monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
March - April 2003, vol 13 no 2
Front page lead:
EU: Buffer states & "processing" centres
20 neighbour states to create new buffer zone; readmission agreements unilateralist and inhumane; all refuguees and asylum-seekers to be immediately sent to EU closed reception centres for processing. Overview of new developments in EU immigration and asylum policy including the so-called safe-havens plan.
UK:Data retention and access consultation farce
In March the Home Office issued consultation papers on the retention of communications data and on access to communications data. The paper on data retention, dates from the passing of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act in December 2001 and has taken the Home Secretary 16 months to issue.
The paper on access to communications came about after the government tried to rush through a Statutory Order giving over 1,039 public authorities the right to
request communications data.
UN:Losing the war on drugs
In April 2003 the UN Commission for Narcotic Drugs (CND) concluded its annual meeting and Ministerial Conference of member states to mark the half way point in the ten year UN strategy: a drug free world, we can do it!. Devised at the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York, world leaders put their faith in the elimination or significant reduction in poppy, coca and cannabis cultivation. Despite the positive spin to emerge from the CND gathering, it is impossible to disguise the failings of this strategy.
EU:Mass deportations by charter flight - enforcement and resistance
For all the EU governments hard line speeches on their clamp down on asylum, the one thing they have always failed to achieve is their deportation targets. Although the living conditions for asylum seekers in the EU have dramatically decreased over the past decade (detention, dispersal, no social services, racist
attacks), their removal after failed applications has been slowed down by several factors. Contrary to common belief, these are not related to the EU government's international obligations under the ECHR.
Germany:Legally regulated torture - the Daschner case and the political trap
Despite many documented instances of police violence, for now, the FRG is not in danger of becoming a torture state. But if human rights and dignity are to be preserved, it is not enough to appeal to liberal democracy and its rule of law, and it is absolutely unacceptable to apply the legally enshrined interest balancing test to acts of torture in an emergency. In rejecting the ratification of the UN Anti-Torture Convention on the grounds that it would lead to asylum claims the FGR shows that it is unwilling to provide a serious contribution to preventing torture overseas.
IRAQ WAR: IFJ demands inquiry into beating of reporters
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has demanded an "immediate and full inquiry" into reports that US and British forces in Iraq arrested, beat-up and detained four journalists alleging that they were spies. The reporters, Dan Scemama of Israel's Channel 1, Boaz Bismuth of Yediot Aharonot and Luis Castro and Victor Silva from Portugal's Televisao Portuguesa, were not officially "embedded" with the troops and they were detained by US military police, despite carrying international press cards, as they sheltered from a sandstorm. In an interview with Democracy Now, Dan Scemama described how five US soldiers beat and kicked one the Portuguese journalists, breaking his ribs, after he asked to phone home.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Pat Finucane Centre celebrates ten years in pursuit of justice
Over the Mayday 2003 weekend, the Pat Finucane Centre celebrated the tenth anniversary of its official formation.
Civil liberties - in brief
UK/Thailand: Solidarity with Thai drug users
GERMANY: Discrimination against Roma violates EU accession standards
In anticipation of a growing number of applications for membership by eastern European countries, the EU Council established at the Copenhagen Summit in 1993 what is now known as the "Copenhagen Criteria". Apart from administrative and economic standards, applicant countries must have a democratic government, which includes "stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities." A study conducted by the EU Accession Monitoring Program of the Open Society Institute (EUMAP), has found that Germany violates the "Copenhagen Criteria" of minority protection. The report refers to institutional discrimination in the areas of housing, education, employment, healthcare and a lack of protection from racist violence. Another aspect of Germany's mistreatment of the Roma is the large-scale deportation programme targeting families from the former-Yugoslavia, who are being
deported into economic and social insecurity.
SPAIN: Aliens' Bill provisions annulled
The Supreme Court has invalidated 11 articles of the Regulation implementing the Aliens' Bill, because they affect fundamental rights which cannot be regulated by decree. These include the right to effective judicial protection for undocumented migrants detained within Spanish territory and the right to free movement
for undocumented migrants who have authorisation to remain in Spain.
ITALY: Regularisation applications result in expulsion
A regularisation process aimed at legalising the position of migrant workers who are illegally employed in Italy, is turning into an expulsion trap for some of the over 700,000 applicants who submitted their applications within the 11 November 2002 deadline. It emerged in Milan that where the regularisation application is not accepted, expulsion procedures are automatically commenced.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Lawyers intimidated by police
A report by the Police Ombudsman's Office into police harassment of lawyers and barristers in Northern Ireland has found fifty-five solicitors and barristers who said that they had experienced "intimidation, harassment or threats from the police." The majority of the incidents took place before the Ombudsman's office went into operation in November 2000. Over half of these respondents said that they were not the victims of a single incident but "frequent targets" who "had experienced incidents of mistreatment...three or more times". The "inappropriate" behaviour included "defamation, physical threat, threat of arrest and sectarian abuse", while more serious forms included accusations of involvement in terrorist activity and threats that their names and addresses would be given to a terrorist organisation.
ITALY: Court annuls release of activists charged with "subversive association"
On 7 May 2003 the Court of Cassation in Rome annulled the decision taken by Catanzaro court to release activists (Rete del sud ribelle) who had been arrested on 15 November 2002, charged with subversive association and political conspiracy against the state by Cosenza prosecutors. The appeal by Cosenza prosecuting magistrate Domenico Fiordalisi was based on irregularities in the hearing in Catanzaro, and undue influence exercised by a demonstration outside. Defence lawyers stressed that the appeal was based on an interpretation of laws on subversive association and political conspiracy that dated back to fascism.
SPAIN: Controversial award to "victim of terrorism"
On 12 March 2003 the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco, PNV) against an award "of civil recognition for the victims of terrorism" granted to Melitón Manzanas on 19 January 2001 as a result of his shooting by ETA on 2 August 1968. The law on victims of terrorism decrees that the families of those granted the award should receive 138,000 Euros compensation. Manzanas was head of the political police (Brigada Politico-Social) in San Sebastian, renowned as a symbol of repression in the Basque Country under general Franco.
WALES: Victim criticises delay in justice
Francisco Borg, one of two Cardiff youths who were the victims of a racist attack and were than attacked again by police officers when they attempted to report the first incident, has won £40,000 compensation from South Wales police.
UK: "Utterly misguided" name and shame campaign halted
Essex constabulary's campaign to "name and shame" criminals, by putting up posters bearing their image and details of their offences, came to an abrupt halt in February after the high court found that their plans infringed upon their intended victim's human rights.
UK: New "lethal weapon" for police
Despite safety widespread concerns, five police forces - Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Thames Valley, North Wales and the Metropolitan police - have been equipped with Tasers, a "less-lethal" hand-held weapon that incapacitates individuals with an electric charge.
Policing - in brief
Italy: Legitimate defence in Giuliani case; Spain: Malaga police cell blaze case re-opened; Spain: Reparation withdrawn; Spain: Surveillance criminalises South Americans; Spain: Policeman punished for unjustified detention; Spain: mossos d'escuadra on trial for torture; Spain: Policeman who sexually abused detainees jailed; UK: New Metropolitan police training centre; UK: DNA tests on arrest; UK: Fresh inquest into killing of Harry Stanley; France/Italy/Spain/UK: The failure of police surveillance in the Mediterranean
UK: Inspection of UK detention estate
A report published by Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, into the UK detention estate - where refugees and asylum-seekers are held - has made serious criticisms of the safe functioning of the establishments reviewed. The inspection team visited Haslar, Lindholme, Campsfield House, Tynsley House and Oakington.
They observed that perceptions of detainee safety were not high anywhere. The inspectors noted with concern that detainees felt particularly unsafe in the two Prison Service run centres, Haslar (where 10% felt safe) and Lindholme (15%).
Germany: Privatising the prisons, with a little help from the UK
Between 24 and 25 March this year, around 40 representatives from the criminal justice, economic and political sectors met at a conference organised by the German association Management Circle AG on "Prisons - (Partly) Privatised Prisons as new area of Investment!". Speakers from law firms, businesses, the justice ministry, universities as well as from building and leasing sectors met to discuss the advantages and incentives for introducing a partial privatisation of Germany's prisons because "The penal system is expensive!", and can therefore also be very profitable.
Prisons - in brief
UK: HMP Holloway inspection; UK: Rioting at HMP Shotts; UK: Brutality complaints at HMP Full Sutton; UK: Campaign Against Prison Slavery; UK: Call for inquiry into HMP Brixton deaths
Racism and fascism
UK: BNP trebles seats in local elections
The British National Party (BNP) put up a record number of candidates at the local elections on 1 May, contesting 221 seats, compared to 68 last year. The following day, results showed that the fascist organisation held sixteen council seats trebling its previous total of five.
GERMANY: Informant scandal halts NPD ban
The German government's attempted legal action to enforce a ban on the far-right National-Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands (NPD) has been thrown out of court because of dubious prosecution evidence provided by secret service informers who were active in the NPD. The court criticised the government for refusing to inform the jury about the extent of the involvement of paid informers in the NPD; the government eventually admitted that at least one in seven of the party's regional and national leadership had at some point worked for the secret services.
Racism and fascism - in brief
UK: Life sentence for racist murder; UK: Asylum centre custody officer was fascist election candidate
Security & Intelligence
SPAIN: "Al-Qaeda" detainees released
Fourteen of the sixteen Moroccan and Algerian nationals arrested in Catalunya on 24 January 2003 suspected of links with Al Qaeda and of planning terrorist attacks were released on 21 March. Their release followed tests that were carried out on substances that were confiscated in a bottle and two containers. They revealed that what were suspected of being chemical or explosive substances to be used for terrorist attacks were in fact harmless cleaning products. Some forged documents were also found in the raids, although most of them turned out to be authentic. Two of the suspects are still in custody pending further investigations: one for possessing false documents and another for having electronic materials, including cables and mobile phones, that investigators claim could be used to activate explosive devices.
ITALY: Ex-CESID directors jailed for illegal phone-taps
On 4 April 2003, two former directors of the Spanish military intelligence service Centro Superior de Información de la Defensa (CESID) were found guilty of the "illegal interception of telephone communications" of the left-nationalist Herri Batasuna (HB) offices in Vitoria, in the Basque Country. Emilio Alonso Manglano and Javier Calderón received three-year sentences, a fine and are barred from public office for eight years. Two CESID officers who were deemed to be the material authors of the interceptions received sentences of two-and-a-half years, a fine and were barred from public office for six years.
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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