monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
March - April 2002, vol 12 no 2
Front page lead: EU-US secret agreement in the making
A secret agreement on criminal matters, investigative procedures and joint investigation teams is being negotiated without the the European or national parliaments being consulted. Statewatch has been refused access to full-text of documents because the interest of protecting the Councils objectives outweighs the interest in democratic control.. which is referred to by the applicant. In the negotiations with the US the EU governments appear to be willing to drop or modify (in a negative way) a number of basic rights and protections built into EU law and protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Northern Ireland: Inside Castlereagh: Files stolen from Special Branch HQ
Shortly after 10.00pm on 17 March, three people entered Special Branch headquarters, overpowered the only police officer on duty in "Room 220" and left some 20-30 minutes later with a number of files and documents, and possibly computerised information. The incident happened at the notorious Castlereagh police
complex which is not only home of the 800-strong Special Branch and the interrogation centre (closed in December 1999), but also housed the British Armys Joint Support Group, formerly called the Force Research Unit. It has long been assumed that Castlereagh was one of the most secure police stations on these islands. Feature looks at the role of key officials, police demoralisation and who stole the files?
Austria: Racist justice=No justice
Marcus Omofuma was killed during his deportation en route from Austria to Nigeria, at the trial of the three police officers charged Marcus was declared to have joint guilt in his own death. In The Trial of Marcus Omofuma Chibo Onyeji writes of an analagous situation the defense argued that the policemen who battered Rodney King were endangered by him and that Rodney King's conquered body, which was shown by the video as it was "being brutally beaten, repeatedly, and without visible resistance" was, in fact, the source of this endangerment.
EU: The war on freedom and democracy - an update
Spanish Presidency initiative links terrorism and protests, Germany government proposes EU-wide profile searches and the European Commission puts forward plans for EU border police with full powers.
Italy: Navy accused as immigrants drown
On 7 March, a boat carrying dozens of mainly African immigrants sank after being broken in two by a wave in a rough sea as it was being towed towards the Sicilian island of Lampedusa by a local fishing boat that responded to its distress call. Eleven passengers survived out of a total reported to have been over 80: twelve bodies were recovered and the rest are missing, presumed dead. The Elide fishing boat was the main participant in the rescue attempt although a nearby navy ship, the Cassiopea, had been warned about the struggling ship but failed to take charge. Francesco Giacalone, captain of the Elide told Il manifesto: "The navy could have done more...when we spotted the shipwrecked persons, we immediately warned the...navy. They sent a helicopter. And when the Cassiopea arrived, we
asked them to tow them. It looked to us like the safest way. They [refused], saying that we were going well. A quarter of an hour later the boat sank".
Finland: Prison detention centre closed
The Katajanokka prison in Helsinki has been closed for being in breach of international obligations for the treatment of prisoners. Now the Interior Ministry has decided to build a detention centre on the prison site, to be ready for use by the summer this year. In Finland, as in the UK and other EU countries, past court rulings have held that asylum seekers and migrants should not be imprisoned. The government's responses have been the renaming of prisons as "reception centres" and "houses", as was the case at Campsfield in the UK. Ironically, this has often made the situation for immigrant detainees worse, as staff do not fall under legally enforceable prison regulations with clearly defined prisoner's rights. Now Finland is following suite by building an immigration detention centre on a former prison site.
Spain: Minister rebuffed over "criminal" migrants
When he presented the Spanish crime figures for 2001, which indicated a 10% increase (mainly in crimes against property), Interior minister Mariano Rajoy highlighted reasons to explain this increase. These included the increase in the number of illegal immigrants in Spain, and the difficulties in expelling those found guilty of committing offences. "An increase of 39.61% has been recorded in the number of foreigners detained for all forms [of crime], but with regards to thefts in houses using force, and thefts using violence and intimidation, 50% of detainees are foreigners". The head prosecutor of the Madrid high court of justice, Mariano Fernandez Bermejo took exception to the claims: "It is a lie that immigration is a cause of crime; the cause is social exclusion". He added that "...we must not call members of organised criminal groups immigrants, because this would be to insult people who come to Spain to undertake work that we don't want, such as taking care of our grandparents or cleaning our houses".
UK & Germany: The targeting and criminalisation of Kurdish refugees
Kurdish refugee communities in the UK and Germany have been on the receiving end of intensive targeting and criminalisation "by state and non-state actors" since the 1980s. This is the conclusion reached in a report by Desmond Fernandes. The targeting and criminalisation of immigrants and refugees is identified as a chief trait of immigration policies at both EU and national levels. The role of international geopolitics, police surveillance and harassment, the role of the media and political parties, and the violence of far-right groups are also highlighted.
UK: Wombles claim victory in court
Seven members of the Wombles (White Overalls Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles) faced charges including assaulting a police officer, causing criminal damage to a police van and using threatening words and behaviour at Horseferry Road magistrates court from 29 April to 3 May 2002. Five defendants were acquitted. One was convicted for causing criminal damage and "using threatening words and behaviour", and another for a public order offence. The two
were fined £100 and ordered to pay costs. One of the accused claimed a "close to complete victory", stressing that it was a "waste of taxpayers money".
Spain: Law to make Batasuna illegal
The Spanish government is on the verge of approving a law that is expressly aimed at making Basque political party Batasuna illegal. The draft Law on Political Parties was approved on 16 April by the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (General Council of Judicial Power). The judicial body was divided, as only the 11
magistrates appointed by the ruling Partido Popular (PP) voted in favour. Eight others considered that some of the articles are unconstitutional.
EU: Surveillance of communications: Mystery of the missing minutes
Under the Swedish Presidency a proposal was being discussed to update the infamous ENFOPOL 98 - which sought to extend the surveillance of telecommunications to e-mails and the internet. This was not adopted because of a huge outcry by civil society. ENFOPOL 29, the revised proposal, was approved at the meeting of on 23 May 2001 and it appeared on the "A" Point agenda for the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) on 28-29 May 2001. Although not adopted by that JHA Council, the minutes of the preparatory Article 36 Committee (which discusses working party negotiations and prepares debates and legislation for COREPER and the JHA Council) meeting on 3 and 4 May 2001 have now emerged almost a year late - suggesting a clear cover-up - and the issue now appears to back on the EU agenda.
EU: Statewatch appeals successfully against US veto on access
In December 2001 the Council of the European Union refused Statewatch copies of the agendas of the EU-US Senior Level Group and the EU-US Task Force because the US vetoed access to them. Statewatch appealed against the initial decision of the General Secretariat of the Council and, finally, on 6 March this
year 35 agendas were released (ten of the meetings were conducted by "video-conferencing"). However, the released agendas contained no less that 458 sections of information blocked out with the phrase: "Not accessible to the public".
Europe - in brief
Spain: Authorisation for the US to spy in Spain; EU: SIS II takes ominous shape; EU: Europol to be given access to the SIS, then custody?; EU: Presidency defies EU treaties, ECJ case law and council legal service to put the case for private security; Belgium: Five police officers sent to trial over death of refugee during deportation; Sweden: USA puts three Swedish citizens on UN terrorist list; Spain: State agencies put protestors under extensive internet surveillance
Germany: Military service tested
Over recent years, more and more EU member states have abolished the practice of compulsory military service. Rather than representing a drive towards the demilitarisation of society however, this development has reflected the restructuring of the EU armies to deal with the new "security concerns" of the EU after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Germany, there have been longstanding demands from peace activists for the abolition of compulsory conscription, and the constitutionality of the practice was recently tested with the Federal Constitutional Court. The court ruled against the plaintiff, but only on grounds of formal mistakes on the part of the regional court which first ruled in his favour, not on grounds of a substantive examination of the claim.
Military - in brief
Europe: Green light for Galileo
UK: ECHR finds prison death violated Articles 2 and 13
The European Court of Human Rights held on 14 March 2002 in the case of Paul and Audrey Edwards v the United Kingdom (no 46477/99) that there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights as regards the circumstances of their son Christopher Edwards' death; that there
had been a violation of Article 2 as regards the failure to conduct an effective investigation; there had been a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
UK: Zahid Mubarek campaign setback
The family of Zahid Mubarek, who was beaten to death in his cell by a known violent racist, Robert Stewart, has suffered a setback in their campaign for a public inquiry into the murder. The court of appeal has overturned a ruling in the lower court that ordered the Home Secretary to hold a public inquiry into the "systemic
failures" which led to the murder.
UK: Sentencing policy in chaos
The government's criminal justice policies become less coherent by the day, according to caseworkers from Miscarriages of Justice UK. With a prison population at a 70,266 record high, prison service director-general Martin Narey has called on judges to sentence offenders to custody only as a last resort. Mike Newell, president of the Prison Governers' Association, wants radical action to reduce numbers, including stripping magistrates of the power to jail offenders. "Magistrates have a wide range of community penalties available to them, but they insist on imposing inappropriate sentences. These powers should now be taken away from them to stop such inappropriate sentencing."
Prisons - in brief
UK: Irish deaths in custody
Italy: Naples police charged
Eight policemen from the Naples flying squad have been placed under house arrest in connection with the treatment of protestors at the Global Forum on e-government organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) held in Naples on 18 March 2001. Forty thousand people protested against the meeting and clashes with police took place in Piazza Municipio when protestors tried to push their way through police lines to gain access to the "red zone", which was forbidden to demonstrators. On the day, 200 people were injured, 83 detained, two arrested and 13 placed under investigation. According to Il Sole 24 ore newspaper over 100 police officers are under investigation in connection with events in Naples.
UK: Retention of body samples "necessary in a democratic society"
The Queen's Bench Divisional Court has ruled that police are not prevented by Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights from keeping the fingerprints and DNA samples of suspects who are subsequently cleared of committing any offence. The controversial ruling, in late March, tested police powers introduced under last year's Criminal Justice and Police Act. The government's genetic watchdog, the Human Genetics Commission, has expressed concern about allowing the police to keep samples from suspects in criminal cases if they are found to be innocent.
UK: West Mercia police accused of obstructing inquest
On the eve of the inquest into the death of Jason McGowan West Mercia police have been accused of covering-up vital information by the McGowan family. Jason McGowan was one of two related black men found hanging within months of each other in Telford, Shropshire. Jason had been investigating his uncle Errol's hanging, which his family believe was carried by a racist gang, when he also was found hanged on New Year's Day 2000.
UK: Campaign wins new investigation into death
Deputy Assistant John Grieve, the head of the Metropolitan police racial and violent crimes unit, has acceded to demands for a new inquiry into the death of a young black man, Shaun Rodney, who was found dead in Ilford city centre on 27 June 2001. An inquest, that was scheduled to take place in March, was
referred back after the coroner raised questions about the conduct of the police investigation. The Rodney family had, for some months, called for a new team to carry out the inquiry, before taking their case to Grieve. The family believe that racial prejudice was behind the flawed investigation.
UK: Social centre raided
A squatted social centre, modelled on areas for social, cultural and entertainment activities that are widespread in Italy, was raided by police in Stoke Newington on 13 April. The operation against the "Radical Dairy" took place at 8am, when between 30 and 40 police officers (some in riot gear) drawn from seven vans blocked off the street and entered the premises. The alleged reason for the raid were two warrants: one issued under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and the other by the London Electricity Board (LEB). For over an hour police searched and filmed the premises, eventually leaving after seizing two computers without providing a receipt for the property.
Policing - in brief
UK: Duwayne Brooks to sue police; UK: Murrell murder to be reviewed;
Racism and fascism
UK: Klan man jailed
A former "grand dragon" of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Wales, Allan Beshella, was jailed for three months at the beginning of March after being found guilty of racially harassing Muslim shopkeeper, Mohammed Nawaz. Within days of the 11 September attacks, Beshella threatened Mr. Nawaz, questioning him about his religious beliefs at his shop in the south Wales town of Maesteg.
Racism and fascism - in brief
UK: Chinese monitoring group launched; UK: Sarfraz Najeib launches civil proceedings
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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