monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
August-October 2004, vol 14 no 5
Front page lead
EU: "Anti-terrorism" legitimises sweeping new "internal security" complex
In June Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for defence and foreign policy, announced that internal security services (eg: MI5 in the UK) are to provide intelligence on terrorism to the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) - part of the EUs emerging military structure. At the same time he revealed that the external
intelligence agencies (eg: MI6 and GCHQ in the UK) had been cooperating with SitCen since "early 2002". These moves were clearly needed as attempts to bring together meaningful intelligence on terrorism through Europol was doomed to fail - internal security and external intelligence agencies are loath to share information with police agencies. However sensible this initiative may be it still begs the question of accountability and scrutiny. It would be almost inconceivable at the national level for a body whose role was military to have its remit extended "at a stroke" to include anti-terrorism without a formal procedure being undertaken - and to ensure that a chain of accountability and scrutiny both to government and parliament was set out.
EU: The EU Constitution and Justice and Home Affairs - the accountability gap
According to its Article IV-447, the Constitution will enter into force on 1 November 2006 at the earliest, or at a later date if there is a delay in
ratification by all Member States. The issue of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), where the Constitution is particularly ambitious, will likely be a major issue in the national ratification process. What strengths and defects does the Constitution have in this area?
VIEWPOINT: "Silently Silenced - creation of acquiescence in modern society"
Preface to a collection of essays by Thomas Mathiesen (Waterside Press, 2004): This book contains a number of essays on the general theme of
silent and unnoticed political silencing which I largely wrote during 1977-1978. The theme of how - silently and unnoticed - people are brought to silence, especially political silence, continued to haunt me over the years and decades. It seemed and seems to me to be a process which penetrates social life, notably also political life, in all its forms, certainly also in other Western societies like ours which have freedom of expression and democracy on the agenda.
UK: UK: Egyptian national unlawfully detained after intervention by Prime Minister
In July 2004, Mr Youssef, an Egyptian national, won his High Court case against the government for false imprisonment after Justice Field ruled that the final two weeks of his near ten-month detention, between 1998 and 1999, were unlawful. Of particular interest, in this case, are the Prime Minister's frequent interventions against the advice of his Home Secretary, Jack Straw, and officials. As documentation cited in the judgement shows, Youssef remained in detention along with three other Egyptian nationals, after 3 June 1999, largely because of the Prime Minister's intransigence regarding the legal requirements of the case. Furthermore, the case serves to demonstrate the role of political considerations in handling cases sensitive to bilateral relations between two countries, arguably at the cost of the detainee.
UK: ACTSA prisoner released after three years
The government's emergency anti-terrorism laws came under renewed attack in September when David Blunkett decided that a suspect, interned at Woodhill prison for three years without charge or access to legal advice, was no longer a threat to security. The man, who despite his release can only be named as "D", was one of 12 foreign nationals being held without due legal process at top security prisons in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act (ATCSA). The ATCSA has been described as "a perversion of justice" and a shadow criminal justice system by Amnesty International. The detainees at Britain's "Guantanamo" are suffering serious mental health problems due to the conditions of their detention and the uncertainly about when - or if - they will be released.
UK/CUBA: Detainee tells of murder, torture and death threats
One of the five British detainees still at Guantanamo Bay, Moazzam Begg, has claimed that he witnessed two prisoners killed by their US captors. In his first letter to be made public, Moazzam, who was abducted by Pakistani intelligence officers and US special forces in Pakistan in 2002, says that he has been tortured, subjected to death threats and forced to sign documents. His allegations echo those made by other released prisoners.
Civil liberties - in brief
Spain: Same-sex marriages get the go-ahead; Germany: Old cases, new trials: sentences for Klump and Weinrich
FRANCE/SPAIN: Joint investigation units established
On 16 September 2004, the justice ministers of Spain and France announced the creation of the first joint investigation team (JIT) between EU member states, to be established under a community Directive agreed in the Tampere European summit in June 2002. The goal of the Franco-Spanish initiative will be to investigate attacks by ETA against tourist interests in 2003. The two countries are also examining the possibility of establishing another JIT to investigate the financing of an organisation linked to al-Qaeda. JITs are units composed of magistrates and officers from two or more countries with the power to act as judicial police, with powers to carry out searches, interrogations and telephone interceptions within the participating countries' territories.
GERMANY: Schily lobbies for "external processing centres"
The proposal to create detention and holding centres for refugees and migrants outside the EU (eastern Europe, Africa, Turkey and the Middle East) is probably one of the most far-reaching of proposed strategies to control immigration and limit refugee protection in the EU through procedural measures. The plans were
revived by Germany and Italy at the informal JHA meeting in Scheveningen in September.
ITALY/SPAIN/TUNISIA/MALTA: Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean
The flow of reports of migrants who die attempting to reach Europe's shores showed no signs of abating in the summer of 2004. This article provides details of the numerous recent cases.
GERMANY: Probation for killing refugee during deportation
On 18 October, the regional court of Frankfurt sentenced three border guards Reinhold S., Taner D. and Jörg S. to nine-months probation for "bodily harm resulting in death", a charge which usually requires a minimum sentence of one year. On 28 May 1999, they had violently pushed down Aamir Ageeb's head on his knees for around 8 minutes during take-off on a Lufthansa deportation flight, thereby suffocating the Sudanese asylum seeker (see Statewatch Vol 9 nos 3/4). Aamir's death has been publicised by anti-racist initiatives in their campaigns against deportations, highlighting the violent methods used by German police and border guards to deport refugees.
UK: Asylum seekers roll call of death
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has published a harrowing "roll call of death of the 180 asylum seekers and undocumented migrants who have died either in the UK or attempting to reach the UK in the past fifteen years." The report, written by Harmit Athwal, finds several significant causes for the deaths. Athwal found that the high risk strategies forced on asylum seekers to enter the UK because of draconian legal barriers accounted for 50% of the cases examined.
Immigration - in brief
UK: Defend Rachid Rama's right to an education
NETHERLANDS: DNA samples become obligatory on conviction
The Dutch Parliament has passed a Bill that makes it obligatory for anyone convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of four years or more, to provide a DNA sample. Previously, suspects would give a DNA sample when a serious crime, such as murder or rape, was involved. During preliminary analysis the sample can be compared with DNA that is found at the scene of the crime. It is also possible to compare samples with profiles stored on the DNA databank, which contains 14,500 profiles.
NETHERLANDS: Extradition of Nuriye Kesbir
Kesbir arrived at Schiphol airport in Holland two weeks after September 11. She was born in Turkey but lived in Germany throughout the 1980s; her family also live in Germany, as political refugees. A Kurd, in 1991 she joined the armed struggle of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) in eastern Turkey. When her asylum application was rejected Turkey immediately requested her extradition. This article recounts the details of the case.
UK/USA: Enron 3 case confirms extradition fears
On 15 October 2004, Bow Street magistrates court in London recommended to the Home Secretary the extradition of three British investment bankers to Houston, Texas, in the United States. They face prosecution for their alleged defrauding of Nat West Bank, the British company they worked for, in a scam in 2000 with executives from Enron, the collapsed oil company. The three are to appeal the Decision.
Law - in brief
Germany: Court might decriminalise PKK; Italy: Acquittal for eight communist terrorist suspects; European Court: McLibel 2 take case to Strasbourg
USA/UK/IRAQ: 37,000 civilians reported dead in invasion
Aljazeera.net has reported that an Iraqi political group, The People's Kifah (Struggle Against Hegemony), has estimated that nearly 37,000 Iraqi civilians died in the period between March and October 2003. The statistics were compiled by a UK-based physiology professor, Al-Ubaidi, and have been "vouched for" by the deputy general secretary and spokesman for Aljazaeera.net, Muhammed al-Ubaidi.
ITALY: Commission to investigate effects of depleted uranium on soldiers
On 15 September 2004, the establishment of a parliamentary commission to investigate the effects of depleted uranium on Italian soldiers deployed in missions abroad was agreed. The Commission will be formed by ten senators and ten MPs appointed by the presidents of the two chambers. It will have a year to reach its conclusions, and powers of investigation that are similar to those of judges, including access to documents and the possibility of calling witnesses, authorities and experts to testify on this issue.
EU: Green light for EDA
EU foreign ministers formally authorised the creation of the Europe Defence Agency (EDA) during a meeting in Brussels on 12 July. The EDA becomes a functioning agency with around 80 staff in 2005. The ministers approved an initial budget of about EUR 1.9 million in 2004 with which to conduct feasibility
studies. In the following years the budget will hover around EUR 15 million annually.
EU: Defence chiefs decide on battle groups, gendarmerie
At their informal meeting in September in Noordwijk, Netherlands, EU defence ministers approved plans for a highly trained, rapid deployable 15,000 strong military force by 2007. The force would be broken down into eight to ten battle groups of 1,500 specialising in everything from civil emergencies to jungle warfare and full-blown conflict; it should be able to deploy within 15 days. The idea is that larger EU members (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland) would put up their own battle groups while the smaller countries should pool.
Military - in brief
UK: "Privatised" Gulf War Syndrome inquiry announced; UK/USA: RAF using drones in Iraq; Germany: Army officer charged with abuse
SPAIN: Gaztexte eviction leads to clashes and mass arrests
On 17 August 2004, police forcefully evicted a gaztexte (squatted cultural youth centre) in Pamplona (Navarre), in a building that had been occupied by squatters since 1994, after it had remained closed since 1978. The squatters turned it into an establishment with a bar, which hosted educational courses, political meetings and conferences, film viewings and concerts. The eviction marked the start of a week of protests, which saw widespread disturbances, the burning of rubbish containers, the launching of molotov cocktails, police charges and the firing of rubber bullets.
Policing - in brief
UK: Protesting - an anti social crime? Ireland: Inquiry finds Gardai planted "IRA" weapons; Spain: Prosecutor demands 18-year prison sentence for
UK: No resignations over record number of prison deaths
Fourteen prisoners took their own lives in August 2004, the highest number of deaths in prison for a single month since records began 20 years ago. Among those who took their own lives were Adam Rickwood, at 14 the youngest fatality ever in a prison in the UK.
SPAIN: Quatre Camins officials sanctioned
A number of officials from Quatre Camins prison in La Roca del Vallés (Barcelona), have been suspended from working in the prison by the Generalitat's (Catalan government) justice department. The suspensions arise from the prison revolt on 30 April 2004 (see Statewatch vol. 14 no. 3/4) and allegations of ill-treatment by prison officers against 26 prisoners before, during and after their transfers to different prison establishments.
ITALY: Concerns over underground isolation cells
In a series of letters dated May and June 2004, lawyer Vittorio Trupiano tried to raise awareness of the alarming conditions in which some prisoners are held in Cuneo prison in the northwestern region of Piedmont. He released extracts from a letter dated 22 May 2004 by Gioacchino Fontanella, a prisoner serving life imprisonment, who claims that underground isolation cells are used for punishment in Cuneo prison. He describes their use as "torture", due to its lack of basic medical facilities and unhygienic conditions, including an absence of natural light and a lack of ventilation.
Prisons - in brief
UK: Parc Prison rated worst-performing private prison; UK: CRE asked to investigate racism at HMP Armley; UK: HMP Wandsworth "deteriorating"
Racism & Fascism
GERMANY: Verfassungsschutz role endangers NPD prosecution
After the constitutional test trial initiated by the German government against the far-right NPD (Nationalsozialistische Partei Deutschlands) failed because the constitutional court found a prominent role of secret service informants in the party's leadership (see Statewatch Vol 12 nos 1 & 3), a second court case against violent far-right activists is in danger of collapsing because of a secret service informant's involvement in the planning of racist and anti-Semitic attacks.
UK: Tyndall to challenge for leadership of BNP
John Tyndall, writing in his magazine Spearhead, has announced that he will challenge BNP leader, Nick Griffin, for the leadership of the British National Party. Tyndall, who led the fascist organisation unchallenged until he was defeated by Griffin in a leadership contest at the end of 1999, expects the new contest to take place in the summer of 2005.
Racism & Fascism - in brief
Spain: Members of the military arrested for attacking vagrants
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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