monitoring civil liberties in the European Union
March-April 2005, vol 15 no 2
Front page lead
EU: EU policy "putsch": Data protection handed to the DG for "law, order and security"
In a little reported decision the full European Commission meeting on 11 February 2005 the policy brief for data protection in the EU was transferred from the Directorate-General on the Internal Market to the Directorate-General on "Freedom, justice and security". There was no public debate and no consultation with national or European parliaments.
GERMANY: Germany new Immigration Act
On 1 January 2005, a new Immigration Act entered into force. It had been debated since August 2001, when the first draft was published. The parliamentary process was frustrated by the conservative parties which opposed the law, deeming it too liberal and they demanded more restrictions on foreigner's rights to work and more powers to deport "terrorists" (see Statewatch Vol 14 no 2). The Act amends existing law in the areas of freedom of movement for EU citizens, asylum procedural law, citizenship and asylum law. The former Aliens Act (Ausländergesetz) was replaced with the Residency Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz). This article includes an outline of the main aspects of the new law and the critique put forward by migrant and refugee support organisations.
WORLD: IFJ-Statewatch report: "Journalism, civil liberties and the war on terrorism"
On 3 May 2005, World Press Freedom Day, the International Federation of Journalists and Statewatch launched a joint report in Brussels setting out serious concerns for journalism and civil liberties as a result of the "war on terror". Having considered the current state of policy-making at national and international level, it is deemed impossible not to conclude that the war on terrorism amounts to a devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights and civil liberties established almost 60 years ago.
WORLD: International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS) launched
The International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS) was founded by the American Civil Liberties Union, Focus on the Global South, the Friends' Committee on National Legislation, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and Statewatch. ICAMS was launched on 20 April 2005 in London, Manila, Ottawa and Washington - 146 groups from around the world have now signed-up. The ICAMS report, "The Emergence Of A Global Infrastructure For Mass Registration And Surveillance", published with the launch, see: http://www.i-cams.org/.
EU: European Commission technical mission to Libya: exporting Fortress Europe
On 4 April 2005, a report was published on the European Commission technical mission in Libya from 28 November to 6 December 2004 involving experts from 14 member states, the Commission and Europol, and aimed at developing cooperation with Libya on illegal immigration. The mission's stated goals involved obtaining an in-depth understanding of migration-related issues in Libya, identifying concrete measures for EU-Libyan cooperation in this field and to illustrate EU policy on this issue to the Libyan authorities. Some key findings include the fact that Libya is not only a transit country towards the EU, but is predominantly a destination country, although the Libyan transit route to cross the Channel of Sicily to reach Italy (particularly the island of Lampedusa) or Malta is being used by increasing numbers of migrants. After a long period during which they applied an "open-door" policy in this field, Libyan authorities now perceive illegal immigration as a "growing threat with the dimension of a national crisis", while the EU is concerned about the relationship between the emergence of the Libyan transit route and increasing pressure on EU borders.
EUSKADI: Interesting times
The Basque regional elections were held on 17 April 2005 and threw up some interesting results, as the outgoing government coalition formed by PNV/EA (Basque Nationalist Party/Eusko Alkartasuna), and EB (United Left) failed to secure a majority. Nonetheless, PNV/EA remained the party that won the highest percentage of the vote (38.6%) and the most seats (29, down from 33), and the PSE (the Basque branch of the Socialist party, up from 13 to 18 seats) overtook the PPE (its Popular party counterpart, down from 19 to 15) as the second largest party. This has produced deadlock, as the sum of PSOE and PPE seats in the Basque parliament is 33, one more than that of the outgoing PNV/EA and EB government, which obtained 32 seats.
SPAIN/GERMANY/SWITZERLAND: Trumped-up charges, extradition, preventative custody and plea bargaining
Case 10/95, involving the German defendant Gabriele Emilie Kanze, who was charged of collaborating with an armed group (ETA's Comando Barcelona) and for whom prosecutors demanded a 28-year prison sentence before reducing their demand, was tried in the Audiencia Nacional (a court that has exclusive competence for terrorist offences) on 29 November 2004.
UK: "Schools Against Deportation" campaign launched
A group of students, teachers, headteachers, lecturers, trade unionist and others in the education system have issued a "declaration against deportations" expressing their concern "about the damaging impact which the threat of deportation or actual deportation can have on children and young people studying in schools and colleges." Schools Against Deportations have launched a website and are calling for signatories to their declaration.
SPAIN: Regularisation process comes to an end
The three-month regularisation process that began on 7 February 2005 closed on the night of 6 May with a provisional figure of 691,059 applications submitted by immigrant workers seeking to obtain a status as legal residents under the rules that were established by the Zapatero government. The employment minister, Jesús Caldera, estimated that once all the applications have been processed, and definitive figures are available, their total number will be over 700,000.
ITALY: Detention centres: Hunger strikes, arrests and escapes
Between March and May 2005, there were a number of protests and actions against Italian detention centres, both inside and outside of these centres, which have been accompanied by disturbances, revolts and escape attempts within the centres.
Immigration - in brief
Austria: Constitutional Court partially revokes Asylum Act; Italy/Libya/Malta/Spain: Migrant deaths at sea continue
GERMANY: Anti-discrimination law watered down?
On 28 April this year, Germany was reprimanded by the European Commission, which brought a case before the European Court of Justice, for failing to implement the EU guidelines against discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity or gender. The law should have been passed at national level by 19 July 2003, and although the government has produced a draft (see Statewatch vol 14 no 6) it still has not been passed by the Bundestag. The German draft law goes further than the EU guidelines in including discrimination on grounds of age, sexual identity, religion, world view or disability next to the grounds outlined at EU level.
UK/ISRAEL: No accountability in IDF's "shooting range"
Article detailing three cases of western journalists and peace activists killed by the Israeli military in the Gaza strip. They are shown to be indicative of a "trigger-happy" climate in which the military has acted with relative impunity.
Military - in brief
Germany: Commission supports MEADS; EU: EU looks at protected defence markets; EU: EDA takes charge of European defence research groups
FRANCE: ID card scheme criticised
In February 2005, the French interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, presented a draft law to establish a programme (INES, the secure national electronic identity scheme) to introduce a new ID card with a chip containing citizens' biometric data, facial and iris scans, digitised photographs and fingerprints, as well as encryption mechanisms to hide certain data, digital signatures and an authentication mechanism. Members of the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL, national commission for IT and liberties) have already expressed their "strong reservations".
UK: NAPO calls for end to tagging
Research by the probation workers union NAPO has shown that electronic tagging is "extraordinarily expensive, does not effect crime and that aspects of the scheme are ineffective."
UK: Criminalising headwear
In May 2005 Kent's Bluewater shopping centre banned the wearing of hooded tops and baseball caps as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour. This blanket measure comes in response to some shoppers expressing discomfort at children being able to hide their face from the 400 CCTV cameras operating in the complex. The Children's Society has called for a boycott of the shopping centre, denouncing the ban as "blatant discrimination based on stereotypes and prejudices that only fuels fear".
Civil Liberties - in brief
UK/Iraq: Colonel to face trial for over crimes?; UK: Lie detectors to be introduced for benefits?
Racism & Fascism
UK: BNP election hopes fade as leaders charged with race hate charges
On 19 May the British National Party's current leader and their founder appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court charged with offences of inciting racial hatred following statements they made during a BBC television undercover investigation of party activists, The Secret Policeman, which was broadcast last July. Party leader, Nick Griffin, has been charged with four counts of inciting racial hatred under Section 18 of the Public Order Act while the party's founder, John Tyndall, has been charged with using words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred.
GERMANY: Far-right murders in Dortmund
Far-right skinheads have increasingly come under discussion in the mainstream media, since the government undertook legal action to ban the National Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands (NPD). This unsuccessful court case exposed the involvement of security force informants on the NPD's executive, demonstrating the authorities' knowledge of the existence of an organised skinhead movement and its connections to NPD party structures. They would also have been aware of its violent attacks against black people, refugees and left-wing activists, (see Statewatch vol 14 no 5). And yet, despite two recent murders by neo-nazi skinheads in Dortmund, a council spokesman still maintained that "we do not have a far-right scene".
GERMANY: Neo-nazi bomb-plotters jailed
The trial against neo-nazis Martin Wiese (29), Karl-Heinz Statzberger (24), Alexander Maetzing (28) and David Schulz (22) concluded on 4 May, when they were sentenced to 7 years, four years and three months, five years and nine months and two years and three months respectively. All four, and in separate proceedings four more members of the Kameradschaft Süd ("Comradeship South"), were facing charges of membership of a terrorist organisation and some of violating the firearms law (see Statewatch Vol 15 no 1).
UK/SPAIN: RTF and B&H organisers arrested
In April Spanish police officers arrested the founder of the Racial Volunteer Force (RVF), Mark Atkinson, in Benalmadena (Malaga) Spain. Atkinson's detention followed the arrests of five men and a women from the organisation in the UK in January in relation to material published on the RVF's website and their magazine Stormer. Spanish police also arrested members of the Blood and Honour organisation within days of Atkinson's arrest. The RVF is an offshoot from Combat 18 (C18) which collapsed after internal feuding in 1997-1998 that saw one of their founding members, Charlie Sargent, jailed for murder.
Racism & Fascism - in brief
Austria: Haider splits FPO to rebrand himself with a new party; Germany: Berlin bans far-right groups; Germany: Jail for "terrorist" Friekorps members
Security & Intelligence
NORTHERN IRELAND: JSG/FRU leaves Ireland for Iraq
It has been reported that the Joint Support Group (JSG), the successor of the Force Reconnaissance Unit (FRU) - which was a key element of the government's counter terrorist strategy in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, who gave information to loyalist paramilitary death squads to assassinate republican activists and civilians alike - is to be pulled out of Northern Ireland and posted to other operations overseas.
UK: Mubarek Inquiry
The public inquiry into the murder of Zahid Mubarek at HMP YOI Feltham, chaired by Mr Justice Keith, finally began hearing evidence in November 2004 and concluded its investigations in March 2005. During that period over 70 witnesses were heard. Zahid Mubarek was bludgeoned to death with a wooden table leg by his cell mate Robert Stewart in March 2000. He was attacked on 21 March and died in hospital on 28 March 2000. Zahid was serving a 60 day sentence for stealing razor blades with a total value of £6.00. Robert Stewart had been identified as a violent, racist, psychopath, but was housed with a vulnerable Asian cellmate.
UK: End-of Term Report
At the end of New Labour's second term in office, the prison population stood at a record high of 75,550. According to a recent Howard League report, Leicester is the most overcrowded jail, with 90% more inmates than it has places for, followed by Preston, which has 80%, and Shrewsbury, with 73%. Seventy six of the 139 prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded in January 2005. In 2003-4 the average rate of "doubling" - putting two to a cell built to accommodate one prisoner - was 21.7%.
Prisons - in brief
UK: FRFI banned from Belmarsh
GERMANY: Another suspicious death in police custody
On 7 January, 21-year old Oury Jalloh from Sierra Leone burned to death in a police cell in Dessau in Saxon-Anhalt, whilst his arms and legs were handcuffed to the bed (see Statewatch vol 15 no 1). Weeks after the fire, a lighter was produced, police officers claiming to have found it in his cell. The officer in charge was suspected of involvement in a similar incident in 2002, when a detainee died in his care from a fractured skull and internal injury. No charges were brought. But now legal proceedings have been initiated against police officers for grievous bodily harm resulting in death.
WALES: Police arrested over "Cardiff Three" murder conspiracy
Retired police officers were among 22 people arrested in April as part of an inquiry into the death of Cardiff prostitute, Lynette White, who was brutally murdered in 1988. Lynette had been stabbed more than 50 times and her killer had attempted to decapitate her in what has been described as the most savage murder in Welsh criminal history. Within hours of the killing police had arrested a suspect, a white man in a distressed state who had bloodstains on his clothing. Later the police investigation changed course and five black men were charged with the murder. This resulted in a notorious miscarriage of justice when Yusef Abdullahi, Steven Miller and Tony Paris, who became known as the "Cardiff Three", were jailed for life for murder in 1990 after a trial that lasted for 117 days.
UK: High Court overturns jury's verdict in Harry Stanley case
The family of Harry Stanley, a 46-year old Irish man who was shot dead by Metropolitan police officers as he left a public house in September 1999, has expressed "outrage" at the overturning of the unlawful killing verdict secured at his inquest by the High Court. Harry was shot in the head as he returned home from his local public house when SO19 officers mistook a table leg that he was carrying for a gun; Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan were acting on a tip-off that warned them of an Irish man with a sawn-off shotgun. An inquest took place in June 2003 and a jury returned a unanimous "open" verdict after it was denied the opportunity to consider whether he was unlawfully killed by coroner Dr Stephen Chan. As a result of Chan's procedural errors the family took a judicial review of the decision which ordered that a fresh inquest take place, In October 2004 the second inquest jury returned an unlawful killing verdict (see Statewatch Vol. 10 no 2, Vol. 13 no 1, 2).
FRANCE: Amnesty report damns "effective impunity" of police officers
On 6 April 2005, Amnesty International published a report on the "effective impunity" that police officers enjoy in France with regard to cases involving shootings, deaths in custody or torture and ill-treatment. The report identifies a number of factors which contribute to this situation. These can be loosely divided into a) structural issues pertaining to law enforcement activities and the police, b) questions arising from the biased functioning of the criminal justice system, and c) questions of accountability.
Policing - in brief
Scotland: G8 policing and security costs approach £100 million; UK: "I'll smash your fucking Arab face in"
* In addition, the bulletin carries a round-up of new books, reports and publications
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