Statewatch News Online: Targeting 'troublemakers' at protests

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Protests: Proposal to create EU-wide "troublemakers" database

- to "prevent individuals or groups who are considered to pose a potential threat to the maintenance of public law and order and/or security from travelling to the location of the event"

- and to put in place: "The necessary arrangements for a quick and efficient implementation of the potential expulsion measures"

-EU Security Handbook:"The scope of the manual is now such that it applies to the security (both from a public order point of view as well as counter-terrorism) of all major international events, be it political, sporting, social, cultural or other."

At the Article 36 Committee meeting (high-level EU interior ministry officials) on 22-23 October 2007 a proposal from the German government was on the agenda concerning the options for "sharing information on violent troublemakers at large events" (EU doc no: 15079/07). It was agreed that the Council's (the governments) working party on the SIS/SIRENE (Schengen Information System) should examine the possibility of "using the SIS for this exchange of information".

On 4 December 2007 under the heading: "Troublemakers" at the SIS/SIRENE Working Party:

"The Presidency explained that at its meeting on 22 and 23 October 2007, CATS had instructed the SIS/SIRENE group to examine the possibility of using SIS for the exchange of information on troublemakers.

COM argued that although the alerts pursuant to Article 99 were not designed to this end, this kind of alerts could prove helpful in locating troublemakers.

However, some delegations argued that this type of alerts neither met the legal (Art. 99 regards extremely serious criminal offences or serious threats) nor the operational needs (there was no possibility of arresting persons) referred to by CATS.

Since this question had already been discussed some years previously in this forum, the Council Secretariat was asked to retrieve any documents issued between 2000 and 2003 on this subject." (EU doc no: 16585/07)

Article 99 (for the SIS) concerns the surveillance of people suspected of extremely serious criminal offences. See: Schengen Information System Article 99 report

On 14 March 2008 the Council Presidency circulated a paper to the SIS/SIRENE Working Party on the Subject of:

"Troublemakers" (EU doc 7544/08)

The paper refers to the Conclusions of the special Justice and Home Affairs Council on 13 July 2001 (EU doc no: 10916/01) following the Gothenburg protests on 14-16 June 2001) and to Conclusions on the development of SIS II (EU doc no: EU doc 9808/03) where "a certain interest exists" in a new category in the SIS on "violent troublemakers". These Conclusions also referred to the need for a "feasibility study" (which has not been done) and for Council working parties to discuss the issue and bring forward proposals "when they find sufficient support". The only indirectly related development was the Council Resolution on security at European Council meetings and other comparable events on 3 November 2003, See: EU doc no: 13815/03

In effect four and a half years past before "troublemakers" were put back on the agenda again by the German government in October 2007 in the wake of the Heiligendamm G8 Summit (see below).

The Council Presidency paper says that the SIS/SIRENE Working Party discussed the issue on 29 January 2008 (though no "Outcomes"/Minutes of this meeting have yet been produced) and:

"several delegations reflected the idea that the persons envisaged could be inserted under Article 99. Other delegations raised doubts about the usefulness of Article 99 alerts for violent troublemakers since arrest cannot be carried out under this Article."

The Presidency paper says that data would concern:

"persons to be barred from certain events, such as European summits or similar venues, international sports or cultural events or other mass gatherings because they are a threat to public order and public security at such events."


"This proposal begs questions as the right of free movement, other civil liberties and data protection, as these persons should therefore not be permanently visible or included in the SIS, requiring a very careful management of such alerts."

On 18 March 2008 at the SIS/SIRENE Working Party, under the heading: Troublemakers the above document was discussed and:

"After some discussion, it was concluded that before undertaking any feasibility study as referred to in the Annex to the Council Conclusions on SIS II (7178/4/03 REV 4 SIRIS 28 CATS 16 ASIM 16 COMIX 141, point II.2, page 6) on the possible creation of a new type of SIS-alert, attention should be given to the definition of “troublemakers” and the exact goals. To that end, the Presidency of the SIS/SIRENE WP would establish contacts with the Presidency of the WP on Police Cooperation."

German government Note

So on 7 April 2008 the German delegation - who raised the issue - circulated a Note on: "Improving exchange of information on violent offenders active internationally" (EU doc no: 8204/08). This might have been expected to clarify exactly who is a "troublemaker" at "mass events"/International gatherings in the EU - instead the German delegation Note widens the scope to cover:

"violent offenders active internationally"

which apparently covers "violent offenders" (does this mean convicted?) or "violent troublemakers".

The Note states that in Germany it is permissible to enter an alert to "prevent violent confrontations and other criminal offences" at major international political or sporting events and to:

"avert dangers arising from gatherings of individuals prone to violence"

Given the German police reaction to the Heilgendamm G8 Summit 6-8 June 2007 (See Statewatch report: Heiligendamm G8 Summit: a chronology of protest and repression) it would appear that any protest can be defined as "gatherings of individuals prone to violence".

"Alerts" are entered on people on

"whom certain facts give reason to believe that they will in future commit significant criminal offences using violence or the threat of violence. A "significant criminal offence" is one which falls into a category higher than that of petty crime, noticeably disturbs the public peace and is likely to have a considerable effect on the public's sense of security."

To define "significant criminal offence" to include one that "disturbs the public peace" is absurdly wide - this would include non-violent protesters sitting down in the street. And any large-scale gathering to protest could be interpreted by police as having "a considerable effect on the public's sense of security".

Apparently "concrete grounds" for a "negative prognosis" are:

"the individual concerned has been suspected, accused or convicted of a significant criminal offence."

"Suspected" by whom?

"Accused" by whom?

Moreover alerts can be entered against a person from whom "weapons or other dangerous objects have been seized or confiscated" - again this depends on how it is interpreted as banner poles are seized by police on the grounds that they could be used a weapons.

The German delegation Note then goes on to massively extend the scope of the proposal.

We are given examples of "significant criminal offences" which include:

"(a) Offences involving use of force against - life and limb
(b) coercion
(c) aiding and abetting the escape of a prisoner
(d) material damage to property
(e) serious trespass
(f) breach of the public peace
(g) formation of or participation in an armed group
(h) formation of or support for a criminal or terrorist organisation
(i) robbery
(j) arson
(k) causing an explosion
(l) breach of the laws on weapons
(m) incitement to hatred (insofar as the nature of the act clearly shows that the perpetrator is liable to be violent)"

Are "armed groups" and "terrorist organisations" to be defined as "troublemakers"?

What do "coercion", "aiding and abetting the escape of a prisoner", "robbery", "arson" and "causing an explosion" have to do with protests at major international meetings in the EU?

This is a dangerous conflation of questionable offences (depending on the context) which might arise at protests such as "breach of the public peace" or "serious trespass" with clearly criminal and terrorist acts endangering life and limb.

Back to 2001-2003

The idea of putting "troublemakers" on a database was discussed and rejected back in 2001. It is often forgotten in the wake of 11 September 2001 that the EU was in a "crisis" earlier in the summer of 2001 following the mass protests in Gothenburg at the EU Summit on 14-16 June - See for full background Statewatch's Observatory on protests in the EU A special meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council was called on 13 July 2001 from which emanated Conclusions adopted by the Council and the representatives of the Governments of the Member States on 13 July 2001 on security at meetings of the European Council and other comparable events (pdf). Amongst it conclusions were the:

"use of police or intelligence officers able to identify persons or groups likely to pose a threat to public order and security, provided by the Member States from which such persons or groups come"

No sooner was the ink dry and there were mass protests at the EU Summit in Genoa (19-22 July 2001) during which Carlo Guillani was killed. See: Genoa 19-21 July 2001: An Italian view of "public order policing" Italian style: 482 people injured; 280 arrests; 2,093 people turned back at the borders; Carlo Giuliani shot dead by police. See also: EU plans to extend the Schengen Information System (SIS) and The Enemy Within II (pdf).

During the discussions on the specially called Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) after protests in the EU Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden on 14-16 June 2001 when hundreds were arrested and excessive police reaction widely reported: Statewatch's Observatory on protests in the EU See Gothenburg: Public order policing in Europe - policy backlash expected: EU public order) it emerged that seven EU governments - Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom - wanted to go even further and create an explicit EU-wide database of “troublemakers ” and to introduce travel bans on suspected “troublemakers ” across the EU. See Statewatch analysis The Enemy Within (pdf)

Later in the autumn of 2001 the German government put forward a Proposal to create EU para-military police units to counter protests: Report

Policing of demonstrations 2003-2008

Since 2001 there have been many protest and demonstrations at which there has been a discernable shift in the aggressiveness of policing tactics which is a reflection of both the growth in para-military policing and the conflation in EU ideology of security to deal with terrorism and public order policing.

In 2007 the Council of the European Union (representing the 27 governments) agreed that the two, separate handbooks on public order at EU events and that on counter-terrorism should be combined:

"The scope of the manual is now such that it applies to the security (both from a public order point of view as well as counter-terrorism) of all major international events, be it political, sporting, social, cultural or other."

As regards public order and cross-border demonstrations, the agencies should:

"prevent individuals or groups who are considered to pose a potential threat to the maintenance of public law and order and/or security from travelling to the location of the event"

and for those who have entered make:

"The necessary arrangements for a quick and efficient implementation of the potential expulsion measures"

Source: Security handbook for the use of police authorities and other agencies at international events

Here are some examples from the last five years of the policing of protests:

2003: Greece: The "Soloniki 8" and Simon Chapman
2003: Spain: Legal action against policing of demonstrations

2003: Expulsion from Belgium and Schengen bans for anti-war protestors - SIS used to curb dissent; Schengen framework used to curb free movement

2004: UK: Fairford coach: Protestors "virtually prisoners" rules Court of Appeal

2005: UK-G8: Gleneagles: Statement on the Policing of the G8 Protests (indymedia, link)

2006: Spain: 59 held after demonstration against detention centres

2006: Swiss Police face jail for Nearly Killing Two Activists in Evian 2003

2007: After the Heilgendamm G8 Summit in June 2007 the G6 group of EU states (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK meeting in Poland issued a: Joint Declaration by the Ministers of Interior of G6 States Sopot, 18 October 2007 including a direct reference to the mass protests at the G8 Heiligendamm Summit earlier this year. G6 refers to the "acts of violence" at "mass events" which affected the "security of participants" and want to "continue the discussion" on "providing security and public order". See Statewatch report: Heiligendamm G8 Summit: a chronology of protest and represssion

2008: Policing protests in Switzerland, Italy and Germany (from Statewatch bulletin) 1. Switzerland: Policing of the anti-WEF demonstration in Davos; 2. Italy: Demonstrators convicted for G8 clashes; 3. Switzerland: 200 arrests at peaceful street party; 4. Germany: 60 per cent of G8 investigations dropped.
2008: ROMANIA-NATO: Police actions against anti-NATO protests in Bucharest On 2 April 2008, hundreds of police raided the convergence centre of the anti-NATO gathering in Bucharest and arrested an estimated 46 people. All the arrests were made inside the convergence centre, no demonstration was taking place at the time. Many police reportedly wore ski masks and were hostile to journalists trying to access the scene. Police arrested and detained people arbitrarily. Once detained, the police appear to construct "offences", such as interpreting the carrying of a pocket-knife as arms possessions. The detained are interrogated, photographed and fingerprinted in police stations, and held for up to 24 hours. At the Romanian border several groups of activists have been denied entry into the country.


Indymedia report in English:
Indymedia report in German:
English summary:
Indymedia Romania

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"We can now see a pattern emerging across the EU where people who exercise their democratic right to attend cross border protests are confronted by aggressive para-military policing, surveillance, preventive detention and expulsion.

This is a reflection of the EU's definition of "security" at international events which is now defined as covering both "counter-terrorism" and "public order".

Back in 2003 the bilateral exchange of information on "suspected troublemakers" between EU states for international events was agreed. What is proposed now is not the one-off exchange of information related to a specific event but a permanent EU-wide database of suspected "troublemakers", this is utterly unacceptable in a democratic Europe."

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