monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
January-February 2003, vol 14 no 1
Front page lead
UK/G8/USA/EU: G8 pushing for preparatory terrorist offences,
secret trials and secret evidence
It has emerged that proposals by the UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to introduce sweeping changes to the way that suspected terrorists are treated originated not in the Home Office but in G8 - the intergovernmental group comprised of the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. Blunkett sidelined the proposals after admitting that he was surprised by the ferocity of the response (26.2.04). However in G8 the ideas are well advanced. Blunkett announced the proposals on 1 February while in India. He said that where "suspected" terrorists were concerned the government wanted to take pre-emptive action by lowering the standard of proof so that suspects could be charged before mounting an attack and tried in secret (in camera) by a vetted judge. Evidence would be kept secret from the defendants so as to protect the sources of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ or from a third state like the USA - this would also entail "special advocates", state-vetted defence lawyers who could be trusted not to pass on intelligence information.
SPAIN: Carnage on the Madrid commuter line causes a rude awakening
This article, written by a Statewatch correspondent living in Madrid, details the terrorists attacks of 11 March 2004. He recounts the logistics of the attack, the civilian response including the resulting demonstrations attended by roughly 11 million people, and the government response. At 2 pm, hours after the attack, Interior Minister Angel Acebes announced that "ETA has fulfilled its objective". ETA denied responsibility but nevertheless the government continued to blame them. As This would eventually contribute to its downfall. The Interior Ministry betrayed its role as a source of reliable information early on in the crisis by claiming that ETA was responsible for the attack before it had conclusive evidence. Although, as Aznar claimed, it was reasonable to initially suspect ETA, the lengths to which the government went to prevent the possibility of an association of ideas relating the attacks to support for the war in Iraq, which was forcefully opposed by the public and opposition parties, proved its undoing. The Spanish electorate reacted by confounding prior opinion polls and punishing the PP. The PSOE candidate José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero won the election with 42.64% of the vote, dramatically overtaking the PP, which obtained 37.64% of the vote. There was a large increase in the proportion of the electorate that voted, up from 68.71% in 2000 to 77.21%, but nonetheless the PP lost nearly 700,000 votes.
UK: Internment under the ATCS Act: the first two years
Extracts from a speech by Gareth Pierce, solicitor for a number of the men interned in Belmarsh high-security prison under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 on its implementation.
UK: Civil Contingencies Bill: Britains Patriot Act
On 7 January the government published their response to a highly critical report by the parliamentary Joint Committee on the Civil Contingencies Bill. Lewis Moonie MP, chair of the Joint Committee, said the changes were: "better than I feared and as much as I'd hoped for". The overall message was that the government had listened to criticisms that the Bill might give governments draconian powers and amended it accordingly. This article details the provisions of the Bill and concludes that its overall powers remain a great danger to democracy.
Europe - in brief
EU: "Operation Semper Vigilia"
GERMANY: Terrorist trial targets the left, again
On 16 December 2003, two left-wing activists were sentenced to two and a half and two years imprisonment by the regional high court of Naumburg for four instances of arson, (two of them attempted). A third defendant was acquitted. Two of the accused were arrested in Magdeburg in November 2002 and spent almost one year and 8 months respectively in prison on remand. The police had claimed that the mens' local autonomous network (AZ) was part of was a hotbed of terrorist activity. This represents the latest in a series of terrorist trials involving members of the left, which this article details.
GERMANY: Thuringia's interior minister under attack in CCTV dispute
Andreas Trautvetter (Christlich Demokratische Union, CDU), regional interior minister of the German state of Thuringia, has come under renewed attack over a CCTV project that indiscriminately stores car number plates without a legal basis. The project has now been cancelled, together with an earlier post-11 September "security programme" launched in the East German town of Weimar, which installed CCTV surveillance cameras in the city centre.
FRANCE: Prisoners' DNA samples entered into database
The DNA profiles of 730 prisoners from three penal establishments in France were integrated into the Fichier national automatisédes empreintes génétiques (FNAEG, the French national DNA database) in February. It reflects France's desire to increase the size of the FNAEG which is tiny when compared to the databases of other countries such as Britain.
DENMARK: A quarter million Danes may end up in DNA-register
If the Minister of Justice, Lene Espersen, gets her way the current DNA database will, in the course of a few years, experience a massive escalation. Experts estimate that more than 250,000 Danes will be included in the register, which today only contains the samples and names of 2,270 people. The Minister has put forward a proposal to parliament, to expand the category of persons who can be included in the register.
SPAIN: The Committee against the manipulation of information
Workers from the Spanish public television broadcasting company Televisión Española (TVE) have set up a committee to report the pressure to which media workers are subjected. They have established the Comité contra la manipulación informativa en TVE (Committee against the manipulation of information in TVE) which has produced detailed reports on cases of manipulation and bad-practice in TVE news programmes since March 2003. It produced a "Catalogue of ill-practices that are customary in the TVE information programmes", with the goal of "contributing to the creation of a movement of professionals who reject such behaviour".
ITALY: Round-up of Italy's immigrant detention centres
Recounts the reports of ill treatment and violence within detention centres, particularly Bologna where there is also evidence for the drugging of detainees' food. In January 2004, the humanitarian doctors' organisation Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF) published a highly critical report on conditions in Italy's detention centres. Overall it would seem that many detention centres are little more than an extension of prison; a form of punishment.
SPAIN: Entering Fortress Europe
Update on recent events within Spain including the number of deaths of immigrants attempting entry, a rise in expulsions, and Spanish-Moroccan cooperation including joint sea patrols.
NETHERLANDS: Decision to deport 26,000 refugees
On 17 February the Dutch parliament agreed to deport around 26,000 rejected asylum seekers, living in Holland within the next three years. Many of them are families whose children have never lived outside of Holland. Those affected are refugees who applied for asylum before the coming into force of the 2001 Immigration and Asylum Act and whose asylum application was rejected. Particularly affected are refugees from the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan; they and their families face imprisonment if the authorities believe them to be uncooperative. This is in spite of two thirds of the population opposing this recent decision and more than half against deportation in principle.
Immigration - in brief
Basque country/Spain: Appeal against the Ley de Extranjería; Melilla/Spain: Children's rights undermined
DENMARK: Guantanamo prisoner freed without charges
A Danish prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay has been released after having been imprisoned for 741 days at the US prison complex in Cuba. The Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, announced the release on Thursday 19 February during a debate in parliament. The minister explained that he had struck a deal with the US Foreign Secretary Colin Powell to have the Danish prisoner released. It has since come to light that there is inadequate evidence against him to press any charges and that he was abducted not in Afghanistan, as America had claimed, but in Pakistan.
Law - in brief
UK: Crimes of the powerful
UK: Low-level policing schemes mushroom
Details the rise of Community Support Officers (CSOs) and other "accredited persons" employing police powers under the Police Reform Act and Anti-Social Behaviour Act. It Argues that increasingly police powers are being given to under-qualified people whose accountability is deeply suspect. In this context it also outlines the plans to redevelop and privatise Liverpool's city centre, placing it under the control of US style "quartermasters" and removing public rights of way.
SPAIN: Guardias civiles seek an end to military status
On 22 January 2004, the Asociación Unificada de Guardias Civiles (AUGC) which represents over 22,000 members of the Spanish paramilitary police body, held its fifth Congress and launched a Manifiesto por los derechos de los Guardias Civiles (Manifesto for the rights of Guardias Civiles). The document has three main objectives: the democratisation of the force; placing it under the exclusive control of the Interior ministry (as opposed to the Defence ministry); and reviewing its military nature.
UK: "Beam me up, Scottie"
Ian Arundale, the ACPO advisor on the police use of firearms, has predicted that "Star-Trek-style phasers could be seen on the streets of the UK in years to come." Although he would like a weapon that "temporarily switches someone's brain off" he is currently supporting an increase in the use of "non-lethal" weapons such "the attenuating energy projectile" and the "discriminating irritant projectile". The tazer gun is currently being tested by a number of forces.
USA/UK/IRAQ: 10,000 civilian deaths in 2003
The war monitoring group, Iraq Body Count (IBC), has recorded "as many as 10,000 non-combatant civilian deaths during 2003" and the Independent on Sunday reports "that more than 350 civilians have been killed in attacks since the beginning of the year" until mid-February. "When added to the deaths recorded in 2003...this brings the number of non-combatants killed since the conflict began to as many as 10,433". The IBC, an independent group of US and UK researchers, is calling for "an official inquiry into the human costs of the Iraq war."
EU: Defence surge despite constitutional hold-up
The development of a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) made significant progress during the EU summit in Brussels on 12-14 December 2003 despite the crisis in the EU's constitutional process. Three major steps were taken towards it, yet at the same time three elements of ESDP remain in limbo after the collapse of the constitutional process.
Military - in brief
EU: Rapid reaction units proposed; EU: UK wins race for heading EU defence agency
UK: Prisons in crisis
In February 2004 the UK prison population hit a record high of 74,543 - a rise of 2,167 in 2004 and 2,674 higher than the equivalent date in 2003. Almost twice as many people are in prison today as 25 years ago. The UK has a higher rate of imprisonment than any other state in western Europe - with 141 per 100,000 of its citizens incarcerated. More than 80 of the Prison service's 138 jails are said to be overcrowded. Accompanying this has been a rise in the numbers of self-harm cases within prisons.
Prisons - in brief
UK: Justice for John Boyle; UK: Prison officer violence "part of the culture" at Portland
Racism & Fascism
UK: NUJ protest against BNP "intimidation"
Between 250 and 300 journalists, workers and students rallied to a call by The National Union of Journalist (NUJ) to defend free speech after the British National Party (BNP) announced a picket of their offices in Kings Cross on February 16. The NUJ condemned the picket as intimidatory and called on members to mount "a dignified counter protest to declare that we will defend our union from fascist attacks."
GERMANY: AI criticises institutional racism and police brutality
On 14 January the international human rights organisation Amnesty International published a report on Germany, entitled: Back in the Spotlight. Allegations of police ill-treatment and excessive use of force in Germany (AI Index: EUR 23/001/2004). It found there to be both a "persistent pattern of alleged ill-treatment" and a systematic failure to investigate and bring to justice officers responsible for violence and ill-treatment, mainly directed towards black people.
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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