Statewatch bulletin
monitoring civil liberties in the European Union

March-April 2001, vol 11 no 2

Front page lead

EU governments to give law enforcement agencies access to all communications data
The Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) is about to back the demands of EU law enforcement agencies for full access to all telecommunications data to be written into all Community legislation in the future, and for all existing privacy and data protection laws to be re-examined.

Features

EU: EU-FBI telecommunications surveillance system comes home to roost
Examines the proposals on data retention for law enforcement purposes and surveillance of telecommunications. For this feature, extensive background and documentation see the Statewatch's Observatory on Surveillance in Europe: SOS Europe

ACCESS TO EU DOCUMENTS: European Parliament votes for "deal" with the Council on access to documents
The European Parliament has voted through the "deal" with the EU Council on the new code of public access to documents. An "unholy alliance" between the PSE (socialists) and PPE (conservatives) secured a large majority ignoring the pleas from civil society groups (Statewatch, the European Federation of Journalists, ECAS, the European Environmental Bureau, Bankwatch and leading academics). Negotiations leading up to the deal offended basic democratic standards. Statewatch editor Tony Bunyan commented "It shows that on this issue the majority in the European Parliament are closer to the governments in the Council than they are to the people they represent".

GERMANY: International alarm at "anti-terrorist" prosecutions
Germany's Federal Public Prosecutor's Office has put 6 people on trial for alleged "membership of a terrorist organisation". The basis for the allegations has been evidence obtained under the much criticised Crown Witness Regulation of the German Criminal Code (§129/129a). Inconsistencies in the evidence to the trial, remand periods for up to 14 months, and the use of §129/129a have now led to severe criticism by international trial observers and civil liberties groups, and the public prosecution and law enforcement agencies stand accused of politically motivated prosecution. Meanwhile, members of the German parliament have joined demands for the abolition of §129/129a.

UK: Asylum "non-compliance" regulation abused by Home Office
Examines the Home Office's abuse of the non-compliance regulation which has artificially enhanced its decision rate on asylum applications and led to sloppy and illegal decisions - appeal rates are also up. Also looks at the refusal of Iranian claimants, the possible effect of the Race Relations Amendment Act, detention at Oakington, the as yet invisible review of the NASS vouchers system and the disappointing judgments on appeals against immigration decisions brought under the Human Rights Act.

News

Europe

Netherlands/UK: Questions ask whether the death of 58 Chinese immigrants was a "controlled delivery"?
The death of 58 Chinese migrants in a container lorry has resulted in prosecutions for manslaugther and people trafficking in the UK and Netherlands. The British trial has now ended, and questions concerning a possible involvement of police forces from both countries have arisen in the Dutch trial. Inconsistencies in police statements over surveillance of the suspects prior to the fatal journey, and links to earlier cases of known trafficking have led to parliamentary questions in the Netherlands about whether the container could have been part of an international "controlled delivery" operation.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 15-16 March 2001
Temporary protection in the case of a mass influx of refugees; procedures for implementing border checks and surveillance; common manual on border controls; EU crime prevention network; "cybercrime"; facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence; JHA cooperation with central and eastern European "candidate" states.

Immigration

UK: Compensation claims for illegal imprisonment of refugees
A 1999 High Court ruling found the government's practice of imprisoning asylum seekers without valid documentation illegal. Now the Home Office is facing a string of compensation claims from asylum seekers who have been unfairly imprisoned between 1994 and 1999.

UK: Charter jets for mass deportations
Large numbers of failed asylum seekers and irregular migrants are now being deported en masse. In order to reach its annual deportation target of 30,000, the UK Home Office has started hiring charter jets to carry out 'removals'.

UK: Anti-deportation protests at airports illegal
A Magistrate's Court has found an anti-deportation protester guilty of violating airport by-laws during a protest against the forced removal of an Iraqi asylum seeker. The police has been criticised for heavy-handed conduct during the arrest, also towards journalists. Now the defence is appealing the decision under the UK Human Rights Act in order to claim the right to protest against deportations if the life of the deportee is in danger, and on grounds of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Netherlands: Iraqi refugees on hunger strike
The Dutch government has recently declared Northern Iraq 'safe' for Kurds, and stopped issuing temporary residency permits, leaving around 9,000 people in legal limbo (no work permits, no access to welfare). Five Kurds have been on hunger strike since February this year and other protests are increasing against this decision. The government however, is not backing down.

Immigration - in brief
UK: Straw overruled again in application of Dublin Convention

Civil Liberties

ITALY: New internet censorship
Law 62/2001 came into force in March 2001 and turns web sites 'regularly' publishing information into an 'editorial product', subjecting them to Italy's press laws. The main changes include compulsory registration of website, the requirement that a professional journalist must take responsibility for a site providing information, and the introduction of a system of regulations and sanctions.

Law

UK/Spain: Fast-track extradition agreement
A bilateral agreement between Spain and the UK "to negotiate a treaty for expedited surrender, based on the principle of mutual recognition". It aims to replace extradition procedure with a single court hearing "to establish liability to surrender" as part of a wider plan to limit judicial scrutiny in the requested state and to advance the unquestioning execution of 'foreign' judgments by EU member states.

UK: Reform of extradition procedures
The Home Office has published a consultation document on extradition which includes a "fast-track" procedure for EU countries.

Military

UK: Police and army to deploy "unstable weapon of death"
Ministry of Defence plans to introduce a new generation of more lethal plastic bullets on June 1 have been criticised by Labour MP Kevin McNamara. The MP, who described the L21A1 baton round as a "child killer", says that the decision defies the recommendations of the Patten report into policing in Northern Ireland.

EU: European defence - hidden agendas?
Looks at the interests of Britain, France and Germany in common European defence measures. Suggests Britain wants to be at the heart of an ambitious project, partly because it isn't participating in the single currency; Germany wants an integrated defence and security policy and France sees the defence as the most promising area in which to assert its international influence.

Military - in brief
Europe: European Air group extended; France-Italy: Agreement on satellite sharing

Policing

UK: Families reject "cosmetic" changes to PCA
The United Families and Friends Campaign have criticised Home Office plans to replace the PCA with a new body, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. They argue that the Home Office framework falls far short of the "sweeping reforms needed for restoring confidence."

UK: Damages for injury - but not for death
In May 1995 Brian Douglas and Stafford Soloman were the first victims of the US style long-handled baton following its issue to the Metropolitan Police. Brian died after five days after being struck across the head after the two were stopped by police in South London, Stafford was struck on the arm. Although the police have never accepted any liability for Brian's death , they have recently agreed to a £45,000 out-of-court settlement with Mr Stafford.

Germany: Racist stop-and-search: does not exist if not recorded
Law enforcement agencies in Germany have been given far-reaching stop and search powers over the past few years. Now that complaints about racist conduct during these operations is on the increase and the government is being questioned as to what plans it has to combat institutionalised racism, the government has replied that it is not possible to investigate allegations as no statistics were being collected.

Policing - in brief
UK: "Voluntary" DNA sampling of officers still causing problems; Italy: Carabinieri investigated for Tunisians murder; Italy: Policeman "accidentally" shoots dealer; UK: Police fail to overturn unlawful killing verdict

Northern Ireland

Ex-RIR soldier jailed for possession of loyalist arms
A former RIR soldier and loyalist paramilitary/far-right supporter has been jailed for nine years for possession of firearms.

Racism and fascism

UK: Foot in mouth politics
Following the criminalisation of the Chinese community after the death of 58 migrants in Dover last year, the community is now facing allegations of illegally importing meat which caused the foot and mouth crisis in the agricultural industry. The Chinese community has started to protest against what it feels is increasing anti-Chinese racism in the UK.

Racism and fascism - in brief
UK: Leeds footballers retrial; Italy/Europe: Lawyers against racism and fascism

Security & Intelligence

Germany: Secret service informer exposed
A 'documentary film maker' who has been active in left wing circles in Germany for over twenty years has been exposed for spying for several secret service agencies. Large amounts of intelligence on dozens of Italian, French, German and Swiss activist groups and hundreds of persons has been discovered at his office. Italian and German secret services as well as a UK based 'business-intelligence' bureau, which conducted spying activities in Nigeria for oil giant Shell, were among his employers. Now the Swiss based activist group which the 'film maker' was part of is calling for people who believe to have been subjected to his investigations, to come forward. The spy has left Switzerland and his whereabouts are unknown.

UK: Repeal the Official Secrets Act (ROSA)
Following a series of politically motivated trials and court actions against individuals, journalists and publishers a campaign has been launched to repeal the Official Secrets Act (ROSA). It is supported by Liberty, the NUJ, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Statewatch and Index on Censorship.

* In addition the bulletin carries a round-up of new material and full listing of UK parliamentary debates