monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
November-December 2003, vol 13 no 6
Front page lead
UK: Liberties and democracy at risk
The draft Civil Contingencies Bill currently before parliament would give the government and state agencies draconian powers in any emergency. Widespread concern has been expressed as to how the powers to be given to the state and government might be used at some distant, future, point. However, the Bill is itself indicative of how far the current government is prepared to go in re-modelling emergency powers to its liking - and of the depth of the now permanent "war on terrorism".
UK: The Civil Contingencies Bill - Britains Patriot Act
Analysis of the bill under which cities could be sealed off, travel bans introduced and all telecommunications cut off. Protests could be banned and new offences created by government decree. Democracy could be replaced by authoritarian rule. This article outlines the scope of these now powers and the findings of the Joint House of Commons and House of Lords Committee on the Bill.
UK: Anti-terrorist stop & searches double official figures
A study by Statewatch of the figures produced by the Home Office in December 2003 made a number of alarming finds. They include the discovery that the number of stops and searches as part of anti-terrorist operations is more than double the official figures, 71,100 not 32,100. The percentage of arrests resulting from stop and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 was only 1.18% which compares unfavourably with 13% for stop and searches under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (895,300 people were stop and searched of whom 114,300 were arrested in 2002/03). Nearly 70,000 people were stop and searched who had committed no offence whatsoever. The low arrest rate and the large number of people stopped and searched suggests that these powers are being widely and arbitrarily used to little effect.
EU: EU law on asylum procedures: An assault on human rights?
The Council has failed to meet the deadline of December 2003 set by EU leaders for agreement on a proposed Directive on asylum procedures. This Directive, along with a parallel proposal on the definition of refugee and subsidiary protection status (on which the Council has also missed the deadline), is at the heart of refugee law. However, there have been disturbing developments in the final months of negotiations on the Directive. It appears that the Council is likely to agree a Directive which in many respects will fall below the minimum standards set by human rights law, with Member States not merely permitted and encouraged to lower their existing standards but in one area even required to lower those standards.
UK: The dismantling of asylum
The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill passed its second reading on 17 December, scathed only by a small but passionate rebellion of 28 Labour back-benchers (of a total of 78 who voted against). The Bill, which is expected to be law within six months, will result in profound changes in the legal and constitutional landscape of Britain as well as stripping asylum seekers of further legal and social rights. The Home Affairs Select Committee, reporting on the Bill on 9 December, joined a large number of concerned groups and individuals, including the Immigration Lawyers Practictioners Association (ILPA), JUSTICE, the Law Society and London mayor Ken Livingstone in expressing serious concerns about its provisions. The Committee also objected to the haste with which the Bill was being rushed through, complaining that it has been introduced with insufficient advance information to enable proper consultation or prior parliamentary scrutiny of the principles involved. To add insult to injury, the Commons was given only six hours to debate it on second reading.
NORWAY/NETHERLANDS: Krekar case poses more questions than answers
On 12 September 2002, the Dutch authorities arrested Mullah Krekar at Schiphol airport on the grounds that he posed a threat to national security. His flight from Iran to Norway stopped over in Amsterdam. Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi Kurd, has been living as a political refugee in Norway since 1991 (and has a Norwegian passport). He is accused of participating in terrorist activities, although the nature of the charges remain unclear and the evidence has proven insufficient for successful prosecution. This article provides a comprehensive account of the details of the case: the events leading up to the arrest, the charges levelled against him, US involvement, and the "political afterpains".
GERMANY: 1,170 Muslim homes raided
In December, on the very same day that "terrorist suspect" Abdelghani Mzoudi, who is being tried in Hamburg in relation to the 11 September attacks in the USA was released on bail for a lack of evidence, 5,500 police officers raided 1,170 Muslim homes. Those raided were alleged to be connected to the Kalifatstaat (Caliphat State) organisation, which was proscribed in 2001. Police officers refused to explain why they suspected that those arrested were part of the organisation. The raids, the largest in post-war Germany, affected over 3,000 people and have been criticised as an arbitrary targeting of Muslims.
UK: "Al-Qaeda" terrorism charges dropped
Nine Algerians who were arrested in dawn raids in Scotland and England and charged under the Terrorism Act in December 2002 had all of the charges against them dropped in December 2003 when the Crown Office announced that it would be taking no further action against them. The men, who were accused of planning to carry out a Hogmaney attack on celebrations in Edinburgh, have demanded an official declaration of their innocence fearing that they face imprisonment or death if they return to Algeria. The case has prompted the Scottish Human Rights Centre to call on the government to reconsider its use of the "flawed" Terrorism Act saying that it discriminated against ethnic minorities.
SPAIN: Aznar proclaims pre-emptive strike doctrine
In a speech given at the armed forces superior training centre, prime minister Aznar stressed the need for "anticipatory actions" as part of "a new form of conceiving security". This new understanding of security would not have any "defined geographical limits", and Aznar dismisses the alternative, "returning to a sort of defensive autarky (despotic rule)" as "laughable" and "unthinkable", particularly after Spain has been able to "carve itself a niche" on the international scene, resulting in "new interests and more people to protect all over the world". Aznar's government was strongly supportive of the war waged by the USA and UK in Iraq, in spite of overwhelming opposition by the Spanish public. With regards to the USA, Aznar argued that the country "that suffered the worst and most brutal terrorist attack in history ...has a right to understanding and active solidarity from its allies". Furthermore, at present "there is no other practical or realistic alternative to the guarantee of security that the US represents".
EU: The road to civilisation?
This discusses a recent article by Robert Cooper, the Director-General for External Affairs in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union in Brussels. He previously worked in the UK government's Cabinet Office as an adviser to Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. In it he claims that any attack on "the state" is a terrorist attack on "legitimate authority" and "in this sense is an attack on civilisation". The idea that a people might seek to liberate themselves from an oppressive and authoritarian state is not on the agenda. "Terrorism must be fought by all means" including deception, pre-emptive actions, surveillance and eavesdropping.
IRELAND: Right to remain for Irish citizen children and their parents
On 17 July 2003 Michael McDowell, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, announced that a backlog of 11,000 claims for residency by non-EU parents of Irish citizen children had been nullified. He issued four hundred notices of effective deportation with only 15 working days to appeal (see Statewatch vol 13 no 5). The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and the Coalition Against the Deportation of Irish Children (CADIC) have launched an urgent campaign against the proposed mass deportation of Irish citizens and their parents, arguing that it would violate the European Convention of Human Rights and Ireland's constitution.
NETHERLANDS: Dover 58 trial reveals flawed investigation
The investigation and trial, after 58 undocumented Chinese migrants suffocated to death on 18 June 2000 on the journey between Zeebrugge and Dover, has raised many questions regarding the extent of police knowledge and involvement in the people-smuggling business.
Immigration - in brief
Spain: Deaths in the Straight; Italy: Migrants die attempting to reach Italy; Italy: Expulsions on charter flights; Spain/Morocco: Agreement against illegal immigration; Spain: New Tenerife migrant detention centre
ITALY: Andreotti acquitted of murder
On 30 October 2003, Italy's highest appeal court, the Court of Cassation, acquitted former prime minister Giulio Andreotti and Mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti of the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli (see Statewatch vol 12 no 6). An appeal court in Perugia had passed 24-year sentences on the two defendants, after they had been acquitted in the first trial, held in the same city. The appeal court was deemed to have passed a guilty verdict in the absence of evidence that Andreotti had an interest in the journalist's murder, and that he had ordered the murder. Thus, the Court of Cassation argued that the original acquittal should have been confirmed by the appeal court.
ITALY: Former defence minister found guilty of corruption
On 22 November 2003 Cesare Previti, a close advisor of Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and MP for the Forza Italia party who was also his lawyer, and defence minister in Berlusconi's first government in 1994, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison in a court in Milan. He was found to have corrupted judges in Rome through the payment of $434,000.
SPAIN: Criminal code modification pressurises Basque institutions
On 31 October 2003, the Council of Ministers decided to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the plan presented the previous week by the Basque government for discussion in the Parliament of the Basque Country, (see Statewatch vol 12 no 5). The Spanish government's decision is an attempt to prevent discussion of the proposals and their possible approval by the Basque chamber. The Constitutional Court will reach a decision on whether to allow the appeal at the end of December or in January 2004. If it is admitted it will paralyse debate in the Basque parliament, possibly for years.
GERMANY: Restructuring for a more "professional" force
At first sight, the recent moves by the Defence Minister, Peter Struck, to downsize the armed forces might seem to indicate the decreasing importance of Germany's military. The opposite is in fact the case. Whilst numerous garrisons in Germany are being closed, resulting in many job losses, the army is being prepared for a more "professional" deployment for "international crisis management". This move entails the abolition of compulsory conscription (Statewatch, vol 12 no 2) in order to gain a stronger position in NATO and the future EU Rapid Reaction Force. The aim is for the German military to become an "important player at the international level".
EU: Deal over defence force
Britain, France and Germany have finally reached a deal on an autonomous planning capacity for the EU defence force that can count on support from Washington. Under the agreement the EU will have a planning cell but it will not be called officially a standing headquarters.
Military - in brief
EU/Italy: European gendarmerie
GERMANY: Officers acquitted on charges of life threatening injuries
On 21 November 2003, a Berlin court acquitted two police officers of charges of police violence, reversing an earlier decision which found one officer guilty of "physical assault in office", sentencing them to seven months probation. The victim of the assault - which left him with permanent injuries - is considering an appeal. Human rights groups that monitored the trial were shocked at the acquittal in a case that was backed by hard medical evidence and witness statements.
UK: Record prison population
The UK prison population currently stands at a record high of 74,389, a rise of 1,680 in a year. A further 1,420 places are being opened at seven jails next year and new prisons will open at Ashford, Middlesex and Peterborough in 2005. The government clearly intends to carry on with its policy of encouraging the courts to hand out more custodial sentences, despite opposition from prison reformers, prison governors and some senior Prison Service officials.
UK: Prison suicides - the body count increases
The governor of HMP Durham, where four inmates have committed suicide in the last six months, has stated that vulnerable remand prisoners should not be sent there. An inquiry has begun following the suicide by hanging of 30-year old Maurice Cowan at HMP Durham. According to the Prison Reform Trust more prisoners (6) committed suicide at HMP Durham in the last year than at any other jail. Governor Mike Newell has said "We need to make sure that we don't remand into custody highly vulnerable people who could be better accommodated through bail hostels."
UK: The Scrubs - beatings, mock executions and racist threats
The Prison Service has accepted that prison officers at Wormwood Scrubs have subjected prisoners to sustained beatings, mock executions, death threats, choking and racist abuse. It concedes that 14 prisoners were seriously assaulted by officers at the Scrubs, and that the prisoners suffered at least 122 separate instances of assault between 1995 and 1999. The admissions were made in the process of settling the prisoners' claims. The Prison Service has also settled a further 32 cases without admitting the prisoners' claims. A total of £1.7 million has been paid out so far.
Prisons - in brief
Germany: RAF member pardoned after 24 years in prison
Racism & Fascism
GERMANY: Draft law to ban headscarves in school
In Germany, for the first time, strong criticism is being levelled against advocates of banning headscarves, which are often seen as religious symbols of the oppression of women as well as violating (western) democratic principles, in German schools. The criticism follows a decision by the state cabinet of Baden-Württemberg to allow the regional government to pass a law preventing teachers from "wear[ing] symbols that could also be seen as a political statement" (head of Baden-Württemberg regional state Erwin Teufel, CDU). Bavaria has announced it will follow suit. The new paragraph 38 of the regional Education Act, drawn up by a former judge with the Federal Constitutional Court, states that a teacher's behaviour that gives the impression that he or she stood against human dignity, equality and basic rights, should be forbidden.
SPAIN: 13-year sentence for Pacheco killing
On 29 October 2003, ten days after a jury reached a unanimous verdict finding two bouncers, James Anglada and Mariano Romero, and a security guard, Antonio Fernández Quincoces, guilty of the unintentional killing of Wilson Pacheco, a judge in Barcelona sentenced the defendants to 13-year prison sentences. On 27 January 2002, the Ecuadorian Pacheco was thrown into the water by James Anglada after he was chased and beaten by the three men in the Maremagnúm, a complex of bars, restaurants and shopping areas on the Barcelona pier. The incident started when Pacheco was refused entrance to a bar and an argument ensued.
ITALY: Fini disowns fascism bringing turmoil to party
During his first visit to Israel on 23-24 November 2003, Gianfranco Fini, the deputy prime minister and leader of Alleanza Nazionale (AN, National Alliance), disowned fascism, claiming that it was an expression of absolute evil, and denounced the racist laws that were imposed under fascism. He also claimed that he had changed his mind about Benito Mussolini, who he had referred to as the greatest statesman in the twentieth century in the past. It is a further stage in the effort by Fini to detach the party, now part of the ruling government coalition, from its fascist heritage after the cosmetic changes that were decided in Fiuggi on 27 January 1995. Finis statements sparked controversy in his party, showing the fascist sympathies that persist within its ranks, despite its supposed evolution. Mussolinis niece Alessandra, who recently ran for mayor in Naples for AN, left the party in protest.
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
Spain: Racism escalates in El Ejido; UK: BNP reinstates Tyndall as infighting escalates
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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