monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
May-July 2004, vol 14 no 3/4
Front page lead
EU-US: Privacy concerns in USA lead to withdrawal of CAPPS II - Could this happen in the EU?
Farce over mandatory biometric identifier - facial scans or fingerprints? The withdrawal of CAPPS II (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System) in the USA in mid-July is a salutary lesson in democracy for the EU. CAPPS II would have provided real-time profiling and background checks on all travellers based on data held on both state agencies (FBI, CIA etc) and commercial databases. It was withdrawn because of privacy objections by civil society and in Congress and due to an authoritative report from the General Accountability Office (GAO, previously "Accounting" Office). The report from the GAO, published in February, examined the CAPPS II plan according to eight privacy and data protection standards and found that it did not meet seven of them.
UK: Police can keep DNA of innocent people indefinitely
The law lords have set a dangerous precedent by backing the demands of the state over individual privacy in their ruling, on 22 July, that DNA samples taken from people who are not charged with an offence or who are acquitted can still be held indefinitely by police. This article recounts the details of the two test cases involved.
UK: Ethnic Justice
The Home Office published the Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System - 2003 in July. The report was due out in March but was delayed possibly because of the highly controversial nature of some of the statistics which suggest that the non-white population is disproportionately subject to stop and search powers.
GERMANY: 11 September trials collapse
The collapse of the trials of the alleged members of the Hamburg "Al-Qaeda" cell raises questions over evidence from intelligences services and the USA. This article describes the circumstances surrounding the trials of Abdelghani Mzoudi and Mounir el Motassadeq, both Moroccan nationals. Judge Klaus Ruehle ordered the release of Mzoudi last February. Based on the same evidence, Motassadeq, who was initially convicted in 2002, is expected to be acquitted at his appeal, due to begin on 10 August. Despite the Mzoudi ruling, the Hamburg authorities have issued deportation orders against Mzoudi and Motassadeq for "endangering the free-democratic basic order and security of the Federal Republic of Germany". The trials have thrown up many questions with regard to the use of security service evidence in court. They have also raised questions about the validity of evidence resulting from US interrogations of alleged suspects, who have not been seen since their arrests in 2002.
VIEWPOINT: Beyond September 11
New preface by Phil Scraton to "Beyond September 11 - an anthology of dissent" (Pluto Press). Beyond September 11 was conceived, written and edited in the immediate aftermath of that one fateful day. It was completed as allied forces proclaimed the 'liberation' of Afghanistan from Taliban rule, as over 600 men and boys were flown to be caged in Guantanamo Bay, as thousands of Afghans picked their way through the rubble of their former homes, and as a buoyant US Administration flexed its military muscle for the next phase in its self-styled 'war on terror'. The text captures that moment. It records George W. Bush projecting the war from the "focus on Afghanistan" to a "broader" battlefront. It concludes with a passage on the rewriting of history, the degradation of truth and the pain and suffering "of death and destruction heightened by the pain of deceit and denial". Finally, it proposes that unleashing the world's most powerful military force against relatively defenceless states, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths, would promote recruitment to the very organisations targeted for elimination. There was little doubt that next in line after Afghanistan would be Iraq; a target made more poignant by the belief among US hawks that Saddam Hussein's regime represented the business unfinished by George W. Bush's father.
GERMANY: Torture debate continues
In October 2003, Frankfurt police officers, acting on orders from Deputy Chief Constable Wolfgang Daschner, threatened Magnus Gäfgen with torture unless he disclosed the whereabouts of a kidnapped child, Jakob von Metzler. These actions were justified by politicians and police representatives on the grounds that it was only "human". To save a child's life, officials would consider torture in the sake of "interest balancing". It was not until June 2004 that the Frankfurt regional court pressed charges against the police officer and Daschner, on grounds of coercion and encouragement, respectively. Now more recently, a history professor teaching at the military academy in Munich, Michael Wolffsohn, added to the controversy when he said in a television interview in May that: "[a]s one of the tools in the fight against terrorism I believe torture or the threat of torture to be legitimate".
Justice and Home Affairs policy
While the Commission is busy consulting civil society on "Tampere II", the JHA Directorate in the Council (under the guise of "the presidency") is consulting the member states on the "political orientation" of the new programme. The Council document sets out a framework for "resolutely pursuing the objective of further developing a common area of freedom, security and justice", leaving the Commission's consultation process looking like a rather redundant exercise. This article also covers a Commission Communication on access to information by law enforcement agencies, and a Commission "study" on the "link between legal and illegal migration".
EU: France, Germany and Spain to share access to databases
Work is underway to enable France, Germany and Spain to share access to each other's criminal record databases. Tests are expected to begin before 2004 is over, and systematic information exchanges on offenders between the three countries will start next year. A joint working group was established by the three countries at the start of 2003 to provide solutions for any technical or legal difficulties that this initiative may entail. Press statements by the French and Spanish justice ministries stressed that the working group is responsible for guaranteeing that these information exchanges are characterised by a high level of security and confidentiality, and for developing a system that may be easily extended to other countries.
UK: "Hearts and Minds": teaching Iraq to love freedom and democracy
The government admitted in June that there are up to 75 inquiries into allegations of killings, woundings and ill-treatment of Iraqi civilians by British troops serving in Iraq. The figures were revealed only after the Ministry of Defence's original estimate of 33 cases was amended following a "verification exercise to ensure all cases were being properly investigated and centrally reported." In July the families of six Iraqis, including the relatives of Baha Moussa, went to the High Court to demand an investigation into the deaths of their relatives. The details of each of the six cases are included in this article.
EUROPE: New weapons giants are born
Europe's military enterprises are scrambling, in ever new combination, to take the pick of the new common weapons market that is coming into existence.
NETHERLANDS: Dutch government misled parliament on Iraqi WMD
According to a confidential military intelligence document, dated 23 July 2003, that was seen by the main evening paper, NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch military intelligence service MIVD "came regularly to other conclusions than the American and British leaders presented" on the question of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, before the war started.
Military - in brief
Europe/USA: US assesses European missile shield sites; Greece: Army commander resigns over deaths
SPAIN: Lock-in by undocumented migrants
On 5 June 2004, 2,000 migrants locked themselves in two churches in Barcelona, calling for the regularisation of their situation, and demanding "papers for all". The lock-in took place following a demonstration in the city centre by 5,000 people. The police intervened on the morning of 6 June, violently evicting the migrants from the cathedral and arresting around 15 of them.
Immigration - in brief
Spain rejects the majority of asylum applications; Italy: Court rules expulsion in Milan illegal; Spain: Regularisation for some 11 March victims; Spain: Stowaways abandoned
UK: Children bear the brunt of "anti-social behaviour" measures
The five-year strategic plan, "Confident Communities in a Secure Britain", launched on 19 July is, among other things, the government's latest step in targeting "anti-social" behaviour. This article examines this and other measures over the last five years that have served to criminalise nuisance behaviour. Anti-Social Behaviour Orders represent the government's weapon of choice, with the number being issued rocketing in recent months. National Youth Agency development officer Bill Badham claims the use of ASBOs to prohibit children using certain words, wearing certain clothes, and banning them from congregating in certain areas serves to "criminalise young people for non-criminal activity."
GERMANY: New government terror powers a "license to kill"?
On 18 June this year, the German Lower House (Bundestag) passed an amendment to the Air Safety Act (Luftsicherheitsgesetz) that will allow the government to order the air force to intervene in cases of hijacking and, if necessary, to order to shoot down civilian aircraft if they is a danger they will be used as a weapon.
SPAIN: Prison revolt amid allegations of ill-treatment in Quatre Camins
A revolt by 77 prison inmates in Quatre Camins prison in La Roca del Vallés (Barcelona) saw the prison's sub-director, Manuel Tallón, attacked and seriously wounded with a pointed metal object, and another prison officer was also beaten. The prisoners claimed that the revolt was the result of ill-treatment to which inmates are allegedly subjected, and Tallón has been the object of several complaints on this subject, although he has always been cleared. The prison authorities claimed that this was not the case, and that the revolt was related to the sub-director's tough stance against drug dealing in the prison.
UK: Deaths in Prison
The death toll in UK prisons continues to rise, most alarming has been the increase in suicide and self-harm within the female prison population. The article provides a list of those who have taken their own lives to date this year. Prisons Minister Paul Goggins outlined "a number of suicide prevention interventions - individual crisis counselling, new training for all staff working with women in custody, continued development and evaluation of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, investment in detoxification strategies." (Hansard 8.6.04.) The one thing not on the agenda is an end of the policy of jailing the most vulnerable and forcing the least able to cope into overcrowded failing jails. Despite the largest and most sustained fall in crime for over a century, the prison population has risen by 25,000 in the last decade.
GERMANY: "Torture" alleged at Brandenburg prison
The public prosecution has initiated an investigation into allegations of intimidation and violence by guards in the Brandenburg/Havel prison (Justizvollzugsanstalt - JVA) near Berlin. This action was prompted by a report on the regional television programme Klartext, in which ex-prisoners alleged systematic abuse by guards wearing masks.
ITALY: Alarming prison death statistics
The Associazione Antigone has published a table on its website that includes all deaths due to natural causes and suicide in Italian prisons in 2002, divided by region, sex, nationality (Italian or foreign citizens) and the status of the prisoners (whether they were charged awaiting trial, sentenced or interned). The figures indicate that 160 persons died, of whom 108 did of natural causes and 52 as a result of suicide. The majority were Italian men, and six of the deceased were women (two of them foreign), and 26 were foreign citizens. The figures for the period running from 2001 to 2003 indicate that over 500 prisoners died as a result of ill-health or suicide. Livio Ferrari, the association's president, stressed that the number of deaths in custody has been increasing since 1995.
Prisons - in brief
UK: Overcrowding; UK: Joseph Kassar's conviction unsafe; UK: "Evidence" too secret for prisoner; UK: Campaign Against Prison Slavery (CAPS); UK: Mother campaigns for justice; Portugal: Hunger strike against prison violence
UK: Raissi family sue the Met
The wife and brother of Lofti Raissi, who were arrested at gunpoint on 21 September 2001, have launched legal action against the Metropolitan police alleging wrongful arrest. Lofti Raissi, along with his wife Sonia and his brother Mohammed Raissi, was detained on suspicion of involvement in "terrorist" activities under the Terrorism Act 2000. Mohammed was released without charge after two days and Sonia was released without charge after five days. Lofti Raissi was released after seven days but immediately rearrested on the basis of an extradition warrant issued by the USA. The FBI had claimed that they had extensive evidence proving that he was actively involved in a conspiracy with members of the al-Qaeda network.
The charges in the extradition warrant were used to hold Mr Raissi for a further five months as a suspected terrorist in Belmarsh prison, before he was released on 24 April 2002. The judge said that there was no evidence substantiating his involvement in terrorism.
UK: Commissioner calls for more "lethal weapons"
London's most senior police officer, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, John Stevens, has called for the police use of the Taser to be expanded, despite international concerns about its safety. In April, five UK police forces finished a year-long trial of the M-26 Taser (see Statewatch vol 13 no 2, 14 no 1), a "less-lethal" hand-held weapon that disables individuals by firing a dart for up to 7 metres delivering a 50,000 volt electric charge.
SPAIN: Police officers acquitted of torture
A Court in Girona (Catalunya) has acquitted 12 Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan regional police force) of torturing a Moroccan citizen, Driss Zraidi, who was arrested for a traffic offence and taken to Roses police station in Girona on 3 August 1998. The ruling admits that Zraidi was the object of "not serious torture", consisting of insults, threats, vigorous shaking and pushing, and criticised the psychological pressure to which the detainee was subjected by an unspecified number of officers. It did not find that the evidence allowed any of the accused to be found guilty.
Racism & Fascism
SPAIN: Racist attacks in El Ejido
On 1 June 2004, two Moroccan migrants were on the receiving end of a racist attack during which they were brutally beaten for half an hour by a group of youths in El Ejido, as they returned to their house, near the greenhouse where they work. Furthermore, according to a complaint made by several social and trade union organisations, and filed before the Andalusian Defensor del Pueblo (Ombudsman) and the United Nations rapporteur, institutional racism is exercised by the town council and it is translated by the local police into violent and systematic racist attacks.
GERMANY: Nazis using law to gather data on anti-fascists
Anti-fascist groups in various parts of Germany have claimed that so-called anti-anti-fascists (neo-nazi groups focusing on fighting anti-fascists) have started using public prosecutions to access the personal data of anti-fascists by informing on them to the police. If the police investigations lead to legal proceedings, lawyers on both sides are given access to files, which provide personal details such as home addresses.
Racism & Fascism - in brief
Germany: Nazi propaganda at schools; Germany: Young neo-Nazi sentenced for killing three foreigners; Germany: NPD gets up to 25% in Saxony; UK: The final betrayal?
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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