monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
August-October 2003, vol 13 no 5
Front page lead
UK/EU: UK takes lead on surveillance of passengers
The UK government is planning to introduce an "Authority to Carry" scheme which will see all passengers entering or leaving the country being checked against police and security databases to see if they are a "known security or immigration risk". If they are identified as a "risk" they will not be allowed to board the plane. The only country to currently operate such a system - the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) - is Australia. The USA too is planning to introduce the same system.
Germany: Return to the lager system
In August and September, days of action were organised nationally, by refugees, migrants and activists, against a relatively new form of "lager", which, according to the state is neither a prison, nor a home, but a "departure centre". These centres are used against people who the state cannot deport - usually because they lack identity documents - but who are legally obliged to leave. This form of indefinite quasi-detention is not yet enshrined in law but practised by four German Länder with the intention of enforcing deportation targets by averting the social integration of refugees and migrants and by exerting psychological pressure to force them to leave.
UK: The alternative "2002 annual report" on surveillance
The annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2002 gives figures for warrants issued for the surveillance of communications and shows that on a conservative estimate this has more than doubled since Labour came to power in 1997. These figures are a gross underestimate. The annual report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner (2002-2003) reveals for the first time an overall figure for the number of agents/informers employed by the law enforcement agencies (excluding MI5 and MI6). In the year April 2002 to March 2003 over 11,000 "covert human intelligence sources" were active. It can be simply stated that the UK population is under surveillance as never before in its history.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Britain's Force Research Unit
In April 2003, Sir John Stevens, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, gave the first official description of the British Armys Force Research Unit (FRU). It came as part of the only public report on Stevens 14 years of investigation into collusion between the official security forces and unofficial loyalist armed groups. The significance of the Stevens Report and its public acknowledgement of FRU should not be underestimated. The FRU was at the heart of a counter terrorist strategy in which intelligence, police and military operatives actively supported loyalist paramilitary groups and dramatically increased their killing capacity. That support included the sourcing of weapons, the provision of surveillance, the identification of targets and the facilitation of murder operations. Over many years, and especially since the murder of lawyer Pat Finucane in February 1989, a range of evidence has come to light which makes it impossible to continue to deny the reality of systematic collusion.
UK: Cover-up over Porton Down's "volunteer" sarin experiments September will see the first open inquest into the death of Ronald Maddison, a 20-year old serviceman who died an agonising death fifty years ago after an experiment that saw him exposed to 200 mg. of liquid sarin nerve agent at the Ministry of Defence's Porton Down military testing centre near Salisbury, Wiltshire (see Statewatch vol. 12 no. 6). It is also the month that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) chose to announce that it "has advised that there should be no prosecution for any criminal offences arising from the evidence reviewed to date on allegations made about experiments carried out on human volunteers [sic] at Porton Down, Wiltshire, from 1939 to 1989."
UK: Libel payment for Lofti Raissi
In April 2002 Lofti Raissi, an Algerian-born pilot, was cleared by a British court of allegations that he trained the 11 September hijackers. Lofti was arrested days after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, and the Pentagon played a key role in instigating charges against him, insisting that it had insurmountable evidence that he had trained the pilots. After spending five months detained at Belmarsh high security prison in southeast London, where he was told he would be charged with conspiracy to murder and could face the death penalty in the USA, Lofti was cleared of all charges.
SPAIN: Al Jazeera journalist arrested on terror charges
Tayseer Alouny, a Syrian-born Spanish citizen (he holds Spanish and Syrian nationality) and Al Jazeera journalist, was arrested in his home in Alfacar (near Granada) on 5 September 2003 on orders from Audiencia Nacional judge Baltasar Garzon. The International Federation of Journalists considered the arrest
"unacceptable", alleging a lack of evidence against him.
SPAIN/CUETA: Police evict Medicins Sans Frontieres camp
On 21 September 2003 the police raided and cleared the camp that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) had established in El Jaral, to look after asylum applicants and undocumented migrants for whom there is no space in the Centro de Estancia Temporal de Imigrantes (CETI, Temporary Immigrant Holding Centre). With this act, Spain has become the first country to dismantle a camp run by the MSF (a doctors humanitarian organisation that won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize). The measure was adopted by the government shortly before Gabriela Rodriguez, the United Nations rapporteur on the rights of migrants, was due to visit the camp. The 350 evicted refugees were "relocated" in the CETI in spite of the fact that it was full.
IRELAND: No more right to remain for parents of Irish born children
Eleven thousand asylum seekers face immediate deportation after Minister of Justice Michael McDowell announced on 17 July that their claims for residency solely on the basis that they have become parents of Irish citizen children have been nullified. Officials immediately issued 400 deportation notices.
Immigration - in brief
Spain/Morocco: Trader killed by Guardia Civil; Spain: Immigration law reformed; Greece: Migrant deaths; Spain: Deaths in the Strait
EU: New security strategy calls for world-wide preventative actions
In June the EU published a series of security documents, including a draft of a EU security strategy and an action plan for non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). According to Jane's Defence Weekly the documents introduce a new element of strategic thinking in the EU debate on defence and security. Even more important the documents allow for the use of force to prevent WMD proliferation.
EU: Still no compromise on military headquarters
During an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Rome on 4 October no broad agreement was reached on the idea of setting up an autonomous European headquarters. It was accepted that a solution for that question should be sought by November at the joint meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers in Brussels.
Military - in brief
UK: Commemoration of September 11; EU:EU Exportsmore small arms that USA; UK/USA/Iraq: WRI Campaign for jailed conscientious objectors
ITALY: 73 Officers to face charges for Genoa policing
Prosecutors investigating events during the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001 have charged 73 people including police officers, prison officers and officials over the violent raid on the Diaz and Pascoli schools and the abuses perpetrated against detainees in the Bolzaneto police barracks, which was equipped as a detention centre for demonstrators. The investigators came to the conclusion that the abuses were not the result of actions by a few individuals and the prosecutors singled out the officers in charge, in both the raids and at the Bolzaneto barracks.
ITALY: Clashes at the ICG on the European Constitution
On Saturday 4 October 2003, there was a demonstration to protest against the opening of the intergovernmental conference (IGC) on the drafting of the European Constitution in Rome. Clashes between the police and demonstrators developed after an attempt by the Disobbedienti (an activist network that argues for the need for civil disobedience as a form of political struggle) to enter the forbidden "red zone" (which was cordoned off by police) around the Palazzo dei Congressi building where the IGC was being held. The attempt was followed by police charges.
NETHERLANDS: Man shot dead by police
On Wednesday 6 August 2003, an Amsterdam police officer shot dead a man in the streets of Amsterdam West. According to a Justice Department spokesman, Driss Arbib, a 33-year-old of Moroccan origin, had threatened an officer. The account given by witnesses is more complicated and the local community and migrant organisations have voiced doubts about a threat having been present before the fatal shot. A committee has been formed against "senseless police violence", which organised a demonstration on 16 August 2003 against police brutality.
ITALY: Raids against anarchist groups
On 24 September 2003, carabinieri from the ROS (Raggrupamento Operativo Speciale) division of the Italian paramilitary police carried out raids on the homes of 40 people linked to anarchist groups and organisations in Tuscany, Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont, Lombardy and Abruzzi on orders from the Genoa prosecutors office. The raids, part of "Operation Blackout", are linked to a series of incidents in the last two years involving fires and the use of explosive devices to strike targets such as "pillars for the distribution of electricity, aerials used for mobile telecommunications systems, incinerators and the skiing infrastructure". The offences were aimed at objects rather than people, and the perpetrators sometimes attached slogans in support of Marco Camenish, an anarchist prisoner detained in Switzerland after spending ten years in detention in Italy.
UK: Police to face charges over unlawful death?
In October St Pancras coroners court found that Roger Sylvester, a 30-year old black man who died after being restrained by up to eight police officers in north London in January 1999, had beenunlawfully killed. The outcome, which began to answer some of the questions raised by Rogers family during their four-year long campaign for justice, prompted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to announce that it will review the case against eight police officers. They could now face manslaughter charges for using excessive force while the family could bring claims for damages from the Metropolitan police force. In 2000 the CPS ruled that there was not enough evidence to prosecute any of the officers involved in Rogers death.
UK:Category A prisoners
The Home Office is likely to abandon a blanket policy of refusing to let Category A prisoners see reports assessing their risk levels after a judgement in the High Court. Mr Justice Munby said that Alan Lord, a Category A prisoner serving life for murder, had been "wronged" and "treated shabbily and unfairly" by the prison service policy of disclosing only the "gist" of risk assessments and not the full reports. Category A prisoners are entitled to have their security categorisations reviewed annually and can request recategorisation and transfer to less secure conditions. Reports are drawn up by prison staff, doctors, psychologists and probation officers, with an overall recommendation by the prison governor or deputy governor, and a "gist" of these reports is disclosed to the prisoner from which to make representations. Mr Justice Munby said that the gist statement in Alan Lords case was defective in that it gave the impression that views about his risk were unanimous and failed to disclose that two of five reports had recommended reclassification at a lower risk level and that a third had expressed no view.
Prisons - in brief
UK: Blunkett ordered to call public inquiry into Mubarek murder; UK:Deaths at Durham prison
Security & Intelligence
UK: Private agency put protest group under surveillance
A Sunday Times "Insight" investigation has revealed that a numer of private companies, including the defence giant BAE Systems and the security firm Group 4, were supplied with personal details on protestors by a a private agency run by Evelyn Le Chene, is said to have a database of 148,000 activists, peace protestors, environmentalists and trade unionist.
GERMANY: Freedom of Information stalled
Several civil liberties groups and a number of Green MPs have called for the swift drafting and passing of the Freedom of Information Act in Germany. Since 1998, the Social Democrat/Green coalition government has been promising to pass such a law at the federal level (relevant regulations already exist in the Länder of North Rhine Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein, Brandenburg and Berlin), but certain economic interest groups and representatives from the ministry of economy, the defence ministry and the civil service are blocking this.
UK: Tagging and curfew orders breach children's rights
Electronic monitoring (EM) is a measure that was introduced for the first time in the USA in 1984. Following trials there the UK governent adopted tagging in July 1995 when 83 offenders were tagged by courts as part of a curfew order in three areas - Greater Manchester, Norfolk and Berkshire. Conservative government Home Office Minister, Lady Blatch said that: "tagging represents a useful additional sentence for courts. It punishes criminals by restricting their liberty and is a cost-effective alternative to imprisonment." This then encouraged subsequent law-making policy to adopt EM for juvenile offenders already subjected to a curfew order. As a consequence, between March 1998 and February 2000, the pilot scheme was extended to 10-15 year-old young offenders under an extension of powers from Section 43 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. Since 2001, the year the measure was handed to courts, 4,000 young people have been tagged in England and Wales.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Finucane's right to life was violated
On July 1 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously found that human rights lawyer, Patrick Finucane's right to life, which is protected under section 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, was violated by an "inadequate investigation into his death". The ECHR criticised almost every aspect of the governments investigation into Finucane's murder, which was carried out by a loyalist death squad acting with the assistance of British security personnel in February 1989. It found that the police investigation into Finucane's murder, "had been conducted by officers who were part of the police force suspected by the applicant [Mrs Finucane] of making death threats against her husband" leading to a "lack of independence" and raising "serious doubts as to the thoroughness or effectiveness with which the possibility of collusion had been pursued.
Racism & Fascism
GERMANY: Anti-fascists fined for countering nazi demo
Last autumn, thousands of people demonstrated in Munich against nazi rallies opposing a travelling exhibition on war crimes committed by Germany's regular armed forces during World War II (and which are often portrayed by historical revisionists as non-fascist). Almost a year later, the authorities have started to prosecute individual anti-fascists for organising the counter-demonstrations. On 22 September this year, the Munich county court sentenced two anti-fascists Christian Boissevain and Martin Löwenberg (who had been interned in a concentration camp during Germany's nazi regime) to pay fines for organising the protest on 30 November last year. The nazi demonstration was registered with the authorities by the alleged right-wing terrorist Martien Wiese who was arrested in early September in connection with planned bomb attacks on a synagogue and other institutions in Munich.
ITALY: Berlusconi's Brave new world
In an extraordinary interview given to the Spectator magazine, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke of his world-view and tackled some of the criticisms that have been levelled at him. He dismissed his reference to the German SPD politician Martin Schultz MEP as a kapó (Nazi concentration camp prisoner turned collaborator) as a "joke"; he denied that he controls a sizeable portion of the Italian media; he claimed that his trouble with the law is the result of a conspiracy by Italian magistrates (which he believes is strongly infiltrated by Communists), said that criticism by journalists is motivated by"jealousy"; he argued that the Italian left should have been put on trial for "their moral complicity with the crimes of the Communist regimes from Stalin to Pol Pot to Milosevic".
NORTHERN IRELAND: Racist Violence surges in loyalist Belfast
In July this year, racist attacks, which have been prevalent in Belfast for the past five years, peaked when seven families had to flee their homes after an escalation in racist attacks. Two families from South Africa had lucky escapes when pipe bombs failed to explode, others had to flee their homes due to mob attacks. There have also been several violent robberies at the homes of Chinese families who own take-aways and other businesses in the area. The attacks have been connected to the "White Nationalist Party" (WNP) which distributed racist leaflets in the Craigavon area in Belfast before the attacks, and members of the loyalist UDA and UDF.
UK: Tyndall expelled from BNP
The far-right British National Party (BNP) has expelled its founder and ex-leader, John Tyndall, in what has been described as "the night of the long knives". Tyndall, who founded the organisation along broadly national socialist principles in 1982, led it until he was ousted by the "reformist" Nick Griffin in 1999.
Racism & Fascism - in brief
France/European Parliament: Le Pen loses seat; Switzerland: Far-right general election victory
EU: European imperialism?
Robert Cooper, a senior UK diplomat who advised Tony Blair, now works for Javier Solona the Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and the High Representative on defence and foreign policy. In April 2002, which still working for the British government, Cooper wrote an article entitled "Why we still need empires" in the Observer newspaper (7.4.02) which argues for intervention on behalf of "civilisation" against "chaos" (barbarism, "rogue states") and calls for a new "colonialism" or "liberal imperialism" to impose order. Now Cooper works for Mr Solana and has written a follow up article, "Civilise or die" in the Guardian (23.10.03). His argument here is that the possibility of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction means that: "We should all be in favour of regime change" because "our only defence against such a world is the spread of civilisation" which means: "The domestic governance of foreign countries has now become a matter of our own security."
EU: Major concerns on fundamental rights
Statewatch has submitted a dossier covering 22 concerns on civil liberties issues to the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights (the Network was set up to follow up the Charter on Fundamental Rights) for its report on the year 2003.
EU: Plans for biometric documents
Statewatch has submitted a dossier covering 22 concerns on civil liberties issues to the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights for irs report on the year 2003. The submission covers: surveillance and data exchange, the rights of migrants and refugees, policing and security, judicial cooperation, criminal law, constitutional issues and access to EU documents, accountability and scrutiny.
EU: The criminalisation of migrants
Research published last month in the journal Punishment & Society shows that there exists a big overrepresentation of foreigners in European prisons.
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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