monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
November-December 2004, vol 14 no 6
Front page lead
EU: The "principle of availability" takes over from the "notion of privacy": what price data protection?
The Hague Programme adopted at the EU Summit on 5 November 2004 says that from 1 January 2008 the "principle of availability" - which simply means if data is held then it can be shared between law enforcement agencies - will become the guiding light for access to personal data held by national law enforcement agencies in other EU member states.
UK: Government to bolster CSOs and ASBOs
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, published in November 2004, includes significant legal changes to the government's two main strategies for dealing with low-level nuisance and anti-social behaviour: Community Support Officers (CSOs) and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). CSOs are set to have the scope of their role and powers significantly increased, while legal safeguards protecting the anonymity of children involved in criminal proceedings for breaching the terms of their ASBO have been removed to facilitate their "naming and shaming". In addition the Bill provides for an extension of the "relevant authorities" able to apply for an order which the government says will encourage greater proactive public involvement.
NETHERLANDS: Religious violence and anti-terrorist measures after the murder of Theo van Gogh
On 2 November, Theo van Gogh was shot dead in the streets of east Amsterdam. The perpetrator, who was arrested shortly afterwards, was a 26-year old with both Dutch and Moroccan nationality. Mohammed B. had left a letter on the film-maker's body which called on Muslims to engage in Jihad. Van Gogh had made a series of provocative anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic statements in the past, claiming that he was defending his "freedom of expression". This article details the anti-Islamic attacks which followed, the proposes legal and procedural measures and the civil liberty concerns these have raised.
FRANCE: Police brutality escapes punishment
A "national commission on the relationship between citizens and members of the security forces, and on the control and treatment of this relationship by the judiciary", called "Citizens Justice Police" (CJP) and coordinated by the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme (LDH, the French League for Human Rights), published a report on its first two years of activities. It found there to be a "strong over-representation" of "visible minorities" among the victims of police violence, and that members of "foreign populations or [those] with foreign origins", are stopped more often "in the context of identity checks".
EU: Attacking the citizens' right of access?
The Regulation on access to EU documents was adopted in December 2001. It will have to be amended to cope with the new structures and legal framework under the EU Constitution. The only report on the operation of the Regulation was issued by the European Commission in 2004. This report does not suggest amending the existing legislation and does not appear to accept that the status quo entails any limits on the right of access which should be removed. Rather, it points to a number of issues on which the Commission defends the existing limits on the right of access and would like to impose even further limits. More broadly, the Commission appears to have little understanding of the context of the rules on access to documents, which were designed to address public alienation from the work of the EU, to 'ensure the widest possibile access to documents' and to facilitate public participation in the EU's decision-making process (Regulation 1049/2001/EC)
NORTHERN IRELAND: The death of Annie Kelly
The inquest into the death in custody of 19 year old Annie Kelly concluded on 23 November 2004. Detailed and thorough, the jury's narrative verdict was unprecedented in its indictment of the endemic failures prevalent within Northern Ireland's Prison Service. The jury found the 'main contributor' to her death by hanging to be a 'lack of communication and training at all levels'. 'There was' concluded the jury, 'no understanding or clear view of any one person's role in the management and understanding of Annie'. They identified a 'major deficiency in communication between Managers, Doctors and the dedicated team' responsible for Annie's health, welfare and safe custody. There were 'no set policies to adhere to', specifically a lack of appropriate management and staff training. And there was 'no consistency in her treatment and regime from one Governor to the next'.
VIEWPOINT: Does the EU need a "Fundamental Rights Agency"?
The Commission's consultation document (October 2004 - COM 693) propses the setting up of a EU Fundamental Rights Agency to replace the European Monitoring Centre on Racism. Tony Bunyan looks at the proposal and wonders if it will be just another figleaf for inaction.
GERMANY: Internet service providers to intercept customers
From 1 January 2005, German telecommunications providers will have to have the necessary technical and organisational equipment installed for the interception of their communications. The relevant regulation on interception of telecommunications (Telekommunikationsüberwachungsverordnung - TKÜV) was passed in October 2001 (see Statewatch Vol. 11 no. 5), but providers were given three years to put the regulation into practice. The ISPs have to install and pay for the necessary interception equipment themselves and some of them have issued a one-off extra payment from their customers, in effect to pay for their own possible interception.
UK: BMA warns that "ethnic weapons" are approaching reality
In October the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that the science required to target biological weapons at specific ethnic groups "is now approaching reality". The BMA report, entitled Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity 11, and written by Malcolm Dando, head of Peace Studies at Bradford University, argues that recent discoveries make it feasible to identify genes that are more common to certain groups and to target them.
UK: Identity Card Bill being rushed through parliament
The Identity Cards Bill entered the committee stage in the second week of January, where it will be examined clause by clause. However the level of scrutiny that MPs will be able to give the bill is limited. The government is rushing the bill through parliament following a programme motion (in effect, a "guillotine") that means the committee stage must be completed by 27 January. MPs did not return from Christmas recess until Monday, 10 January, so that leaves just two an a half weeks to examine a lengthy and controversial bill that has enormous costs and major constitutional implications.
GERMANY: Big Brother Awards 2004
A list of the winners of this year's Big Brother Awards which have been organised in Germany since 2000 by the "Association for the Promotion of Public Moved and Unmoved Data Traffic"
Civil liberties - in brief
Germany: First anti-discrimination law; Spain: Al Jazeera journalist back in prison; France: Anti-nuclear protester dies during nuclear transport
EU: Laws on Joint Investigation Teams in a mess
The European Commission has published a report on the compliance by the 25 EU members states to the Framework Decision on Joint Investigative Teams which concluded that "only one Member State adopted transposing measures which are fully compliant with the Framework Decision (Spain)".
SPAIN: Aznar government backed Venezuela coup
On the 59 segundos (59 seconds) television programme on RTVE (the Spanish public broadcasting company) on 22 November 2004, Miguel Ángel Moratinos claimed that under the Aznar government "the Spanish ambassador [Manuel Viturro] received instructions to back" the coup attempt in Venezuela that began on 11 April 2002 and tried to topple the democratically elected president, Hugo Chávez. Following an outcry by the opposition Partido Popular (PP) which called for his resignation, Moratinos appeared in the Congreso de los Diputados (parliament) to offer his apologies, describing his declarations as "unfortunate" because it was neither the "appropriate" place nor the "right moment" to voice them. He stood by the truthfulness of the claims, and brought documentation, including correspondence between the government and the ambassador in Venezuela and official statements, to prove them.
EU: Battle groups plan adopted
At a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 22 November, also attended by the defence ministers, EU nations formally committed themselves to having 13 military battle groups ready by the end of 2007. The battle groups, each 1,500 strong, will operate on a rotating basis to respond to international trouble spots.
GREECE: Conscientious objector imprisoned
Giorgios Monastiriotis, a 24-year-old sailor in the Greek navy, was arrested on 13 September 2004 for refusing to take part in military activities in Iraq, and was subsequently sentenced to three years and four months in prison by a Naval Court in Piraeus for desertion.
Military - in brief
Austria: Allegations of violence and abuse; UK: Inquiry says "Gulf War syndrome" is real
UK: Deaths in custody - "We are sending people to die"
A total of 95 inmates, including 13 women, killed themselves in jails in England and Wales in 2004, equalling the record set two years earlier. In the last week of 2004, Carl Dunn, 38, was discovered hanging from sheets at HMP Bullingdon, and Dennis Williams, 23, was found hanging in his cell at HMP Bedford. The number of self-inflicted deaths in jail is now running at a rate of one every four days. One third of suicides occur within a prisoners first week in custody. Nearly two-thirds of those who commit suicide have a history of drug mis-use.
GERMANY: Privatisation, outbreaks and prisons for the elderly
The German branch of the British company Serco will take over the partial running of the newly built Hessian prison, providing 99 of the future 231. It is planned to open next year in Hünfeld. Private staff will be responsible for cooking, maintenance and drugs and debt advice and not, as in the UK, for security. The regional justice ministry in Hanover is investigating possibilities to build a prison accommodating the needs of the elderly, such as wheelchair access, nurses and a leisure programme.
SPAIN: ECHR - torture claims not effectively investigated
On 2 November 2004, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg found that the Spanish authorities failed to effectively investigate allegations made by 15 members of Terra Lliure, an armed Catalan group that carried out a campaign for independence involving small-scale bombings against banks and other businesses between 1979 and 1991, that they were tortured in the Guardia Civil headquarters in Madrid following their arrest in July 1992. Spain was ordered to pay 8,000 euros compensation to each of the plaintiffs, six of whom were convicted in 1995 of links to an illegal armed group, possession of weapons and terrorism.
Prisons - in brief
UK: H-wing at HMP Lindholme "amongst the worst"; UK: "Archaic" YOI condemned; UK: The death of John Carmody; UK: Tooling-up with pepper spray;
UK: Nafis crashes
In November 2004 the collapse of the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (Nafis), which is said to be the most sophisticated system of its type in the world, hit almost all of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. Nafis, crashed on 24 November and police officers were unable to check the fingerprints of suspects for up to a week when more than four million records on the database were rendered inaccessible.
UK: Tasers for firearms officers
Within weeks of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, John Stevens, calling for the police use of the Taser to be expanded the government announced in September that electronic stun guns are to be issued to police firearms officers in England and Wales. The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, approved the move following a pilot study in which five UK forces tested the weapon.
UK: "45 Minutes Mr B-Liar"
The Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain (a former anti-apartheid protester) has announced that the government will introduce a new clause in its Organised Crime Bill to remove a demonstrator who has been protesting outside Parliament since the summer of 2001.
UK: Morris report finds "bias against black and Asian police officers"
Twenty years after the Policy Studies Institute found endemic racism in the Metropolitan police force and five years since the MacPherson inquiry uncovered institutional racism, another investigation has reported racism among the ranks of Britain's largest police force. The new inquiry, which was chaired by Bill Morris, the former general secretary of the Transport & General Workers' union, was called after the case of Superintendent Ali Desai, who was subjected to a £5 million investigation into allegations of corruption. Desai was cleared after two trials and reinstated with a reprimand in 2003. The Morris report found that Black and Asian officers in the Met. are facing serious discrimination and that "there is no understanding of diversity" within Britain's largest police force.
FRANCE: Use of firearms and "less-lethal" weapons by police
The French internal security ministry has published figures for 2003 on the use of firearms by the police and gendarmerie (France's paramilitary police force), which show that they fired their weapons 706 times, killing 18 persons and injuring 51. The figures, which do not cover activities by the Corps Républicains de Securité (CRS, a special corps), also show that the non-lethal "flashball" gun was being used more often (412 times) than live ammunition (294 times, a figure that is decreasing).
Racism & Fascism
GERMANY: Far-right unites as state attacks anti-fascists
After the success of the German National Democratic Party (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, NPD) and the German Peoples' Union (Deutsche Volksunion, DVU) in regional elections, the far-right parties have formed a pact (that incorporates nazi skinheads) to maximise their chances of winning seats in the 2006 general elections. At last September's regional elections the NPD gained 12 seats (9.2 per cent of the vote) in the eastern state of Saxony; in Brandenburg near Berlin, the DVU increased its seats from five to six (6.1 per cent of the vote).
UK: BNP leaders arrested
In December the leader of the British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, was arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred following a BBC television documentary, The Secret Agent, which was broadcast last July. Griffin is the twelfth BNP member to be arrested following the programme, in which an uncover reporter infiltrated the organisation and covertly filmed footage showing activists boasting of racist attacks and other crimes.
GERMANY: Kaplan arrested after premature deportation to Turkey
On 12 October, the self-proclaimed "Caliph" and Islamic fundamentalist, Metin Kaplan, was deported to Turkey after years of legal battle. On his arrival in Istanbul, he was arrested by Turkish authorities and is awaiting trial on grounds of treason. Kaplan was the leader of a banned organisation, the "Caliph State", and although the organisation is clearly anti-democratic, Kaplan has not committed a criminal act which would justify his deportation.
SPAIN: Immigration deaths
On 28 November 2004, two sub-Saharan migrants drowned and 14 disappeared when their dinghy capsized in the sea near Antigua on the island of Fuerteventura (in the Canary islands archipelago), as 28 others were rescued by the Guardia Civil (Spain's paramilitary police force). As is becoming increasingly frequent in Spanish waters, the accident occurred during rescue operations. A Guardia Civil maritime service officer was later quoted in El País newspaper as saying that the patrol boats they use are "not appropriate to rescue people arriving in dinghies".
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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