monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
August - October 2002, vol 12 no 5
Front page lead:
EU: "safe and dignified", voluntary or "forced" repatriation to "safe" third countries
The European Union's policy on repatriating rejected asylum seekers and "illegal" residents is now openly based on "voluntary" and "forced" repatriation to be carried out in a "safe and dignified" manner. This is to be backed up by two other moves. First, the Declaration that asylum-seekers from the ten EU applicant
countries will automatically be refused and returned because they are "safe" countries (Justice and Home Affairs Council, 14-15 October). Second, the Conclusions of the Seville EU Summit in June which threatened trade and aid sanctions against third world countries who refuse to accept readmission agreements - with the
automatic repatriation of their own nationals, people who may have passed through their country on the way to the EU and any stateless people in similar situations.
EU: "safe and dignified" repatriation
With a comprehensive expulsion policy taking shape deportations from the EU are set to rise dramatically. This feature examines the Commissions Communication and EU plans to implement it.
Also published on Statewatch News Online.
EU: The European Border Guard: developing by stealth?
While the idea of a "European border guard" has been placed on the back burner for the time being, the EU has recently been developing an alternative approach to greater cooperation on external border control. In place of purely national or wholly or partly "European" external border control, the EU is setting up a complex system of coordination between national border authorities, likely to involve the use of coercive power by "visiting" border guards. But there is no adequate arrangement for accountability and many aspects of the EUs developing plans raise serious civil liberties concerns.
Viewpoint: Basque country: Between the clampdown on liberties and the search for political solutions, Peio Airbre
The political situation in the Basque Country is going through a particularly delicate moment. The illegalisation of Batasuna (which is considered the political wing of the armed Basque organisation ETA), the Basque governments proposal to modify the position occupied by the Basque Country within the Spanish State through a free association formula, and the threat by ETA to make the offices and public meetings of the PP (Partido Popular) and PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) targets for its attacks are the latest expressions of a political situation that is blocked and without apparent medium-term prospects for solution.
AUSTRIA: Education data retention law
At the beginning of this year, under the auspices of the parents committee and a multimedia firm, an A-level college introduced a compulsory fingerprinting system which pupils need to go through before being able to order their lunch for the next fortnight. Now the Ministry of Education is planning to extend the practice in a pilot project involving four colleges, to control pupil's access to certain areas of the school. The fingerprinting and the recent Ministry plans follow legal changes introduced last year, allowing the collection and retention of personal data in the education system. The data ranges from exam results and special needs to behavioural assessments and parent's careers, effectively to be used by all public authorities.
THE NETHERLANDS: Hunt for al-Qaeda "logistical supporters"
In the Netherlands, the hunt for so-called logistical supporters of the al-Qaeda network is concentrating on the Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication el le Combat (GSPC) (which separated from the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé, GIA). According to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, the GSPC maintains contacts with al-Qaeda. At the end of last year, four people were arrested in Rotterdam, allegedly in relation to the attacks of 11 September (see Statewatch vol 12 no 1). One of those arrested was released because of a lack of evidence and another was freed because of a curious miscommunication between the public prosecutor and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. The lawyers for the remaining two accused have called the second person as a witness, but he seems
to have disappeared, (suspicion has been voiced that this individual was an informant, infiltrator or agent of the French Intelligence Service).
Civil liberties - in brief
Germany: CDU violates privacy in election campaign; Turkey: Ocalan death sentence commuted to life sentence;
DENMARK: Loyalty oath to become a Dane
As part of the spring deal between the new rightwing Anders Fogh Rasmussen government (liberal/conservative) and the extreme right wing populist Dansk Folkeparti (DF, Danish Peoples Party) regarding refugee and immigration policy (see Statewatch vol 12 no 1) a special declaration must now be signed
by applicants to become Danish citizens. The agreement between the government and DF also contains a number of demands which the applicant must fulfil, such as the ability to speak Danish at the same level as the final exam in the basic school (by the age of ten) and a knowledge of Danish history, culture and society at the same level.
ALBANIA/ITALY: Customs patrol sinks dinghy
The Albanian survivors of a collision between a dinghy and an Italian customs patrol boat in Albanian waters on the night of 21 July 2002 have accused customs officers of deliberately sinking the dinghy, that was carrying 36 people to Italy. The death of two persons has been acknowledged by Italian authorities after their
bodies were found, and a further 15 are alleged to be missing by survivors.
ITALY/ALBANIA: Agreement on sentencing in country of origin
An agreement between the Italian and Albanian governments will allow judicial authorities in either country to pass sentences on nationals of the other country. The agreement allows the country of origin to imprison nationals who have been sentenced in the other country "if the sentenced person finds him/herself in its territory", as would be the case following expulsion - this is even before documents concerning the sentence passed against them have been made available by the sentencing country, or a subsequent decision has been made on the basis of those documents.
SPAIN: Migrant occupation of Seville university
On 10 June 2002, 400 immigrant workers locked themselves in Pablo de Olavide University in Seville, beginning a two-month occupation to demand the regularisation of their status (ie: the right of residence). Some of the protestors had taken part in similar occupations last year but felt compelled to re-occupy
because of the failure by the authorities to fulfil commitments (ie: obtaining preliminary employment contracts and being regularised by the government). The police response was to cordon off the university including mounted officers, and screening everyone seeking access to it. In the process they arrested several dozen immigrants who tried to join the occupation. The police even conducted a mounted charge within the university grounds, followed by detentions, which led to tension with the university authorities.
DENMARK: Anti-detention action during JHA Ministers meeting
On 12 September this year, around 25 activists organising under the name of Global Roots (Globale Rødder) staged a protest at the Sandholmlejren detention centre, near the city of Hillerød. The detention centre was targeted one day before the informal Justice and Home Affairs meeting in Copenhagen. The Sandholmlejren detention centre has been seriously criticised in the past by Amnesty International as well as the local authority health officer.
ITALY: Immigration law amended
The Bossi-Fini law amending the Italian immigration law (see Statewatch vol 11 no 6) underwent limited changes as it passed through the Senate and Parliament, and these changes are intended to toughen the restrictive effects on immigrants of a law whose original draft was widely condemned as racist. Its provisions aim
to seal Italy's borders, including the use of navy ships or customs patrols to stop ships carrying "illegal" immigrants from reaching Italy even outside its territorial waters. It introduces stricter sanctions for "assisting illegal entry" and doing so "for profit", limits the number of foreigners allowed into Italy to people hand-picked in their countries of origin, extends the duration of legal detention in detention centres (see Statewatch vol 10 no 1) from 30 to 60 days and makes expulsion orders immediately enforceable.
Immigration - in brief
UK: Deportation filmed to show enforcement is working; Spain: 4,000 deaths in dinghies in five years; Spain: The quota system fails; Spain: SIVE comes into operation
SWEDEN: Amnesty "concern" at Gothenburg trials
An Amnesty International (AI) report in June 2002 states that charges brought against 69 people following the demonstrations during the EU summit in Gothenburg in June 2001 resulted in 52 individuals being found guilty of criminal offences. AI expressed concern over the fact that significantly higher sentences were passed in relation to comparable events in previous years, and the extensive period of solitary confinement and denial of prompt access to legal counsel during pre-trial detention experienced by several arrested protestors.
ITALY/EUROPE: Solidarity with Genoa accused
Many summits have taken place since Genoa and the death of Carlos Guiliani, but those people who were victims of police brutality and subsequent prosecution have received little media attention. Preliminary proceedings are still ongoing against 300 people and police are planning to start charging people this year.
Groups in different countries have started defence campaigns and are urging support for the dismissal of all preliminary proceedings and an independent inquiry into the police operation during the summit of Genoa. Concern is particularly centred on prosecution evidence which rests on: the main criterion being applied is being classified as a member of the "black bloc", and therefore being open to prosecution under terrorist legislation.
ITALY: Judicial "independence threatened"
Repeated clashes between the Italian government and sections of the judiciary over planned reform of the judicial system and long running court cases involving Silvio Berlusconi and some of his associates, led the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and magistrates to undertake an urgent mission to Italy on 11-14 March 2002. He explained that "a confrontation of this nature can easily degenerate and become a threat to the rule of law". Hundreds of magistrates demonstrated in January to express their concerns about "government attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary", political interference in current trials, planned reform of the justice system seeking to put prosecutors under control of the executive and a reduction of police escorts for magistrates and prosecutors.
Security & Intelligence
NETHERLANDS: New Intelligence agency law
On 20 February 2002 the Dutch Senate approved a new law on the Intelligence and Security Services. With the new legislation the Netherlands will have its own equivalent to MI6 (overseas intelligence agency), with far reaching powers. While the law was introduced on the premise of improving democratic control of the
secret services, in practice it gives them more powers than they had before.
Racism and fascism
AUSTRIA: Haider flees sinking FPÖ ship
The Austrian government collapsed in September when Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssell called a general election after his far-right coalition partners resigned from the cabinet. The conservative Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP) had formed a government with the previously untouchable Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ) in February 2000. Schüssell, who at the time of the elections pledged to go into opposition rather than form an alliance with Jörg Haider's FPÖ, said that he now wanted to "create clarity".
UK: Coalition launched to boot out BNP councillors
In October the Coalition Against Racism launched its "Unite to Stop the BNP" campaign to defeat the three recently elected British National Party (BNP) councillors in Burnley, Lancashire. The campaign aims to bring together broad opposition, both locally and nationally, "against the BNP and their politics of race hate". In September one of the councillors, Carol Hughes, refused to support Burnley Football Club's initiative to ban racist supporters from their ground. Hughes abstained from the council's motion of support, while the BNP's two other councillors failed to attend the meeting.
UK: Stephen Lawrence suspects jailed for racist attack
Two of the five men named in the media as the murderers of Stephen Lawrence - the 18-year old black student who was stabbed to death by a gang as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south London, were jailed at the beginning of September after racially abusing a black police officer. Neil Acourt and Stephen Norris were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment at Woolwich crown court for the aggravated racial harassment of detective constable Gareth Reid in May 2001, less than half a mile from the scene of Stephen's murder.
Racism and fascism - in brief
UK: "Police indifference" blamed for racist murder
UK: "In the public interest" to keep "discriminatory" DNA
In September the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier divisional court ruling that the retention of body samples is "necessary in a democratic society". The Appeal court judges rejected, by two to one, a claim that keeping the DNA samples and fingerprints of suspects subsequently cleared of any charges, breached their human rights. Richard Gordon QC, who was representing an unnamed youth and a man, Michael Marples, who had all charges against them dropped, said South Yorkshire police operated a blanket policy of retaining all DNA samples and fingerprints unlawfully. Lord Woolf and Lord Justice Walker (with Lord Justice Sedley dissenting) ruled that the practice of keeping genetic data from innocent people adhered to the European Convention on Human Rights, while Walker claimed that it was in the public interest for the police to have as large a databank as possible.
NETHERLANDS: "Experimental" pepper spray used as weapon
Although pepper spray is already being used throughout the Netherlands, it is still being portrayed by the authorities as "an experiment" that is due to conclude in 2006. This contradiction is further compounded by the fact that the pepper spray currently used, is produced by a different company than the pepper-spray which was extensively tested by the TNO, the Dutch Institute for Applied Scientific Research. This year, every police officer will be issued with pepper spray, and even police reservists are issued with the spray to take home on return from their annual training. One person has already died this year after having been sprayed with the gas.
ITALY: Policeman acquitted of killing
Police officer Tommaso Leone has had his 10-year sentence for the "voluntary homicide" of 17-year old Mario Castellano overturned on appeal. Leone shot the youth in the back after Castellano failed to stop his moped for a police check in Agnano near Naples on 20 July 2000. His claim that he accidentally fired the shot was contradicted by an eyewitness who described how Leone had "knelt down, aimed and fired" after failing to stop Castellano by chasing his moped.
UK: "Suppressed" film wins award
Ken Faro and Tariq Mehmood, the co-directors of the film Injustice, an uncompromising documentary produced by Migrant Media which examines black deaths in police custody, won the prestigious BFM (Black Filmmaker Magazine) best documentary film award at the end of September. The film, which highlights the struggles of families to gain justice after the death of a family member in police custody, was officially launched in August 2001, but cinemas were immediately pressurised by the Police Federation to cancel or face a lengthy and expensive legal action.
Policing - in brief
UK: Alder officers cleared; UK: "Independent" complaints body delayed for a year; UK: Stanley Family seeks judicial review of inquest open verdict; Spain: Plan to "combat criminality"; Spain: Deaths of immigrants in police custody continue
ITALY: Protest at extension of hard regime
The hard prison regime governed by article 41 bis of the penitentiary system code, temporary legislation that was renewed on a yearly basis, is to be made permanent, and to become applicable to criminal offences involving terrorism (subversive activity) and human trafficking. It was previously applicable to serious crimes involving participation in organised crime syndicates, notably the Mafia and other such organisations, like the ´Ndrangheta in Calabria, Camorra in Campania and Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia.
UK: Another death in Feltham YOI
On 26 September 2002, a jury returned a verdict of "suicide to which neglect contributed", at an inquest held into the death of 16 year old Kevin Jacobs, found hanging from the bars of his single cell at HM Young Offenders Institute Feltham, in the early hours of 29 September 2001. Deborah Cole, co-director of INQUEST
noted that "Kevin had been recognised as a deeply disturbed young boy at risk of suicide, yet was placed in an unsafe single cell...If children like Kevin continue to be sent to prison they will continue to die."
UK: Prisoner resistance
With prison conditions deteriorating as overcrowding increases, prisoners have begun to organise resistance to their conditions. Protests took place in September over conditions at HMP Swaleside, HM YOI Ashfield, and at HMP Pentonville, where an eight hour sit down was held over continued confinement to cells.
UK: Wormwood Scrubs inspection
On 6 September 2002, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, reported on an unannounced inspection at HMP Wormwood Scrubs over a 10 day period in December 2001, following the appointment of a new governor and the jailing of prison officers following serious assaults on prisoners. The report notes that inspectors found evidence of good and carefully supervised practice in the segregation unit (where the assaults had taken place) and no evidence of a culture of brutality towards prisoners. However, the inspectors note that "Wormwood Scrubs may have instituted systems which make prisoners safe from staff, but it had no effective systems to make them safe from one another or themselves."
ECHR Chamber decision
[Ezeh and Connors v United Kingdom (nos 39665/98 and 40086/98)]
The applicants, both UK nationals, are serving prisoners. The case concerned the applicability of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights to prison adjudications. Mr Ezeh was charged with using threatening language to a parole officer, and Mr Connors with assault on a prison officer. Both were found guilty at adjudication. Mr Ezeh was sentenced to 40 days detention, and Mr Connors to seven days detention. The Court considered that the
applicants were denied the right to legal representation and held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6.3(c).
Prisons - in brief
UK: Prison overcrowding
Military - in brief
UK: SAS accused of murdering Iranian hostages; UK: War Resisters International in court; EU: Military mission at risk from Turkish rift; EU: US and EU at odds over Nato force
EU: European Parliament settles for limited access to documents
One of the outstanding matters in implementing the Regulation on access to EU documents (1049/2001) was settled at end of October. The European Parliament agreed a report on its access to sensitive documents from the Council of the European Union covering security and foreign policy. Extraordinarily, it appears that the parliament is not to be supplied with copies of sensitive documents but has to request them (Article 2.2). How will the parliament know what documents have been produced in order to request them?
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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