlands has proposed that police forces in the European Union should extend the scope of DNA analysis to allow them to establish the "population group or race", gender and - once the technology enables it - the eye and hair colour of people whose DNA is held in national databases. The demands are part of negotiations on the short term exchange of analysis results and the eventual creation of a European DNA database. The article also covers the Criminal Justice and Police Bill proposals to retain DNA samples from innocent people, the "law lords" ruling that DNA evidence obtained through unlawfully held samples should be admissible, Police Federation opposition to forced profiling of officers and developments in Germany.
EU: Schengen Information System: SIS II - technical innovation pretext for more data and control
The planned "second generation" SIS (the EU's law enforcement database) will bring not only an extended technical capacity but also introduce new functions and investigation possibilities. Enhancing the SIS is supposed to enable the participation of new states when the EU is enlarged, but law enforcement agencies officials are taking the opportunity to allow the system to store more categories of police and immigration data, and to hold it for longer.
EU: "Crowd control technologies" - an assessment
Extracts from the executive summary of the Omega Foundation's report on crowd control technologies. Looks at chemical irritants ("pepper gas" etc.), kinetic impact munitions (baton rounds, plastic bullets etc.), electroshock and stun weapons, the "second generation" technologies on the horizon and exports to human rights violators - concluding that it would be hypocritical for the EU to define an "area of freedom, security and justice" inside its territories, while undermining those same liberties elsewhere.
UK: Cambridge Two lose appeal
Two charity workers jailed in the first case of its kind for "knowingly permitting" the sale of heroin at a drop-in centre for the homeless in Cambridge have lost their appeal to have their sentences quashed. Ruth Wyner said she felt "especially bad for people working in the homeless sector who now have a sword of Damocles hanging over them".
EU: Police Academy on the way?
A "European Police College" (CEPOL) is to be set up by the EU. It will be established initially as a network of existing national training institutes, with the prospect of a permanent institution being developed in three years time. As well as training programmes for senior officers (on combating cross-border crime), CEPOL has its sights set on training officers from the central and eastern European states. However, internal documents show Brussels frustration that the US International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest has had a five-year head-start. A number of member states are vying to host the CEPOL secretariat.
Portugal rejects Spanish-Italian treaty on extradition
Spain and Italy have agreed on a treaty "for the pursuit of serious crime by superceding extradition within a common area of justice" and claim to be pioneering the so-called "Tampere milestone" of an "EU area of security and justice". Portugal was invited to apply the same provisions in a separate agreement with Spain, but refused on the grounds that it was incompatible with the guarantees for defendants in the Portuguese constitution.
Spain: Immigrants struggle for rights and papers
The death of 12 undocumented Ecuadorian migrant workers in an overcrowded minibus has sparked the occupation of churches and demands for improved working conditions and regularisation. The Spanish government responded by signing a quota-based agreement with Ecuador on the regulation and agreement of "migratory fluxes". Meanwhile the issues of expulsion, work permits and reform of the Aliens Law have lead to hunger strikes and demonstrations by immigrants across Spain.
Germany: DNA tests to prove "bogus Lebanese" are Turkish
Kurdish civil war refugees from the Lebanon have been accused of being "bogus asylum-seekers" and the authorities in Essen have exploited a legal loophole to use DNA tests to prove that they are in fact Turkish. Apart from the fact that 60 per cent of the people in question were born in Germany, it has been pointed out that there is no such thing as a "nationality" gene.
Immigration - in brief
Germany: Tamil asylum-seeker commits suicide; UK: France and Germany again ruled unsafe; UK: Asylum-seeker commits suicide after forced dispersal and rejected claim; Germany: Pilots association condemns forced deportations
EU: Rapid reaction force "pledged"
EU defence ministers held a "pledging" conference at which they formally committed themselves to provide manpower and equipment for a 60,000 strong rapid reaction force. Germany is the largest contributor of personnel, committing about 13,500 ground troops; the UK has pledged 12,500, France 12,000, Italy and Spain up to 6,000 each, and the Netherlands 5,000. About 400 fighter aircraft and 100 warships have been promised. The far more complex question of the EU force's relationship with NATO has yet to be resolved.
Military - in brief
Germany: Army restructuring for rapid military interventions; Germany, Italy, UK: Joint air group planned
Crown servants and the denial of truth
Looks at the fundamental problems with the ongoing Bloody Sunday inquiry: firstly that it is up against "an interlocking network of power in Whitehall which is socialised and practised in secrecy and subterfuge"; secondly that it can only investigate what happened on 30 January 1972 and can not consider other events. Exemplified by the MOD's position that soldiers are represented at the enquiry as individuals (distancing the MOD from any collective responsibility), Public Interest Immunity order Certificates (effectively gagging orders) and the loss and destruction of vital evidence.
Northern Ireland - in brief
Formal complaint on Rosemary Nelson
UK: Tagging extended to children
The Home Office has announced an extension of electronically monitored tagging to 10-15 year old offenders. The tags will be used in conjunction with curfew orders aimed at keeping children off the street. Critics argue that the devices have no effect on criminality and that the deterrent effect is as yet unproved, suggesting that younger children may not understand the tags and older ones may see them as a trophy.
UK: DG of Prison service threatens to resign
In a speech to the Prison Service conference in February Martin Narey, Director General, threatened to resign over the "immorality of our treatment of some of our prisoners and the degradation of some establishments." He went on to describe six of the UK's prisons as "hell-holes". This article considers the host of problems facing the prison system.
Germany: Police attack asylum-seekers
When three African asylum-seekers in the city of Arnstadt called the police after they were attacked by around 15 German youths in October last year the officers joined in the assault instead of arresting the perpetrators. No legal proceedings have yet been instigated and the refugees have asked to be transferred to another, safer city.
Czech Republic/Denmark: Danish youth cleared
The Czech police lost its case against the young Dane, Mads Traerup, who was charged with attacking police during the protests against the IMF/World Bank summit in Prague last year. He had been held for 72 days, and was the last of around 800 arrested demonstrators to be released.
UK: "Irish watch" withdrawn
Humberside police had been instructed to report all dealings with Irish people to the Special Branch because Humberside is a major port and regarded as a possible bombing target. The blanket surveillance measures were condemned as "racist and offensive" by a Labour MP. The policy has now been withdrawn.
UK: Routine armed police patrols
Police patrolling two notorious housing estates in Nottingham have been routinely armed with Walther P990 automatic pistols in the first regular use of armed officers on mainland Britain. Senior officers in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire are reportedly considering following the lead of the Nottinghamshire force. Figures show that the deployment of armed police has risen sharply in some forces, and that 25 people have been shot dead by officers since 1990.
Policing - in brief
UK: Racist insult PC reinstated; Pentagon comes to the rescue of Iridium
Racism and fascism
Germany: AAP investigation dropped
After three years of criminal proceedings against German anti-fascist group AAP, the Bavarian police and public prosecutor have declared an end to the proceedings. 39 members of the group had been charged with forming a criminal organisation under German terrorist legislation. The AAP had been subjected to extensive surveillance, interception of telecommunications and confiscation of their property.
UK: Lawrence family accepts £320,000 from Met
The family of Stephen Lawrence, stabbed to death by racists in SE London in 1993, has accepted a £320,000 compensation payment from the Metropolitan police for their failings during and after the investigation into the murder. Meanwhile, allegations have surfaced that one of the key investigating officers in the investigation was involved in drug-dealing and theft, and Duwayne Brooks - who was with Stephen when he was killed - has had his negligence claim against the Met ruled inadmissible.
Racism and fascism - in brief
France: Le Pen reinstated
Security & Intelligence
Spain: Franco's torturer receives award
Melitòn Manzanas, head of the Franco regime's political police in San Sebastian, has been controversially given a national award for victims of terrorism - he was shot dead by ETA gunmen 1968. Manzanas was a symbol of Franco's repression in the Basque country and collaborated with the Gestapo in southern France during the Vichy regime - specialising in the torture of dissidents.
* In addition the bulletin carries a round-up of new material and full listing of UK parliamentary debates