monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
March-April 2003, vol 14 no 2
Front page lead
EU: Terrorism or crime - a confusion of aims
Homeland Security comes to the EU - Under the guise of tackling terrorism the EU is planning to bring in a swathe of measures to do with crime and the surveillance of the whole population. After the dreadful loss of life in Madrid we need a response that unites Europe rather than divides it. (Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor)
EU: EU agrees refugee and subsidiary protection
In March 2004, refugee and human rights groups called for the withdrawal of the draft asylum procedures Directive. This related measure should evoke the same response.
EU: Implementing the Amsterdam Treaty: Cementing Fortress Europe
The five year deadline for agreement on the common EU immigration and asylum policy expired on 1 May 2004. This article examines the key decisions, how they were taken and what they will mean for asylum-seekers.
UK: Belmarsh internees "suicidal"
"M", who cannot legally be identified, was the first of the Muslim Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) internees to be released from Belmarsh high security prison after being locked up on secret evidence from the Home Secretary, and the intelligence services. In his first interview, published in the Guardian newspaper on April 23 "M" protested his innocence, pointing out that there was no evidence against him indicating that he was a terrorist. He also claims that fellow ATCSA prisoners are suffering severe mental problems from being held without charge and without a time limit. This came on the same day that another prisoner "G" was placed under house arrest because "he had become mentally deranged in Belmarsh" according to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.
GERMANY: Activists jailed in RZ "terrorist" trial
A three year trial against former members and alleged members of the Revolutionary Cells ended on 19 March. The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of one former RZ member, and despite significant contradictions in witness statements the court handed out sentences ranging from two years and nine months to four years and three months imprisonment. Throughout the trial, criticism was levelled against the political character of article 129a of the German Criminal Code, the terrorist paragraph applied in the trial (see Statewatch Vol 11 no 5).
POLAND: Intimidation of EEF activists
Activists have reported intimidating police and secret service tactics against them in the run up to the protests against the European Economic Forum, the regional off-shoot of the World Economic Forum (WEF), held for the first time in Eastern Europe (Warsaw), between 28 and 30 April this year.
ITALY: A surreal ratification of the ban on torture
The process of ratification into Italian law of the ban on torture which Italy has signed up to in repeated international agreements experienced a remarkable turn, as the Lega Nord (LN, Northern League), with the support of the governing centre-right coalition, managed to force through an amendment in parliament that allows "threats and torture", if they are not "reiterated".
PORTUGAL: Free movement to be suspended during Euro 2004
Antonio Figuereido Lopes, the Portuguese Interior Minister, told parliament on 16 March 2004 that Portugal will avail itself of article 2(2) of the Schengen Treaty, allowing it to temporarily reinstate border controls, thus suspending the freedom of movement that applies within the Schengen area, while it hosts the European football championships from 12 June to 4 July - and for the Rock in Rio music festival which will be staged on subsequent weekends, from 28 to 30 May, and from 4 to 6 June.
GERMANY: Amnesty warns of immigration abuse in "fight against terrorism"
Germany is trying to implement the liberalisation of its immigration laws to allow for the flexible migration of skilled workers whilst at the same time restricting immigration as a whole, in particular undocumented immigration. Amnesty International and six church and refugee NGO's have written an open letter to the parliamentary committee in protest at the recent turn in the debate to focus on security measures and terrorism. The letter says that in light of the Madrid bombings, the new white paper of May 2003 is being abused by political parties to present a hard line on terrorism: first Conservatives, and now interior minister Schily are proposing to include increased deportation and "security detention" powers into the law.
Immigration - in brief
Sweden: Asylum seekers mutilate hands to avoid Eurodac; Italy: MSF denied access to holding centre in Lampedusa; Spain: Migrant deaths
SPAIN: Zapatero orders the return of Spanish troops from Iraq
On 18 April 2004, the first announcement as Prime Minister by the recently elected Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE, Socialist Party) was to order Defence Minister, Jose Bono, to make arrangements for the withdrawal of Spanish troops posted in Iraq "within the shortest possible delay" and with the "maximum security" possible.
Military - in brief
EU: EADS pressed to sever French link; EU: EU-led forces could intervene in Sudanese conflict; EU: EU to take over from NATO in Bosnia
UK: Film prompts new demands for Alder public enquiry
On 14 April the BBC documentary programme, Death on Camera revealed the shocking last minutes of the death of Christopher Alder when it showed CCTV footage of the 37-year old former paratrooper choking to death on the floor of Queen's Gardens police station in April 1998. The harrowing footage showed Christopher, face down on the station floor with his trousers around his knees and his hands handcuffed behind his back, struggling to breath as police officers speculated on whether he was feigning illness for up to ten minutes. He received no assistance throughout.
UK: Worrying legal changes accompany new "British FBI"
In a White Paper, published in March, the government announced the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, dubbed the "British FBI". However, legal proposals including the compelling of professionals such as lawyers and accountants to testify and break client confidentiality, the use of plea bargaining and "Queen's Evidence", and the admissibility of sensitive intelligence data have all caused concern.
SPAIN: Clashes between police and striking shipyard workers
Demonstrations by shipyard workers of the Grupo Imaz shipbuilding company, run by the Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI, State Company for Participations in Industry) saw violent clashes between policemen and workers in several Spanish cities.
ITALY: Police charge striking FIAT workers in Melfi
On 26 April 2004, the police charged workers from the FIATSata factory in San Nicola di Melfi (Basilicata, southern Italy) who had been striking for a week over their low pay and longer working hours, compared with other Fiat factories. The charges, during which truncheons were used against picketing workers, resulted in ten injured metalworkers and three policemen.
GERMANY: To catch a thief...
The Federal Crime Police Authority (Bundeskriminalamt - BKA) has started a scheme for citizens to register with a BKA text messaging service to help with police searches. Now not only the police units but also those registered will receive a text message on their mobile phone, which would appeal for information on any recently committed crimes.
Police - in brief
UK: X-ray machine used in Operation Montignac; Spain: Policeman shoots shopkeeper in Navarre
Racism & Fascism
UK/FRANCE: Le Pen pelted with rotten fruit
Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the France's far-right Front National, was ambushed by protestors in Greater Manchester at the end of April and pelted with rotten fruit and other rubbish. Le Pen's visit was planned to cement ties with the UK's main fascist organisation, the British National Party (BNP), at the launch of their European election campaign.
ITALY: Web activists and social centre win libel case
On 19 January 2004, a judge in Rome found in favour of the web server Isole nella Rete and of the La Strada social centre in Rome, the defendants in a libel case brought by former Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI, the predecessor of Alleanza Nazionale, which is part of the current governing coalition) MP Giulio Caradonna. Caradonna, who was ordered to pay Isole nella Rete 3,000 Euros for litigation costs, had sued the web server and social centre in May 2001 for 250 million Lire (c.125,000 euros). A dossier drafted by La Strada, which examined the development of neo-fascism in Italy after world war two, was posted on its website. Caradonna filed the lawsuit, arguing that the news in question was libellous, harming his honour, career and public profile, lacking in current public interest, and that it contravened privacy legislation and his right to oblivion (forgetting about events in the past).
Racism & Fascism - in brief
Spain: 14 neo-nazis arrested; France: Papon's appeal considered
Security & Intelligence
NORTHERN IRELAND/UK: Public inquiries into British state collusion
The Northern Ireland Secretary, Paul Murphy, announced at the beginning of April that there will be public inquiries into three controversial killings in Northern Ireland. Murphy was responding to the publication of the Cory report, an investigation by a retired Canadian judge into allegations of security force collusion in four killings. The three are Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright. An investigation into the murder of the fourth subject, Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, will be deferred until ongoing court proceedings are completed.
SPAIN: Intelligence service directors acquitted
The Spanish Supreme Court has acquitted Centro Superior de Información de la Defensa (CESID, the Spanish military intelligence service, replaced in 2002 by the civilian Centro Nacional de Información, CNI) general directors Emilio Alonso Manglano and Javier Calderón for the surveillance of Herri Batasuna (HB, the forerunner of the recently illegalised Batasuna) party in 1998. A court in Alava had sentenced Manglano and Calderón to three years imprisonment, whereas CESID officers Mario Cantero and Francisco Buján, the material authors, had both received two-and-a-half year sentences. The grounds for sentencing the two directors was that the CESID was a "military organisation that is clearly structured and hierarchical", which made them responsible for the officers' actions as "co-authors". The Supreme Court argued that although this is the case when dealing with criminal organisations, it does not apply to CESID, which acts in defence of the state, and that there are only conjectures, rather than evidence, linking the directors to the offence.
Security & Intelligence - in brief
UK: Terrorism Act suspects' released without charge; Spain: New telephone tapping technology for police; UK: Scarlett appointed head of MI6 amid "pay-off" claims
UK: Deaths in custody
Provides a summary of recent deaths whilst in prison custody. Juries serving in the inquests of which are to be allowed to blame failings in the prison system for contributing to an inmates suicide following two landmark judgements in the House of Lords.
UK: Prison crisis
The prison overcrowding crisis has reached its worst point since 2002. As of 6 April 2004, 75,544 people were in jails in England and Wales, seven above the Prison Services' "useable operational capacity" of 75,437. Inmates are being shipped daily around the UK in search of a bed. In March ministers cut the safety "buffer" of cells that are not filled from 2,000 to 1,700 and moved to accelerate the return of 500 cells undergoing refurbishment. The Prison Service now concedes that it may be forced to cut the buffer on a daily basis. In some areas courts are already holding remand prisoners in police cells.
FRANCE: CPT criticises overcrowding in French prisons
The Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CPT) published a report on its visit to France in June 2003, which was considered to be "required by the circumstances" due to an "alarming and recent increase in overcrowding and suicides" in prisons.
Prisons - in brief
UK: Child Prisoners; UK: Harry Roberts wins legal aid for appeal; UK: Prisoners' Race Discrimination Unit
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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