Home | News Online | What's New | Publications | Analyses | Observatories | Database | SEMDOC | Journal | Support our work
Statewatch: News Digest: Round-up of news stories from across the EU


Please see also Statewatch Observatory on: EU MED crisis - a humanitarian emergency: Updated daily
July 2016

News Digest (26.8.16)

Czech and German secret services release publication about Prague Spring (Prague Daily Monitor, link)

"The Czech and German secret services have released a publication dealing with the work of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) during the reform Prague Spring in 1968, Jaroslav Hrbek, Office for Foreign Relations and Information (UZSI) spokesman, said yesterday.

In it, there are the original documents and so far unpublished photos from the German secret service archives that relate to the Prague Spring and Czechoslovakia's occupation by Warsaw Pact troops, Hrbek said."

Germany to tell people to stockpile food and water in case of attacks: FAS (Reuters, link)

"For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the German government plans to tell citizens to stockpile food and water in case of an attack or catastrophe, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.

Germany is currently on high alert after two Islamist attacks and a shooting rampage by a mentally unstable teenager last month. Berlin announced measures earlier this month to spend considerably more on its police and security forces and to create a special unit to counter cyber crime and terrorism."

UK: Belfast: Neighbour 'picked up pipe bomb' after racist attack in Atlantic Avenue (BBC News, link):

"A man has said he picked up a pipe bomb and carried it away from a house in north Belfast after his neighbours' home was targeted in a racist attack.

A Slovakian family were in their house in Atlantic Avenue when a rock was thrown overnight, smashing a window.

A pipe bomb was later found in the area and police have linked the two attacks."

UK: Defendant told to put up with racist abuse in Colchester or face further punishment (Braintree & Witham Times, link):

"A MAN who shouted back after allegedly being subjected to a torrent of vile racist abuse was told to put up with it and “button his lip” by magistrates.

Bilal Zubair admitted two public order offences for disorderly behaviour at Colchester Magistrates’ Court yesterday. "

USA: Why Are We Still Wasting Billions on Homeland Security Projects That Don’t Make Us Safer? (ProPublica, link)

"Certainly, some of the government programs created to address vulnerabilities exposed by the 9/11 attacks were long overdue. The U.S. needed a much better system for screening air travelers, one that did not allow people to board airplanes with lethal weapons in hand. And it made sense to harden New York’s underwater subway tunnels to limit the damage a bomb could do to both passengers and the city’s infrastructure.

But for every valid effort, it seems like the terrorism-industrial complex came up with an array of boondoggles that were profitable for the companies involved but added little to the security of ordinary Americans. The upwards of $47 billion spent on FirstNet, the troubled effort to make sure firefighters and police could talk to each other in an emergency, staggers the imagination. Altogether, Brill calculates, the government has spent $100 to $150 billion on equipment and programs that do not work. What might have been accomplished if all of that money had been spent on, say, reducing the cost of a college education for poor and middle-class kids?"


News Digest (19.8.16)

Civil UAV Regulations Worldwide (Defence iQ, link):

"The civilian use of UAVs presents homeland security, critical national infrastructure and commercial industries with a myriad of safety and privacy challenges. However, while 2016 represents a landmark year for the introduction of many new regulatory frameworks across many countries, a huge number remain unclear or untested."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Communist-era secret police members facing charges (Prague Daily Monitor, link):

"Investigators filed charges in spring against three members of the Czechoslovak Communist secret police (StB) over participating in the harassment of dissidents within the Asanace (Sanitation) raid under the Communist regime, the server iDnes said on Monday.

Asanace was to force opponents of the Communist regime to emigrate."

HUNGARY: Police Investigate OCCRP Partner for "Harrassment" (OCCRP, link):

"Hungarian police have launched a criminal investigation into Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) partner Direkt36 after a politician accused the news organization of harrassment."

Romania denies hosting US nukes (EUobserver, link):

"The foreign ministry of Romania has denied that US nuclear weapons were being moved from Turkey to Romania as ties between Washington and Ankara soured after the failed coup of 15 July. Bucharest issued a press release firmly rejecting the information, first reported by the Euractiv news agency in Brussels. Defence minister Mihnea Motoc said “so far there have not been any plans or discussions [in Nato] on this topic”."

UK: Another 100 beds at Gatwick site: expansion by stealth? (The Detention Forum, link):

"In Stephen Shaw’s substantive review of detention earlier this year, it did not go unnoticed that the scale of immigration detention in the UK had increased without any strategic plan, or statement of purpose. He commented that ‘the use of detention is determined on a direct one to one basis by the number of available spaces. A strategic decision therefore needs to be made about the size and location of the IRC estate over the next decade and longer’. The then Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, in a statement made in January, accepted the ‘broad thrust’ of Shaw’s recommendations, and outlined plans to reduce the numbers detained. Plans for the future shape and size of the detention estate, he said, would be outlined in the Immigration Enforcement’s Business Plan for 2016/17. This elusive business plan remains unpublished.

It comes as somewhat of a surprise to learn, then, that the detention centres at Gatwick Airport (Brook and Tinsley House) are being expanded this summer by 100 bed spaces."

UK: Lincoln Prison 'failed ' inmate found hanged in cell (Lincolnshire Echo, link):

"The grieving mother of a vulnerable prisoner found hanged in his cell at HMP Lincoln says it was disgraceful staff failed to protect him properly .

Luke McDonnell, 29, was found by wardens hanged in his cell on his birthday, June 14.

He was rushed to Lincoln County Hospital and was in a coma before his life support machine was switched off on June 19.

A jury at an inquest into his death found the prison had failed him and other prisoners at risk of self harm."

UK: London Bridge arrest investigated after complaint about use of spit hood (The Guardian, link):

"The police watchdog is investigating the arrest of a man who was forcefully restrained by officers and had a spit hood put over his head after an argument with his partner.

Video footage showed Ik Aihie screaming in pain as British Transport police (BTP) officers held him down on the floor of London Bridge station during the incident last month. He was approached by officers after his partner, Jessica McConkey, asked him to give her back her phone, the couple said.

Police said he was arrested after he “became aggressive” and, during the arrest, that Aihie also threatened to spit at officers."

UK: Secrets of a Police Marksman was an interesting window into a little-seen world – review (The Telegraph, link):

"Secrets of a Police Marksman (Channel 4) was on our screens days after a US presidential candidate seemed to incite gun-owners to assassination. In the UK – and everywhere else in the developed world – we have sanity around guns, which is why Tony Long’s story is exceptional."

UK: Student wins lawsuit forcing police watchdog to re-examine assault claim (The Guardian, link):

"A university student who alleges he was assaulted by police during a demonstration has won a lawsuit forcing an official watchdog to conduct a fresh examination of his allegations.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission had cleared the police of misconduct during the demonstration against education cuts at Warwick University in December 2014.

But a high court judge ruled on Friday that the IPCC was wrong to dismiss Lawrence Green’s allegations."


News Digest (12.8.16)

EU: How a team of journalists investigated Europe’s €1.2 billion arms trade with the Middle East (IJNet, link):

"OCCRP, a network of investigative reporters based in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, partnered with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) to produce "Making a Killing." The investigation found that Eastern European governments continued to approve mass weapons exports to countries like Saudi Arabia, despite evidence that many of these weapons may end up in war-torn countries like Syria. Even though government leaders insist otherwise, experts told BIRN and the OCCRP that this trade most likely violates international law."

EU: Thousands call on EU chiefs to act over Barroso controversy (euronews, link):

"More than 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for EU chiefs to act over a controversy involving José Manuel Barroso.

The former European Commission (EC) president sparked fury when he took up a role with US bank Goldman Sachs in early July, the latest case in Brussels’ long-running ‘revolving doors’ saga, where senior EU staff move into the private sector and vice-versa.

Critics say it means former EU employees can tell business how to lobby Brussels to get the legislative changes they want."

'Faceless Recognition System' Can Identify You Even When You Hide Your Face (Motherboard, link):

"With widespread adoption among law enforcement, advertisers, and even churches, face recognition has undoubtedly become one of the biggest threats to privacy out there.

By itself, the ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications for free speech and political protest. But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that even when faces are blurred or otherwise obscured, algorithms can be trained to identify people by matching previously-observed patterns around their head and body."

FRANCE: Burkinis banned on French Riviera – to make people safer (The Independent, link):

"The mayor of Cannes has introduced a ban on burkinis to “ensure security”, the French authorities confirmed.

The local mayor, David Lisnard, introduced the ban at the French Riviera resort to prohibit “beachwear ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation while France and places of religious significance are the target of terror attacks”.

The ruling says: “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to anyone who does not have (swim wear) which respects good customs and secularism.”"

GERMANY: Eine Weltkarte der Videoüberwachung [A worldmap of video surveillance] (Netzpolitik.org, link):

See all the known surveillance cameras in the world on a map? That's the aim of a new interactive map made using OpenStreetMap and listing surveillance cameras around the world.

ITALY: Roma Women’s Business Plan: Cook Their Way to a Better Life (New York Times, link):

"Those challenges include a deeply ingrained prejudice against Roma people prevalent in Italian society, xenophobia stirred by ultraright groups across Europe, and resistance from the more tradition-minded members of the Roma community.

In theory, Italy’s national policy aims to integrate the Roma, in accordance with European Union recommendations. In practice, results have been negligible, and municipal governments instead fund and maintain the construction of Roma camps in major cities throughout the country.

The camps have drawn criticism for violating Roma rights. They not only fail to meet minimum standards for adequate housing, but also reinforce Roma segregation, said Carlo Stasolla, the president of Associazione 21 Luglio, a nonprofit organization that works for Roma people."

Poland’s constitutional crisis deepens after court verdict (Politico, link):

"Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled Thursday that a new law regulating its own functioning is in part unconstitutional — a decision that threatens to escalate its long-running row with the right-wing Polish government.

The Law and Justice party (PiS) government has already refused to recognize the tribunal’s negative verdict delivered in March on an earlier version of a law regulating how the court should organize its work. Last month the PiS-dominated parliament passed a new law — formally approved on July 30 and due to take effect on August 16 — spelling out the functioning of the 15-judge tribunal.

The regulation was challenged by Polish opposition parties, who sent it to the tribunal for scrutiny, which prompted Thursday’s verdict."

UK: Britain First High Court Battle Could Cause A Major Problem For The Far-Right Group (The Huffington Post, link):

"The leaders of Britain First will appear in the High Court next month to fight an injunction that could see the far-right group barred from entering every mosque in England and Wales for three years.

The injunction is being brought by Bedfordshire Police and would also ban Britain First from entering Luton without permission or directing activists into the town.

The hearing - originally scheduled for next Monday - could have serious ramifications for the group and even mean the end of Britain First."

UK: Prison violence and self harm rockets at Cumbria jail (North-West Evening Mail, link):

"SHOCKING new statistics show levels of prison violence and self harm have more than doubled within HMP Haverigg over the past year.

There have been 30 serious attacks by prisoners against other inmates at the correctional facility near Millom in the last 12 months - up from 15 in 2014.

Prison staff were also subject to four serious assaults while working at the jail last year, the same number as during 2014."

UK: Trial collapses after prosecution expert revealed to be disgraced ex-police officer (Liverpool Echo, link):

"A ‘crash for cash’ trial collapsed when the prosecution’s expert witness was revealed to be a disgraced former police officer.

Six people were accused of being involved in a plot to stage a collision between two cars in Wirral .

Ex-police sergeant James Boothby, 54, gave evidence on behalf of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Mersey-Cheshire.

But afterwards one of the defendants searched online and discovered Mr Boothby was sacked from Lancashire Police over his “dishonesty” in 2010.

Prosecutors at Liverpool Crown Court told the jury they could no longer rely on their expert and offered no evidence, leading to formal not guilty verdicts be entered. "

USA: To Stop ISIS Recruitment, Focus Offline (Lawfare, link):

"Editor's Note: The Islamic State emerged as social media was taking off around the globe, and endless news stories and pundit commentary discusses its skill at mastering this new form of communication. While the ubiquity of Islamic State social media propaganda is clear, its effect is more contested. Seamus Hughes of George Washington's Program on Extremism argues the role of the Internet is real but overblown. If we want to stop terrorist recruitment, it still requires a focus on stopping in-person contact."


News Digest (5.8.16)

CZECH REPUBLIC: Compensation deal agreed for Roma victims of holocaust (Prague Daily Monitor, link): "The living survivors of the Czech Romany Holocaust will get 2500 euros each in compensation as a result of negotiations between the Czech and German foreign ministries, Michaela Lagronova, spokeswoman for the Czech ministry, told CTK yesterday.

"The negotiations lasted several months and they ended several days ago," she said.

The compensation may be paid out to 10 to 15 people, Lagronova said.

German authorities earmarked 50 million euros for the compensation by 2018. The same sum of 2500 euros will also be paid to Germans subjected to forced labour during World War Two, including Sudeten Germans who were forced to work in Czech territory."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Financial police to be formed at beginning of 2017 (Prague Daily Monitor, link): "The creation of a financial police body will be the next step to be taken within the National Centre against Organised Crime (NCOZ) on January 1, 2017, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) told journalists yesterday.

Deputy Police President Zdenek Laube said in this respect, the NCOZ would have to agree on the division of work with the customs authority whose powers were recently widened.

"We are ready to negotiate with the Finance Ministry, the customs authority, state attorneys and the professional public," Chovanec said.
The financial police are to primarily focus on tax or "white collar" crime.
"

ICELAND: Swedish Neo-Nazis Come To Iceland, Seeking Recruits (The Reykjavík Grapevine, link): "The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) has started actively looking for recruits in Iceland, and their leader is not disclosing who they may be.

RÚV has reported that many Icelanders woke up on Saturday morning to discover flyers delivered to their homes from the NRM, a violent white power movement originating in Sweden, actively looking for Icelandic recruits."

ITALY: Rome boosts security amid heightened terror threat (The Local, link): "Security has been upped at the Colosseum and the Vatican as part of new anti-terrorism measures, and amid persistent threats from the Isis extremist group.

Rome police chief Nicolò D'Angelo said there would be the highest level of security around the Colosseum, with police positioned at public entrance points, as well as the nearby Via del Corso, Rome’s main shopping thoroughfare."

Serb Refugee Villagers Dream of Lost Croatian Homes (Balkan Insight, link): "In the refugee village of Busije, people still cherish the memories of the homes in Croatia that they fled because of the Zagreb military’s Operation Storm in August 1995."

UK Anti-Semitic incidents rise by 11%: political parties and social media responsible - charity (Migrants' Rights Network, link): "Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 11 percent in the first half of 2016 in comparison with the same period of 2015, according to a report published from the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity dedicated to protecting British Jews from anti-Semitism .

CST recorded 557 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of this year, in contrast with 500 last year. This marks the second-highest total the charity has ever recorded for the January–June period of any year. "

UK: British Muslim woman detained under terror laws after cabin crew report her reading Syrian art book on plane (The Independent, link): "A Muslim NHS worker was detained at a UK airport and questioned under terror laws after a cabin crew member spotted her reading a Syrian culture book on board her honeymoon flight.

Faizah Shaheen, who helps prevent teenage mental health patients from becoming radicalised, was returning from honeymoon in Marmaris, Turkey, when she was stopped by South Yorkshire Police at Doncaster Airport on 25 July. "

UK: Code on bomb debris links Scots firms to alleged war crime (The Ferret, link): "A US arms multinational with a factory in Scotland has been linked to an alleged war crime in Yemen via a code found on a bomb fragment."

UK: Colnbrook Detention Centre inspection – a mixed picture and a need for a ‘strict time limit’ (The Detention Forum, link): "In its latest inspection report on Colnbrook detention centre, HM Inspector of Prisons said ‘There should be a strict time limit on the length of detention and caseworkers should act with diligence and expedition.’

Colnbrook detention centre, near Heathrow Airport, detains up to 396 migrants, including 27 women who are held in a separate unit. The centre suffered from a lack of maintenance during the period of management contract transfer from Serco to Mitie a few years ago, resulting in significant deterioration of parts of the centre."

UK: Cops & immigration officers organise sting operation in Deptford with ‘bait immigration van’ (Anti-Raids Network, link): "A van marked ‘Immigration Enforcement’ was parked down a side street. As is often the case, there was no sign of any immigration officers in or near the van. Two people stopped to look at the sight of the ‘racist van’ that had returned yet again to the neighbourhood, before walking on. Seconds later, half a dozen cops dressed as builders – high viz jackets, muddy Timberland boots, paint-spattered clothes, pencil behind the ear – jumped the pair, shouting that they were under arrest for supposedly damaging or tampering with the van. One of the undercover officers had been standing in the street and the others had obviously been hiding behind the wall. There is no evidence of any damage to the van, nor were the people arrested in possession of anything that could cause damage to the vehicle. In fact, video footage clearly shows the van undamaged and being driven off by an officer after the arrests, and many witnesses are recorded as stating that there was simply nothing wrong with it. The arrestees were taken to Lewisham police station and released on bail without charge 10 hours later."

UK: MI5 wrongly told staff it was exempt from privacy safeguards (Computer Weekly, link): "Security service MI5 carried out a rearguard attempt to avoid requirements to seek independent approval for accessing the public’s internet, web, email and phone records

MI5 wrongly claimed it had been granted a unique exemption, by former home secretary Theresa May, from applying privacy safeguards to access databases containing data on the public’s private phone, email and web browsing activities."

UK: Rise In Self-Harm At Asylum Detention Centres (Sky News, link): "The number of asylum seekers self-harming in UK detention centres has more than doubled in the last five years, Sky News has found.

The figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request by Sky News, as campaigners called for the centres to be closed.

The Home Office says the number of asylum seekers being held in detention centres has increased from 25,904 in 2010 to 32,000 people last year.

Our figures show that in 2010, there were 185 incidents of self-harm in detention centres.

By 2015, that number had more than doubled to 409."

UK: Seriously ill detainee was shackled hours before he died (The Guardian, link): "The Home Office has been forced to disclose the results of a damning internal inquiry into the treatment of a seriously ill immigration detainee who was handcuffed and chained in hospital until shortly before he died.

The report, which has been passed to the Guardian, raises fundamental questions about the treatment of ill and vulnerable detainees. It identifies a failure in the Home Office’s duty of care towards a 43-year-old man with a heart condition who was handcuffed while he was sedated, criticises a “serious breakdown in communication” and calls for significant changes in the use of restraints on detainees in hospital."

USA: Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies (The Intercept, link): "On the 21st floor of a high-rise hotel in Cleveland, in a room full of political operatives, Microsoft’s Research Division was advertising a technology that could read each facial expression in a massive crowd, analyze the emotions, and report back in real time. “You could use this at a Trump rally,” a sales representative told me."


News Digest (29.7.16)

11 Police Robots Patrolling Around the World (Wired, link): "Law enforcement across the globe use semi-autonomous technology to do what humans find too dangerous, boring, or just can’t. This week, the Cleveland Police had a few nonlethal ones on hand at the Republican National Convention. But even those can be outfitted to kill, as we saw in Dallas earlier this month when police strapped a bomb to an explosive-detonation robot, and boom: a non-lethal robot became a killer. If that thought scares you, you’re not alone. Human rights activists worry these robots lack social awareness crucial to decision-making. “For example, during mass protests in Egypt in January 2011 the army refused to fire on protesters, an action that required innate human compassion and respect for the rule of law,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim of Amnesty International in a statement last year arguing that the UN should ban killer robots. More than a thousand robotics experts, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, signed a letter last summer warning against machines that can select targets without human control. We wanted to find out just how many of these things are in use around the world. But law enforcement isn’t exactly forthcoming about the topic, so this list is not exhaustive. Here’s what we found."

EU-US: ARE THE TTIP NEGOTIATIONS TRANSPARENT? (Access Info, link): "We investigated what information is available and what is not. Here's what we found."

EU: Terrorism Scares Away the Tourists Europe Was Counting On (New York Times, link): "The shocks have come one after another: Islamic State killings of civilians in Brussels and Nice. A deadly outburst of terrorism in Germany. A fresh terror-linked atrocity in a small French town. Warnings abound that more may be on the way.

The surge of attacks in Europe has raised questions over whether a potentially durable new threat to stability is settling in. The political challenges for Europe’s leaders are stark, and the impact on the region’s economy may be just as profound."

FRANCE: French PM open to temporary ban on foreign financing of mosques (RT, link): "French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says he is considering a temporary ban on the foreign financing of mosques after a series of attacks reportedly perpetrated by Islamic State, including the recent Nice tragedy and the killing of a priest at French church.

Speaking to Le Monde newspaper, Valls said that France needs to re-think its relationship with Islam."

Germany deliberates anti-terror response (Deutsche Welle, link): "Following multiple terror strikes across Germany, Bavarian authorities plan to boost the police force and use the army to help secure borders. Soldiers, however, warn that the Bundeswehr is no "auxiliary police."

The Munich cabinet wants to have more experts "monitoring extremists," and to recruit more people for "special police forces," according to a strategy paper published on Wednesday.

Also, the state authorities want a bigger and better-equipped police force with electric Tasers, new weapons and batons, as well as "protective vests and titanium helmets that could withstand a shot from a Kalashnikov," they said in the 18-page document called "Law and Security Offensive."

Munich also expects "other states and the federal government" to boost their police forces."

ITALY: Mussolini's region votes to criminalize fascist souvenirs (The Local, link): "The sale of trinkets and souvenirs bearing the image of Benito Mussolini has been outlawed in the region of Italy where the fascist dictator was born and raised.

The regional government of Emilia-Romagna on Wednesday voted in favour of a motion which will see the sale of fascist souvenirs punishable with between six months and two years in jail.

The sale of items glorifying fascism is now classed as 'apologizing for fascism', an act which was criminalized in Italy in 1952."

UK: Complaint to police after officers put spit hood over man's head during arrest (The Guardian, link): "A young black man says he was left “bruised and shaken” after four police officers pinned him to the ground and placed a hood over his head during an arrest that was caught on camera by witnesses who said he was treated “like a dog”."

UK-POLAND: More Poles deported from UK: report (Radio Poland, link): "While in 2005 only eight Poles were deported and 47 denied entrance to the UK at its borders, in 2015 a total of 951 Poles were sent back home and 308 not allowed to cross the British border, the daily reported.

According to the paper, the number of Poles living in Britain has grown during the last ten years, but not at the same rate as the deportation figures."


News Digest (22.7.16)

BELGIUM: Brussels terrorist scare finished - suspicious person was student doing research (Flanders News, link): "The Muntplein and surrounding streets in central Brussels were evacuated for most of the afternoon. This happened after a suspicious-looking person had been spotted in the area. On a particularly hot day, a man was seen wearing a long coat with wires coming out from underneath. However, after several hours of red alert, the suspect turned out to be a student measuring radiation and air waves. This also explains the belt and wiring system he was carrying on his body."

Bulgaria MPs Seek Ban on Foreign Preachers (Balkan Insight, link): "Foreign citizens will be banned from preaching in Bulgaria, as well as preaching in any other language other than Bulgarian, according to changes to the Religious Denominations Act, filed by the nationalist coalition the Patriotic Front on Thursday.

The draft amendments, ostensibly aimed at protecting Bulgaria’s religious denominations from “foreign influence”, also foresee banning foreign organizations, companies and citizens from providing funding or donating to Bulgarian religious denominations."

Denmark sent sensitive health data to Chinese by mistake (Reuters, link): "Sensitive health information about almost the entire population of Denmark ended up in the wrong hands when a letter by mistake was sent to a Chinese visa office in Copenhagen, the Danish Data Protection Agency said on Wednesday.

The incident happened when two unencrypted CDs containing the data was sent last year by the Serum Institute, a public enterprise under the Danish health ministry, in an envelope to the country's statistics office.

However, the envelope ended up instead at the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in Copenhagen, a few hundred meters from the statistics office."

EU: Visegrad Group plans joint proposal on EU reforms (Radio Poland, link): "The Visegrad Group – which groups the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – is to present its proposals at an informal EU summit in the Slovak capital Bratislava on 16 September.

The prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, said on Thursday that details of the proposals are to be worked out at meeting of the Visegrad Group in Poland in late August and early September.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said British voters’ recent decision in a referendum to leave the EU was a "warning signal" that should trigger debate on reforming EU institutions."

French youth who died in police custody had ‘serious infection’ (France 24, link): "Violence erupted in the northern suburbs of Paris for a third night in a row on Thursday, with 15 cars set ablaze by residents furious over the death of a young man in police custody.

The unrest began on Tuesday night after it emerged that Adama Traore, 24, had died shortly after being arrested in the town of Beaumont-sur-Oise.

Authorities said an autopsy revealed he was suffering from a serious infection at the time of his death and that his body showed few signs of violence."

POLAND: Armenian-born Pole who 'looked like a terrorist' taken off flight (Radio Poland, link): "A 26-year-old Polish national of Armenian origin was removed from a plane in the coastal city of Gdansk after a fellow passenger was alarmed by the man’s ethnic appearance, Radio Gdansk reports."

UK: Cautious welcome given to 'Hillsborough law' pledge (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, link): "KEIGHLEY businessman Trevor Hicks, whose two teenage daughters were killed in the Hillsborough football disaster, has given a cautious welcome to a Government pledge to make senior police officers accountable after they have retired.

The commitment to introduce a so-called "Hillsborough law," which would allow officers to face disciplinary proceedings in the "most serious misconduct cases" years after they have left the force, came during the second reading in the House of Lords of the Policing and Crime Bill.

A Government spokesman said it could not be right that a police officer who knew they were to face a serious complaint could avoid being held to account by resigning or retiring."

UK: Broken pledge: Children to be sent back to immigration detention (politics.co.uk, link): "One of the Coalition government’s first - and best - policies was to end the detention of children in immigration removal centres. But now it looks like May’s government is about to reverse that process.

A written ministerial statement today announced the closure of Cedars, a removal centre for families run by the charity Barnardo’s. Instead, the people who would have been sent there will be moved to a “discrete unit” at Tinsley House removal centre, near Gatwick.

Discrete or not, the children of those families will be back in an immigration detention centre."


News Digest (15.7.16)

Council of Europe: Fourteen countries sign-up to new sports safety and security treaty (CoE, link): "Fourteen countries have now signed-up to the Council of Europe’s new sports safety and security treaty.

Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Ukraine have signed the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events.

The international sports treaty, designed to ensure stadia are safer, more secure and welcoming, was launched at the Stade de France in Paris on 3 July, at the UEFA European Football Championship quarter final match between France and Iceland."

EU: Scottish National Party could split from Catalan allies in European Parliament (EurActiv, link): "The Scottish National Party is distancing itself from separatist allies in the European Parliament – such as those pushing for Catalan independence – to strengthen its case for Scotland to remain in the EU.

Scotland strongly backed remaining in the EU in the 23 June referendum on the UK’s membership of the bloc, by 62% to 38%. All 32 of Scotland’s local authorities voted to remain but other UK member countries England and Wales voted for Brexit.

The SNP’s two members of the European Parliament are part of the Greens-European Free Alliance parliamentary group. The EFA has MEPs from pro-Catalan, Galician, Basque and Corsican independence parties.

But the SNP is considering splitting from the group – sacrificing funding and speaking time – so as not to become enmeshed in the question of Catalan secession from Spain."

RUSSIA: ‘Big Brother’ Law Harms Security, Rights "Russia’s new counterterrorism legislation would unjustifiably expand surveillance while undermining human rights and cybersecurity.

On July 7, 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed into law two sets of legislative amendments after they were rushed through parliament without adequate debate or scrutiny. The amendments are commonly referred to as the “Yarovaya Law,” after their key author, Irina Yarovaya, a leading member of the ruling “United Russia” party. They include numerous deeply disturbing provisions that severely undermine the right to privacy and are particularly detrimental to freedom of expression on the Internet. The new regulations will take effect on July 1, 2018. Russia should repeal the new law, Human Rights Watch said."

UK-ITALY: Flagrant breach of fair trial rights bars extradition to Italy (Doughty Street Chambers, link): "The extradition of a terrorist suspect to Italy was barred since his trial amounted to a flagrant breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Represented by Malcolm Hawkes, VS was wanted to serve a 12-year prison sentence for multiple offences of armed robbery, murder and terrorism committed between 1980-1981. He was tried and convicted in his absence in 1989 on the sole basis of evidence from co-accused whose evidence could not be challenged. Under the Italian law in force at the time, the defence could not cross-examine prosecution witnesses, who did not even have to swear that their evidence was true. These witnesses were able to obtain discounted sentences in exchange for their testimony."

UK: Heartbroken family of Mzee Mohammed demand answers over death of teen detained in Liverpool ONE (Liverpool Echo, link): " The heartbroken family of a Liverpool teenager who died in police custody have called for answers over his death.

Mzee Mohammed became “unwell” after an incident in Liverpool ONE which saw him detained by security staff and police.

Questioning how he died, his mum Karla today revealed he had no pre-existing medical conditions as she paid tribute to her “gentle giant”."

UK: Liverpool lawyer unmasked as ex-leader of far right British Resistance party (Liverpool Echo, link): "A Liverpool lawyer is today unmasked as the ex-leader of a far right party called British Resistance.

The extreme group – once headed by Joe Chiffers from MSB Solicitors – vowed to “reclaim Britain from our oppressors”.

The employment lawyer is now facing a disciplinary hearing after bosses learnt about his far right activities.

Speaking to the ECHO, the 34-year-old insisted he is not a racist but said he would never apologise for his political beliefs."

UK: Student launches legal action against IPCC over CS spray incident (The Guardian, link): "A student who alleges he was assaulted by police during a tuition fees demonstration has launched legal action against the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Lawyers for Lawrence Green told the high court on Tuesday that an investigation by the IPCC – the police watchdog – that dismissed his allegations was illogical, hasty and flawed.

Green, 26, has alleged that police sprayed CS gas into his face at close range, causing him “excruciating pain” and temporarily blinding him, in contravention of national guidelines.

He is claiming that the IPCC failed to investigate his allegations independently and fairly."

USA: Will a Camera on Every Cop Make Everyone Safer? Taser Thinks So (Bloomberg, link): "Cop cams are inextricably tied to Taser, by far the dominant supplier, and the company will likely shape whatever the devices evolve into. For Taser, the cameras are more than just a new product category. Founded at one national moment of police angst, the company is using another such moment to transform from a manufacturer into a technology company. From a business perspective, body cameras are low-margin hunks of plastic designed to get police departments using the real moneymaker: Evidence.com, which provides the software and cloud services for managing all the footage the devices generate. Taser markets these tools under the Axon brand. About 4.6 petabytes of video have been uploaded to the platform, an amount comparable to Netflix’s entire streaming catalog. All of it must be preserved to an evidentiary standard. The company can sell a weapon or camera once, but cloud services are billed year after year."


News Digest (8.7.16)

EU: Fraud allegations taint Slovak EU presidency (EUobserver, link): "The Slovak government has launched its EU Council presidency against a backdrop of street protests and opposition attempts to dismiss the prime minister and interior minister over alleged links to a tax fraud scandal.

On Wednesday (6 July), as prime minister Robert Fico in Strasbourg unveiled the priorities of Slovakia's six-month term at the EU helm, the country's national parliament was preparing to debate his own dismissal over opposition claims that he covered up corruption."

GERMANY: Anti-immigration party in Germany hits crisis over MP's antisemitism (The Guardian, link): "Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has been plunged into a leadership crisis over antisemitic views expressed by one of its MPs.

Thirteen members of the AfD, including the co-leader of the party that is currently polling between 9% and 14%, walked out of its parliamentary group in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg on Wednesday in protest at the failure to expel fellow MP Wolfgang Gedeon.

Comments made by Gedeon in a book published in 2012 surfaced in the media after he entered state parliament following regional elections in March."

GERMANY: Public Insults of German Police Protected by Free Speech (Liberties.eu, link): "Proclaiming "ACAB" ("all cops are bastards") publicaly is not directly punishable, as determined by freedom of expression. This was decided by the Federal Constitutional Court in two cases about football fans who held a sign reading "ACAB" or wore it on their trousers. Laws on defamation, such as section 185 of the Criminal Code, can limit the right to freedom of expression. However, the statement must refer to a manageable and defined group of people. The Court considered that the statements were not directed against certain individual officers."

Short film shows personal information you give away each time you 'like' a Facebook page (The Independent, link): "Customers baffled as they are given a free coffee – complete with their personal data written on the cup"

SPAIN: CATALONIA: El Parlament da luz verde a los Mossos para disparar pistolas eléctricas [Parliament gives the green light for the Mossos to fire electric pistols] (El Diario. link): The Catalan parliament has given permission for the Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan regional police force) to use Tasers, following four months of debate in the Catalan parliament.

UK Professor quit course over involvement #spycop John Dines (Undercover Research Group, link): "At long last, the Undercover Research wiki website has a profile of John Dines, the undercover officer who infiltrated London Greenpeace, animal right groups and local groups in Hackney in the 1980s.

(...)

We did some work on Dines’ current career as well, and found out that a UK professor teaching public order and crowd control to police forces at the course in India decided to quit when he realised Dines was one of the #spycops in the current undercover policing scandal – see below."

UK: UPDATE: ‘Woodhill Prison has blood on its hands’, say family of latest inmate to die there (Milton Keynes Citizen, link): "Woodhill prison has come under fire after yet another inmate was found hanged - despite desperate pleas from his family about his mental health.

Thomas Morris, 31, from Emberton, is the sixth person to die at the trouble-plagued jail in seven months."

UN condemns internet access disruption as a human rights violation (The Verge, link): "The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a non-binding resolution condemning countries that intentionally disrupt citizens' internet access. The resolution builds on the UN's previous statements on digital rights, reaffirming the organization's stance that "the same rights people have offline must also be protected online," in particular the freedom of expression covered under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."


News Digest (1.7.16)

AUSTRIA: Austrian presidential election result overturned and must be held again (The Guardian, link): "Austria’s constitutional court has annulled the result of the country’s presidential election, which saw a narrow defeat in May for rightwing populist Norbert Hofer.

The court president, Gerhart Holzinger, announced on Friday that the run-off vote between Hofer of the Freedom party and Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen would have to be repeated across the whole country after an investigation revealed irregularities in the count of the vote in several constituencies.

The unprecedented ruling comes a week before Van der Bellen was due to be sworn into office.

Hofer had lost out to his rival in a knife-edge election on 22 May, with a majority of only 30,863 votes."

EU: Big data revolutionises Europe’s fight against terrorism (EurActiv, link): "The threat of terrorism has greatly accelerated the exchange of data between European states. Social media has become indispensable, both for investigative purposes and to fight propaganda. EurActiv France reports.

The “Fraternity Taskforce”, a group of some 20 investigators, has been probing into the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015 since late last year. But this team, based at Europol headquarters in The Hague, has no high-tech surveillance equipment or bullet-proof vests. Its main weapon and its biggest resource is data, vast quantities of data."

EU: Former US drone technicians speak out against programme in Brussels (The Guardian, link): "Two whistleblowers on the US drone programme have joined campaigners in Brussels ahead of a European parliament hearing on the use of armed drones.

Former military technicians Cian Westmoreland and Lisa Ling both worked on the high-tech infrastructure on which the drones flying in Afghanistan rely. They have now come forward as critics of the US drone programme.

At an event this week, they spoke about strategic flaws in the drone programme and the risks of civilian casualties in drone warfare. On Thursday, they attended the parliamentary hearing where campaigners spoke of the impact of drones on civilian populations and the lack of compensation or recognition of their losses for the families of those killed and wounded."

GERMANY: Online hate speech, conspiracy theories boom in Germany (Deutsche Welle, link): " Online racist abuse and hate speech have exploded in Germany in the past 18 months, a new report by the anti-racism foundation Antonio Amadeu Stiftung (AAS) has found, with calls for violence against refugees, false stories and rumors about their crimes, and neo-Nazi slogans (often disguised to avoid litigation) all on the rise.

The 22-page report, released this week, also found a connection not only with the increase in violence against refugees and refugee homes, but also with an increase in "conspiracy-ideology" attacks on politicians, journalists and volunteers helping refugees."

POLAND: New Anti-terrorism Law Allows Blocking of Online Media (Council of Europe, link): " A new anti-terrorism law came into effect on 22 June 2016 after it was ratified by the Polish President Andrzej Duda. The law was successfully passed by two parliamentary chambers of the Sejm earlier this month. The law gives Poland’s intelligence agency, the ABW (Agencja Bezpieczenstwa Wewnetrznego), the right to “order the blocking or demand that the electronic open source service administrator block access to information data”, thereby giving the agency the right to shut down online media outlets, including websites and television programmes, Kulisy24 reported."

SCOTLAND: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Scottish Government refuses to commit to spying inquiry (The Scotsman, link): "The Scottish Government has refused to commit to setting up an inquiry into controversial undercover policing practices should an existing probe not be extended north of the Border.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson has already written to the Home Office calling for the Undercover Policing Inquiry, led by Sir Christopher Pitchford, to be extended to Scotland.

Undercover operatives working for the Metropolitan Police, including notorious officer Mark Kennedy, are known to have spied on political activists in Scotland during the G8 summit in 2005.

But during a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, legal affairs minister Annabelle Ewing repeatedly refused to commit to a separate Scottish inquiry, should Home Secretary Theresa May not extend the UPI."

UK: Minister questioned on Counter Extremism Bill (parliament.uk, link): "The purpose of this evidence session is to enable the Committee to question Karen Bradley MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office responsible for counter-extremism policy, about human rights issues arising in the context of the Government’s counter-extremism strategy and proposed legislation."

UK: Teenager knew police were chasing him before fatal crash, inquest finds (The Guardian, link): "A teenager who died when his moped crashed was trying to get away from police pursuing him in unmarked cars, an inquest jury has concluded in a narrative verdict that rejected the police versions of events.

Henry Hicks, 18, a carpenter from Islington, died on 19 December 2014 when he lost control of his vehicle in Wheelwright Street, north London, while being pursued by two unmarked police cars.

Police officers, who insisted Hicks was not aware he was being followed, may face misconduct charges."

UK: Water cannon bought by Boris Johnson to be sold off without being used (The Guardian, link): "Three water cannon bought by Boris Johnson for the Metropolitan police costing more than £200,000 are to be sold off without having been used.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the sale nearly a year after the home secretary, Theresa May, blocked their deployment on the streets of London.

Her ruling was hugely embarrassing for Johnson, Khan’s predecessor, who had authorised the purchase of the second-hand equipment from the German police before they were cleared for use."

US Customs wants to collect social media account names at the border (The Verge, link): "Your Twitter handle may soon be part of the US visa process. Yesterday, US Customs and Border Protection entered a new proposal into the federal register, suggesting a new field in which persons entering the country can declare their various social media accounts and screen names. The information wouldn’t be mandatory, but the proposed field would still provide customs officials with an unprecedented window into the online life of travelers. The process already includes fingerprinting, an in-person interview, and numerous database checks.

The proposal focuses on arrival / departure forms commonly collected from non-citizens at the US border, as well as the electronic form used for anyone entering the country under a visa waiver. Under the proposed changes, those forms would include a new optional data field prompting visitors to "please enter information associated with your online presence," followed by open fields for specific platforms and screen names."


June 2016

News Digest (24.6.16)

BELGIUM: Belgian police arrested 12 people in overnight counter-terrorism raids (Vice News, link): "Three Belgian nationals arrested overnight have been charged with attempting to commit terrorist murder and with taking part in the activities of a terrorist group, Belgium's federal prosecutor said on Saturday.

Nine other suspects arrested during the major anti-terror operation overnight on Friday have since been released. The operation came amid heightened security in Belgium and France around the Euro 2016 soccer tournament and just three months after extremist bombers wrought carnage in Brussels."

CYPRUS: Combatting terrorism a priority for the government, minister says (Cyprus Mail, link): "Combatting terrorism in cooperation with other players on the international stage is a top priority of the government according to Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou who was speaking in Nicosia at the opening of an international police conference on counter-terrorism on Thursday.

“Dealing with terrorism is one of the highest priorities set by this government. Cyprus is fully aware of the asymmetric terrorist threat and dangers deriving from its geographical position, of the fact that it is close to war zones, of the activities of European and non-European foreign fighters, as well as of the presence of western and other foreign interests in Cyprus” Nicolaou said.

He was speaking on behalf of President Nikos Anastasiades at the opening of the two-day conference entitled Counter-terrorism Policies for Law Enforcement: International and Comparative Perspectives."

EU to adopt new US data rules in July (EUobserver, link): "The European Commission is set to present a new draft of its data-exchange pact with the US, the Privacy Shield, in early July.

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova told EUobserver in a recent interview that the most contentious issues had been agreed by Washington and Brussels.

These concerned access to data by US security services, bulk collection of people’s personal information and independent oversight."

EU: Europe’s rude awakening to big data politics (EurActiv, link): "To many in the Brussels bubble, the big data revolution came as a rude awakening, with revelations of mass-scale eavesdropping by US intelligence. Although EU policymakers have now embraced the economic potential of big data, privacy fears are never far in the distance."

EU: Jean-Marie Le Pen told to repay €320,000 to European Parliament (EurActiv, link): "The European Parliament is demanding the repayment of €320,000 from MEP Jean-Marie Le Pen over a salary it believes was wrongly paid out to a parliamentary assistant, sources said on Wednesday (22 June).

In a document obtained by AFP, the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle, says the founder of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party should reimburse the money “unduly” paid to him for his parliamentary assistant between 2009 and 2014.

It said Le Pen had offered “neither an explanation for nor any evidence of parliamentary assistance work” carried out by the member of staff."

Germany loosens restrictions on monitoring radicalised teenagers (Reuters, link): "Germany is planning to loosen restrictions that have prevented its intelligence agencies from monitoring radicalised teenagers after several attacks this year by young Islamic extremists exposed flaws in surveillance rules.

According to an amendment to an anti-terror law due to be voted on by parliament on Friday, the age of suspects that Germany's domestic intelligence agency is allowed to track and collect data on will be reduced from 16 to 14."

SCOTLAND: Anguished family of Sheku Bayoh still no closer to knowing what caused his death in police custody 13 months on (The Daily Record, link): "PATHOLOGISTS working on the Sheku Bayoh investigation have still not established how he died 13 months ago.

He was pronounced dead following an altercation with up to nine officers in a street near his home on May 3, 2015.

Pathologists, including two who worked on the Hillsborough inquiry, have carried out extensive tests since then to try to find what caused his death.

Family members believe Sheku, 31, died from positional asphyxiation caused by the actions of the officers involved."

UK: Clegg unaware of GCHQ monitoring parliamentary emails (Computer Weekly, link): "Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has admitted he was unaware that GCHQ could scan parliamentary emails for national security or crime-detection purposes while he was in office."

US releases Guantanamo inmate to Montenegro (Deutsche Welle, link): "A Yemeni man held at the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay has been released to Montenegro. Seventy-nine prisoners are still being held at the notorious facility the Obama administration has vowed to close down."


News Digest (17.6.16)

Bulgarian DefMin Dismisses Reports about Proposed Joint Naval Force with Romania, Turkey (Novinite, link): "Reports about an alleged proposal to set up a joint naval fleet with Romania and Turkey to counter a perceived Russian threat in the Black Sea were a “propaganda war with elements of hybrid warfare tactics", Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev has said.

Romania had only proposed joint actions and training with the aim to boost defence capabilities, Nenchev told Bulgarian broadcaster Nova TV on Friday.

No proposal had been made to Bulgaria to establish a joint naval force in the Black Sea with Romania and Turkey; no participation had been offered to non-NATO Ukraine either, Nenchev added."

BULGARIA: Fears Grow of Clashes at Bulgaria Pride March (Balkan Insight, link): "Tensions have grown ahead of the Sofia Pride in support of LGBTI people on Sunday, after the municipality gave the go-ahead for ultra-nationalists to stage a counter-protest at the same time in the centre of the capital.

The routes of the two marches will even meet at one location, which worries the organizers of the Pride in terms of the safety of their supporters.

“One month after we notified the municipality [about the Pride parade] we were aghast to learn that the route of the traditional counter demonstration against the march is going to coincide with some parts of the route of the Pride,” Radoslav Stoyanov, member of the organizational committee of Sofia Pride, told BIRN on Friday."

EU: Parliament slams Commission's 'unworkable' gun law proposals (The Parliament, link): "MEPs from across the political divide have joined forces in condemning Commission gun law proposals as "unworkable."

The proposals were brought forward in the wake of last November's Paris terrorist attacks.

A meeting on Tuesday of Parliament's internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) committee debated a raft of "compromise" proposals put forward by UK Tory MEP Vicky Ford.

Her proposals, which were generally welcomed by committee members, are designed to pave the way for formal negotiations to start on the draft legislation between Parliament, the Commission and member states."

EASTERN/CENTRAL EUROPE: Visegrád Group to contribute company of soldiers to NATO Baltic mission (Politics.hu, link): "Countries in the Visegrád Group(V4) will add a company of soldiers to NATO’s mission in the Baltic aera, the Hungarian defence ministry said. The security of NATO members in the Baltics has considerably worsened in wake of the Ukraine crisis. In such a situation “federal solidarity is extremely important”, and Visegrád countries want to make a tangible contribution to efforts aimed at ensuring the security of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it said. Czech, Polish, Hungarian, and Slovak units will take three-month turns and will hold joint exercises with local forces, the statement said."

Germany must protect Bin Laden bodyguard, court rules (The Local, link): "A man believed to have once been Osama bin Laden's bodyguard cannot be sent back to Tunisia because the risk of torture would be too high, a German court ruled on Wednesday.

Sami A. has already had his asylum application rejected by the German authorities and has been handed a deportation order.

But the 39-year-old, who prosecutors allege traveled to Afghanistan in the late 1990s, where he worked as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, will be allowed to stay in Germany after the administrative court in Gelsenkirchen ruled on Wednesday that he cannot be sent back to his home country of Tunisia."

GERMANY: Jewish group outraged by Munich auction of Nazi relics (The Local, link): " Germany's top Jewish group Thursday labelled as "disgusting" plans for a weekend auction of Nazi memorabilia, including Hermann Goering's silk underpants.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany appealed to the auction house Hermann Historica to cancel the controversial sale of Nazi relics planned for Saturday in the southern city of Munich."

Macedonia Braces as Protesters' Deadline Looms (Balkan Insight, link): "Two days before the deadline expires for a fresh wave of protests, supporters of Macedonia's “Colourful Revolution” blocked three key bridges in Skopje and painted a giant number two on the city's Goce Delcev bridge as a reminder.

The actions took place as protesters found out that one of their key demands, which is for the Constitutional Court to guarantee that it will not rule the Special Prosecution - tasked to investigate high-level crime - unconstitutional, is unlikely to be met in the coming days.

The court's web page significantly did not include this motion on the agenda for next week’s sessions."

SCOTLAND: Staffing shortages hit healthcare at Scotland's open prison (STV News, link): "Healthcare in Scotland's only open prison suffered due to "significant" staffing shortages, an inspection report has found.

Prisoners at Castle Huntly were not given "continuity of care" because health workers were moved between different prisons to cover shifts.

A report by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland said the site health centre did not offer the range of services and health promotion which was expected.

Concerns were also raised about how controlled drugs were issued, as in some cases only one signatory was present when there should have been two."

Spain’s influence in Brussels shrinks under Rajoy (El País, link): "Rajoy has been apathetic during every visit to the European capital, in contrast with the proactive attitudes of his foreign and economy ministers, José Manuel García-Margallo and Luis de Guindos. The rest of his cabinet are nowhere to be seen. Spain may head the global unemployment charts, but the acting labor minister, Fátima Báñez, has missed half the EU meetings on the subject."

SWITZERLAND: Swiss civil society struggles against digital surveillance laws (EDRi, link): "In June 2016, Swiss civil society activists are redoubling their efforts to collect signatures in support of a referendum vote on the revision of a surveillance law best known under the German acronym BÜPF, “federal law concerning surveillance of postal communications and telecommunications”. This revision would legalise surveillance by means of IMSI catchers (fake relay antennas for mobile phone) and govware trojans (spyware used by the government). It would require even private persons and associations to be subject to internet wiretapping on their premises, mailservers, etc."

UK: INQUEST: Belmarsh inmate who died in custody was cutting himself to avoid facing jail in Albania (News Shopper, link): " An Albanian inmate at Belmarsh prison who died in custody after a “dirty protest” was self-harming to avoid being extradited to his home country, a jury has found.

It has previously been reported that Ndricim Sadushi, 43, was on the run for 15 years after being convicted in his absence of three murders and one attempted killing in Albania in 1997.

The jury at Southwark Coroner’s Court came to the conclusion Mr Sadushi, a builder, did not intend to kill himself.

But it did find the condition of his cell, which was covered in faeces and urine, and him being mute may have contributed to his death around 7am on January 20, 2014. "

UK: Lords question creating new criminal offences ‘by regulation’ (The Law Society Gazette, link): "A House of Lords committee has criticised the government for introducing legislation heavily reliant on delegated powers, questioning a bill which would enable ministers to create new criminal offences ‘by regulation’ instead of being subject to ‘full and proper’ parliamentary scrutiny.

The constitution committee, which assesses the impact of a public bill, also investigates wider constitutional issues, publishing reports with recommendations principally aimed at the government.

In its report on the Children and Social Work Bill, which has its second reading today, the committee says the bill’s provisions appear to continue a ‘trend’ of introducing legislation ’that leaves much to the subsequent discretion of ministers’."

UK: Prisoner at Serco-run facility found dead in cell by fellow inmates (The Guardian, link): "A prisoner who apparently hanged himself in his cell was found and cut down by fellow inmates after staff who unlocked his cell failed to notice the deceased man, the Guardian has learned.

James Sullivan, 27, was found dead in his cell at Lowdham Grange prison in Nottinghamshire on 24 March . He was serving a life sentence for the murder of his partner.

Prisoners at the jail have told the Guardian they were worried about Sullivan’s mental state and checked up on him when their cells were unlocked shortly after 8am."

UK: Race failures are damaging the police, says top Met officer (The Guardian, link): "Scotland Yard’s new head of diversity has said the Met still treats black people worse than white people on the street and blights the careers of its own ethnic minority staff by racially discriminating against them.

Ch Supt Victor Olisa said discrimination by officers includes negative typecasting of black people, leading to more force and coercive tactics being used against them by officers in the street.

In a Guardian interview, the Met’s most senior black officer said: “My view is that on occasions we work on stereotypes and that stereotypes of black men being more aggressive, more confrontational, is a stereotype that plays on some officers’ minds and that can lead to a different level of policing style and force being used on a black suspect than it probably would do otherwise.”"

USA: The Danger of Corporate Facial Recognition Tech (Electronic Frontier Foundation, link): "Supporters of unregulated corporate facial recognition systems are waging a sneak attack against our nation’s strongest protection of biometric privacy. On one side are business interests seeking to profit by using invasive facial recognition technologies to identify and track vast numbers of people without their consent. On the other side are EFF and many other digital privacy and consumer rights organizations. Our side won the latest round. But the future of biometric privacy will require all of our constant vigilance."


News Digest (9.6.16)

EU: Germany blocks Georgia's EU visa bid (EUobserver, link): "Germany has delayed Georgia’s bid to get EU visa-free travel in a political decision to be closely watched in Ukraine and beyond.

Germany, supported by France and Italy, said No to the move at an EU ambassadors’ meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (8 June). They did it the same day that Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili was in the EU capital to lobby for a Yes.

Berlin said the German public was worried about a recent spate of home burglaries by Georgian criminal groups in Germany, diplomatic sources said."

IRELAND: ‘I was told no black people allowed’ – South African students refused entry to Dublin pub (Irish Independent, link): " Two South African students living in Dublin have spoken of their experience of racism at a city centre pub.

Anathi and Ezile were refused entry to an unnamed establishment in Temple Bar on Sunday evening and were shocked to hear a security guard say that there were “no blacks allowed”.

“He was dead serious. We spoke to him to see if he was being serious or if maybe there was a language problem, but it was not a joke, not at all,” Anathi told RTE Radio One’s Liveline."

Ireland abortion laws cause 'inhuman' treatment: UN experts (France 24, link): "A woman in Ireland carrying a dying foetus was the victim of "inhuman" treatment caused by the country's strict abortion laws, United Nations experts said Thursday.

The UN Human Rights Committee called on Ireland to "amend" its abortion laws and if necessary its constitution to protect patients and health workers who fear criminal punishment for even providing information about terminating a pregnancy."

UK: Andy Burnham calls for 'toxic' Prevent strategy to be scrapped (The Guardian, link): "The duty on public bodies to report signs of radicalisation, included in the government’s strategy to counter Islamist extremism, is today’s equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland, the shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, has said, calling for the strategy to be scrapped.

In a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Manchester, Burnham called for a cross-party review of the Prevent strategy, but said his personal view was that the policy should be discarded. “I do feel that the brand is so toxic now that I think it’s got to go,” he said.

Burnham also announced Labour’s intention to oppose the government’s extremism bill, which was unveiled in last month’s Queen’s speech. It contains new powers to ban “extremist” organisations, gag individuals and enable local councils to close premises used to “promote hatred”."

UK: Police continue to stall in Undercover relationships case (Police Spies Out of Lives, link): "On Tuesday 7th June, a legal case over undercover police relationships was in the High Court. It was the latest battle in a four year campaign to hold the police to account, and in it the police continued to try to stall these civil proceedings and avoid disclosing evidence. The claimants, two women and a man [1], are suing The Metropolitan Police, South Wales Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers over sexual abuse committed by an undercover police officer in Cardiff – “Marco Jacobs”. [2]

Significantly, the Police backed down from asserting a blanket “Neither confirm nor deny” policy (NCND) to resist disclosing documents relevant to the case, and have now been directed by the court to apply by 23rd September 2016, if they wish, to withhold disclosing documents on the ground that it would damage the public interest."

UK: The Immigration Act 2016 In Plain English (RightsInfo, link): "On 12 May 2016, the Immigration Act 2016 came into force, making it officially UK law. The Act focusses on illegal migration and punitive measures for those who don’t “play by the rules”. It’s a massive new law and brings with it major revisions of the immigration system. Here are the key changes in plain-English."

USA: British firm aims to open immigration detention center near US-Mexico border (The Guardian, link): "The British security firm Serco has moved a step closer to entering the controversial but lucrative immigration detention market in the US, as the company successfully lobbied public officials in a small Texas county near the Mexico border to propose that the federal government open a family detention centre in the jurisdiction.

The billion-dollar company, implicated in numerous immigration detention centre scandals in the UK and Australia, has been lobbying the US government for more than a year in an effort to win detention contracts, sparking sustained criticism from immigrant rights groups.

The firm is now proposing that a shuttered nursing home in Jim Wells County, Texas, be reopened as a family detention centre, which could hold up to 600 detainees and would become the third privately managed centre in the United States."


News Digest (30.5.16)

Austrian far-right wants to probe election fraud accusations (EUobserver, link): "After losing the presidential race by just 31,026 votes, far-right candidate Hofer said his FPO party would examine "countless" cases of election fraud. "There are lots of indications coming from voters, and so far five criminal complaints where the law was obviously broken," he told the Kronen-Zeitung daily on Sunday."

German rightwing party apologises for Jérôme Boateng comments (The Guardian, link): "Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has apologised after its deputy leader was quoted as saying that, while most people admired the international footballer Jérôme Boateng, they wouldn’t want to live next door to him."

SPAIN: Campaign for Barcelona museum to tell at last full story of Spain’s civil war (The Guardian, link): "A group of internationally respected historians and writers have called for the first major museum of the Spanish civil war to be created in Barcelona, 80 years after the century-defining conflict began in July 1936.

In an unprecedented initiative likely to spark fierce debate in Spain, Dr Pelai Pagès, professor of history at the University of Barcelona and president of the Association of the International Museum of the Spanish Civil War (Amigce), has written to the city’s leftwing mayor, Ada Colau, asking that a building be set aside in central Barcelona to house the museum and a research centre. Pagès told the Observer: “Eighty years after the start of the civil war, and 40 years after the death of General Franco, recovering the memory of what happened for all generations, from the youngest to the oldest, means understanding the conflict in its totality. There is a sad old saying that a society that forgets its past is destined to repeat it. From this perspective, the International Museum of the Spanish Civil War intends to act as a guarantee for the future.”"

Spanish election goes Venezuelan (EUobserver, link): "A month ahead of the next Spanish election, the economic and political crisis in Venezuela has become central to debate.

The situation in the South American country was discussed at a national security meeting on Friday by Mariano Rajoy's caretaker government.

Critics said the move was designed to grab votes by attacking the anti-austerity party Podemos for its links to the government of deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez."

Sweden court upholds arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder (Jurist, link): "The Stockholm District Court [official website, in Swedish] upheld the arrest warrant [press release] for Julian Assange on Wednesday, finding he was not illegally detained in absentia. Assange has been held on allegations of rape [Reuters report] dating back to 2010. The court found there was probable cause to support the accusation. Assange has been at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for over three years. He fears that Sweden's efforts to extradite him will result in extradition to the US due to the fact that his company, WikiLeaks, released thousands of classified government documents. However, he has not been charged in the US."

TURKEY: Almost There (The World Post, link): "‘While the world watches in awe or indifference, Turkey is in the midst of a rough power grab. Dismantling the system from its main elements, and with a rudderless opposition, Erdogan seems only inches away from being an autocratic ruler.’"

UK: Nurse told he is unfit to be a British citizen ... because he volunteered for Red Cross and Citizens Advice (The National, link): "HE is an assistant mental health nurse, a court interpreter and a minister – yet he is not fit to become a British citizen due to his “bad character”, according to government officials.

Olivier Mondeke Monongo is trusted by the NHS to work with some of Scotland’s most vulnerable patients, and by Global Language, a contractor to the Scottish Court Service providing expert interpreters in Glasgow Sheriff Court.

He is also a serving Pentecostal minister who gives services in a city church, has five children born in Scotland and plans to remain here for the rest of his life.

Yet immigration officials have rejected the Congolese national’s application for British citizenship, claiming he has failed the “good character” test by breaking a rule that prohibits unpaid work.

The decision rests on voluntary interpreting work he carried out for the British Red Cross."

UK: Scepticism over casualty claims as new data suggests some UK drones may have moved (Drone Wars UK, link): "New data about UK military operations in Iraq and Syria has been released to Drone Wars UK and Vice News over the past few days following separate Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

Vice News obtained details of the number of combatants killed or wounded in RAF strikes each month since Oct 2014. The data shows that just under 1,000 combatants had been killed with almost 100 wounded. While the MoD are extremely careful to say they cannot validate such casualty figures as they have no one on the ground, at the same time they continue to insist that no civilians have been killed in any of 740 British air strikes which have launched around 1,400 bombs and missiles."

UK: Tony Blair hints he could reject Chilcot Inquiry findings – and ‘looks forward’ to debate (The Independent, link): "Tony Blair has hinted he could reject the findings of the Chilcot inquiry if it attempts to dispute his position in the build-up to the 2003 Iraq war – a sign he intends to defend himself when the inquiry publishes its long-awaited report in July.

Claiming he hasn’t seen a copy of the report the former Prime Minister added that he “looks forward” to participating in a debate about its findings. “Make no mistake about that,” Mr Blair said."


News Digest (27.5.16)

France PM Valls hints at tweaks to labour laws as strikes and protests go on (euronews, link): "France has been hit by another day of strikes and protests against controversial labour reforms.

Public transport, oil refineries and fuel supplies, nuclear power stations… all continued to be disrupted on Thursday.

The state rail company SNCF said fewer trains were affected than during a similar strike last week.

Estimates for the number of protesters on the streets mirrored the gap between the government and its opponents: 19,000 in Paris said the authorities; 100,000 was the unions’ figure.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has insisted the government will not withdrawn the law and will break up the blockades. He has hinted there could be some tweaks to the reforms but not on any of its key measures."

NETHERLANDS: Shrinking Civic and Democratic Space (Pakhuis de Zwijger, link): "We witness worrying trends of systematic crackdown on civil and individual liberties across Europe. From Hungary to Spain, from France to Poland, democracy and the freedom of expression and assembly has been undermined by democratically elected governments. This escalation of measures has led to recently speaking about “Illiberal democracies”. But while Europe remained silent for a long while in the defense of its founding values, regressive forces have gained growing audience, with the risk in the long run to seriously undermine solidarity and trust in a common future.

The workshop will enquire civil society capacity to channel democratic frustration into positive action and resistance to such worrying tendencies."

Romania positioned as Eastern Europe’s hub of ballistic missile defence as NATO’s Aegis Ashore facility certified operational (Defence IQ, link): "In one of the most significant European missile defence developments in recent years, the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence facility at the Deveselu facility in Romania was declared operational on 12 May.

The missile defence installation is designed to detect, track, engage, and destroy ballistic missiles in flight outside the atmosphere. Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore is the first operational land-based version of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence system, a sophisticated collection of phased-array radars, fire control directors, computers and missiles. The Aegis BMD system has been proven in-theatre for over 40 years, which meant Lockheed Martin was well placed to produce the new system for Romania."

SCOTLAND: Police Scotland under fire after new evidence of Sri Lankan torture (The Ferret, link): "Police Scotland is seeking to extend a controversial training project with Sri Lankan police despite new evidence of the force’s involvement in torture, The Ferret can reveal.

Police Scotland had a contract that expired at the end of March this year to train Sri Lankan police officers and develop “ethical leadership” at its National Police Academy.

The project proved highly controversial at the outset in 2012 due to Sri Lanka’s appalling human rights record but Police Scotland defended the new relationship at the time, arguing that it was aiming to improve the human rights situation.

However, a new report from Freedom from Torture revealed that last year 17 Sri Lankan asylum seekers – including a child – who were tortured after President Sirisena’s election in January 2015 were referred to the charity."

UK: Armed police to patrol six London boroughs after rise in gun crime (BBC News, link): "Armed police patrols will target London's gun crime hotspots such as Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark after a rise in the number of shootings.

Met Police chiefs say there are more guns on the streets which have fuelled a "significant" rise in the number of shootings in the past three months.

There were 226 shootings in 2015. So far this year there have been 122, with a particular rise since March.

Newham, Haringey and Brent were also highlighted as shooting hotspots.

Operation Viper, with 50 officers, will aim to crack down on gun crime in the six areas, with marksmen accompanying officers on traffic stops. "

UK: Body-worn cameras associated with increased assaults against police, and increase in use-of-force if officers choose when to activate cameras (University of Cambridge, link): "Preliminary results from eight UK and US police forces reveal rates of assault against officers are 15% higher when they use body-worn cameras. The latest findings, from one of the largest randomised-controlled trials in criminal justice research, highlight the need for cameras to be kept on and recording at all stages of police-public interaction – not just when an individual officer deems it necessary – if police use-of-force and assaults against police are to be reduced. "

UK: Finding the blacklist (The Independent, link): "Phil Chamberlain is associate head of department for broadcast and journalism and teaches investigative journalism to MA students. He has 20 years of experience writing for national newspapers and magazines. Here he explains how one article led to an eight-year investigation to uncover how the UK’s biggest construction companies secretly conspired to deny thousands of people work."

UK: Gross misconduct against five officers /police staff proven after IPCC investigates Hull custody incident (IPCC, link): "An IPCC investigation into an incident in which a man with broken legs was strip searched and left naked in a cell for five hours, has led to disciplinary proceedings against several Humberside Police officers and staff, along with recommendations for improving detainee handling in custody.

The IPCC independently investigated the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a 49-year-old man in Hull on 13 February, 2014 and his detention at Clough Road police station. The IPCC’s investigator expressed the view that there was a case to answer for the way the man had been treated by some police and detention officers.

The man, who spoke little English, was taken in a police van after being arrested. No action was subsequently taken against him after it was discovered the allegation was a false report."

UK: MSP calls for probe into undercover police activities to be extended to Scotland (Holyrood, link): "A Labour MSP has called on Scottish politicians to back the extension of an inquiry into the undercover activities of police officers to Scotland.

The Pitchford Inquiry was set up to look into police infiltration of political of political and social justice campaign groups in England and Wales.

However, Labour MSP Neil Findlay has written to all Scottish MPs, MSPs and MEPs, urging then to add their voice to calls for the probe to be extended to Scotland.

Findlay said that if the UK Government does not agree to such a move that Scotland should hold its own inquiry into the alleged activities of undercover police who targeted campaigners."


News Digest (23.5.16)

Austria election: far-right candidate and rival tied at 50% in exit poll (The Guardian, link): "Austria’s political future is on a knife-edge, with the candidate bidding to be the European Union’s first far-right president holding a wafer-thin lead over his rival.

According to the public broadcaster ORF, Norbert Hofer of the rightwing populist Freedom party (FPÖ) was neck and neck on 50% with his rival Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader who is running as an independent.

Postal ballots, accounting for 14% of eligible voters and expected to favour the left-leaning candidate, are being tallied on Monday, and a full result is not expected until Monday afternoon. Fifty per cent and one vote would suffice to hand the presidency to one of the two candidates. Data from Austria’s interior ministry, which does not take into account the projected postal vote, put Hofer on 51.9% and Van der Bellen on 48.1%."

See: Far-right candidate narrowly defeated in Austrian presidential election (The Guardian, link)

CYPRUS: Cyprus right-centre DISY wins elections, Golden Dawn affiliate enters parliament (New Europe, link): "The Cypriot ruling right-centre Democratic Rally (DISY) won the parliamentary elections in Cyprus, gathering 30.69 percent of the popular vote.

The win of the DISY was expected but the two most striking news after Sunday’s elections was the entering of the National Popular Front (ELAM) in the parliament and the high level of abstention.

(...)

ELAM is considered the affiliate party of the Greek Golden Dawn in Cyprus, and it managed to enter the parliament, gathering 3.71 percent of the vote. ELAM disagrees with the unification of Cyprus and it wants to increase the power of the Cypriot military. “For the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament,” Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos told Greece’s parliament minutes after the first exit poll results were released.

Political analyst, Huber Faustmann told Reuters about ELAM that “It’s sort of a kindergarten version of Golden Dawn,” and he stressed that the elections results show that “all the big parties lost.”"

FRANCE: Paris attacks suspect refuses to speak at hearing (Al Jazeera, link): "The last known survivor of the team that carried out last November's Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, refused to talk during questioning by judges amid frustration at 24-hour video surveillance of his cell, his lawyer said.

The hearing ended abruptly on Friday, dashing French authorities' hopes that Abdeslam would provide more details about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group's strategies and individuals behind the November 13 attacks.

Abdeslam's lawyer, Frank Berton, said his client invoked his right to silence. While Abdeslam did not give a direct reason, Berton said he was "disturbed" by 24-hour video surveillance in his maximum-security cell in the Fleury-Merogis prison outside Paris."

UK trains soldiers for majority of regimes on its own human rights abuse watchlist (The Independent, link): "Britain is providing military training and support to the majority of the countries named on its own human rights abusers watchlist, The Independent can reveal.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) designated 30 nations as “human rights priority” countries last year, warning of their conduct on a range of issues from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflict.

But information released by ministers shows that British armed forces trained “either security or armed forces personnel” in 16 of the listed countries since 2014."

UK: Equal before the law? Government proposes huge court fees increase (Right to Remain, link): "The UK government has proposed increasing the fees that need to be paid to appeal an asylum or immigration decision in the First-tier and Upper Tribunal in England and Wales"

UK: Thousands of court cases adjourned due to failures in interpreting services (The Guardian, link): "More than 2,600 court cases have been adjourned over the past five years because of failures in the interpreting service, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice.

The extent of the problem was confirmed as doubts emerged about the viability of the troubled contract for interpreting services after the outsourcing firm Capita declined to bid for its renewal in October."


News Digest (16.5.16)

BELGIUM: Intelligence service monitoring 60 soldiers (Flanders News, link): "The military intelligence service is keeping a close eye on 60 soldiers. They allegedly displayed a kind of behaviour - in one way or another - that could suggest extremist ideas. The Defence department said that they will no longer be deployed in armed missions, but they will not be dismissed."

BELGIUM: Prisoners start new court action against Belgian state (Flanders News, link): "3 inmates staying in Vorst prison have initiated court action against the Belgian state. They argue that their basic rights are being ignored due to the continuing strike in Brussels and Walloon prisons. The latest complaints are just 3 more in a whole series. Other prisoners have won similar cases recently."

EU: Europe's Rule-of-Law Crisis (Social Europe, link) by Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE MEP: "Governments are created and fall apart, and politicians come and go; but democratic institutions should be spared from political interference. The sad reality is that, were they to apply for EU membership today, neither Hungary nor Poland would be admitted. Their people should weigh carefully what that means. Their current leaders claim to be defending national interests. But is it really in their countries’ interest to be sidelined by the US, NATO, and the rest of Europe?"

EU-UK: ‘Brexit’ Vote Worries European Up-and-Comers Lured to Britain (New York Times, link): "Silvia Luis, from Portugal, is thinking of attending university in Scotland. Sandra Martinsone, a Latvian, said she might apply for citizenship or buy property. Julie Miquerol, from France, has sped up her plans to open a start-up company in Spain.

They, like some 1.3 million citizens from other European Union countries between the ages of 18 and 35 who live in Britain, are hedging their bets and pondering strategies just in case Britain votes to leave the European Union on June 23."

NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam to give €10m to Jewish community for WWII local tax scandal (Dutch News, link): "Amsterdam city council plans to donate €10m to the city’s Jewish community to compensate for the way survivors of the Nazi death camps were forced to pay missed taxes on their return.

The money will go to community projects and be spent according to Jewish groups’ wishes, mayor Eberhard van der Laan said at the opening of the city’s new National Holocaust Museum on Sunday."

Powers gather to discuss IS in Libya, as foreign military ops increase (Middle East Eye, link): "Major powers were gathering in the Austrian capital on Monday to discuss the expanding presence of the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, as reports spread of international covert military operations in the war-torn country.

The conference in Austria is being co-chaired by the United States and Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler which has faced a major influx of migrants and asylum seekers from the North African nation braving a perilous sea voyage.

It will "discuss international support for the new Government of National Accord, with a focus on security," said John Kirby, spokesman for US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will chair the conference with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni."

Snowden interview: Why the media isn’t doing its job (Columbia Journalism Review, link): "The Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Emily Bell spoke to Edward Snowden over a secure channel about his experiences working with journalists and his perspective on the shifting media world. This is an excerpt of that conversation, conducted in December 2015. It will appear in a forthcoming book: Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State, which will be released by Columbia University Press in 2016."

UK judges to rule on death penalties for 'intellectually disabled' (The Guardian, link): "The fate of two Trinidadian prisoners, both of whom have been condemned to death despite having extremely low IQs, will be decided by British judges this week.

The two-day hearing at the judicial committee of the privy council (JCPC) in London may set an international precedent that could prevent the execution of people on death row who have been diagnosed as “intellectually disabled”.

The JCPC, based in Westminster, acts as an ultimate court of appeal for smaller Commonwealth countries, including many in the Caribbean that retain capital punishment. Justices from the UK’s supreme court hear its cases."

UK: Construction bosses ‘tried to hide evidence of their blacklist’ (The Guardian, link): "Victims of blacklisting by the construction industry, who were awarded a £75m out-of-court settlement, are to demand a police investigation into their claims that key executives tried to pervert the course of justice.

On Wednesday major companies, including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, issued an “unreserved and sincere” apology in the high court to hundreds of workers for putting them on an illegal blacklist and denying them work over two decades.

The companies agreed to pay sums ranging from £25,000 to £200,000 to 771 people under out-of-court settlements to avoid a trial, while accepting that “their secret vetting operation should never have happened”. However, evidence disclosed before the settlement has led many of the victims to claim that there was an illegal attempt by executives at Sir Robert McAlpine to destroy evidence and cover up the involvement of key individuals when the blacklisting was discovered in 2009."

UK: Iain Duncan Smith's plan to place Job Advisers in food banks quietly dropped (Daily Mirror, link): "A plan to place job advisers in food banks has been quietly dropped by the Government, despite Welfare Secretary Stephen Crabb praising the plan just last week.

Iain Duncan Smith floated the scheme in October , suggesting a Job Centre advisor should be posted in food banks, to give people seeking emergency food parcels advice on how to find work.

The pilot scheme was criticised at the time, with Labour saying it "highlights the grim reality that people depending on emergency food is increasingly a central part of Iain Duncan Smith's vision for our social security system.""

UK: New move to impeach Tony Blair over Iraq War gains cross-party support (The Independent, link): "A cross-party group of MPs, including former SNP leader Alex Salmond, may renew their attempts to impeach Tony Blair following the publication of the Chilcot report later this year.

According to reports, Mr Salmond has begun rallying support for an attempted prosecution, pending the findings of the report, which will be released in July."

UK: Publisher's Facebook page deleted after posting criticism of Turkish government (The Guardian, link): "Facebook has denied involvement in the deletion of the page of a London-based academic publisher who had published articles that criticised the Turkish government and discussed the outlawed (in Turkey) Kurdistan Workers party.

The deletion sparked accusations of censorship against the social network, which has often been accused of siding with the Turkish government in battles over free speech. But Facebook says it did not delete the page, and Zed Books has accepted the claim. Both companies say they are trying to discover how the page was removed from the site, and who by."

UK: Report reveals frequent violence at youth prison near Rugby (Rugby & Lutterworth Observer, link): "A YOUTH prison near Rugby has been told it still ‘requires improvement’ after an Ofsted report revealed frequent cases of violence between young people and assaults on staff.

The report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, was part of an annual inspection of Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre.

Ofsted found overall levels of violence between inmates remained too high, and it also highlighted how assaults on staff, the number of restraints and the use of force had increased since the previous inspection in February 2015."

UK: The Immigration Bill – behind the headlines (Refugee Council, link): "As the latest Immigration Bill becomes law, our Parliamentary Manager Jon Featonby takes a look at what is, and what isn't, in it."

USA: Needed: More Snowdens - Ex-intel analyst (USA Today, link): "I was an active duty Marine working in signals intelligence in 2013 when Edward Snowden exposed the mass surveillance programs of the National Security Agency. Snowden’s alleged espionage had a lasting effect both on my work and on my attitude toward it.

As a cryptologic linguist and intelligence analyst, my day-to-day activities were directly compromised when I was suddenly unable to use certain methods and tools due to the leak. Not only that, Snowden’s action created a moral dilemma for me as a member of the intelligence community. I began questioning the morality of my work. If the public was outraged by what Snowden leaked, will they be outraged by how the U.S. is fighting terrorism?"

USA: Senate report on CIA torture is one step closer to disappearing (Yahoo! News, link): "The CIA inspector general’s office — the spy agency’s internal watchdog — has acknowledged it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture report at the same time lawyers for the Justice Department were assuring a federal judge that copies of the document were being preserved, Yahoo News has learned.

Although other copies of the report exist, the erasure of the controversial document by the CIA office charged with policing agency conduct has alarmed the U.S. senator who oversaw the torture investigation and reignited a behind-the-scenes battle over whether the full unabridged report should ever be released, according to multiple intelligence community sources familiar with the incident."


News Digest (13.5.16)

BULGARIA: Ombudsman: Burqas Ban Should Be about Discrimination, Not National Security (Novinite, link): "Bulgaria's National Ombudsman Maya Manolova has warned that restrictions to wearing full-face veils, introduced on some cities, should not be justified with national security as they are unlikely to address the issue.

The right to covering most of one's face and body, however, clashes with non-discrimination and gender equality principles despite the fact that religious garments are part of the European Convention on Human Rights."

CROATIA: Croatian Journalists Protest for Freedom of the Press (Liberties.eu, link): "Around 200 journalists protested in front of the Croatian Ministry of Culture because of violations of the freedom of the press. They demanded the resignation of Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic and laid their pencils in front of a banner with the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the article of the Constitution about the freedom of the media. It was a symbolic act to point out that the government buried these rights. The Croatian Journalists' Association warned that, after the last change of government, the level of media freedom is the lowest in the last 25 years."

EU: Slovakian Presidency of the Council: Slovakia to fight EU 'fragmentation' (EUobserver, link): "Slovakia's main objective when it takes the EU Council presidency in July will be to avoid "fragmentation" and combat the perception of an East-West divide, its Europe minister has said.

"Buzzword number one is to tackle fragmentation," Ivan Korcok told journalists in Brussels on Thursday (12 May).

He said there were "many good reasons to spread defeatism across Europe", but he did not share the view of an East-West divide and insisted Slovakia regarded its role "from a positive angle"."

Germany to quash historical convictions of gay men (The Guardian, link): "Germany is to annul the convictions of tens of thousands of gay men who were criminalised under a 19th-century law.

More than 50,000 men were convicted and sentenced to sometimes lengthy jail terms between 1946 and 1969 under the infamous Paragraph 175, which deemed homosexuality to be a punishable crime.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in 1969, the law was not abolished until 1994 and the sentences were never lifted."

GERMANY: Munich police brace for rival protests at anti-refugee party's meeting (The Guardian, link): "Rival demonstrations are expected to take place on Friday night outside one of Munich’s best-known beer halls, where Adolf Hitler gave his first political speech and where the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is hosting a meeting.

Police in the southern German city said they were ready to respond and were “fully determined” to prevent a repeat of violent clashes that saw more than 400 demonstrators arrested outside the rightwing party’s first full conference in Stuttgart last month.

“We hope everything will go peacefully but if it doesn’t, we’re ready,” a spokesman said."

Italy approves gay civil unions after long parliamentary battle (Reuters, link): "Italy's parliament approved same-sex civil unions and gave some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples on Wednesday after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote to force the bill into law.

Italy is the last major Western country to legally recognize gay couples and an original draft law had to be heavily diluted due to divisions in Renzi's ruling majority.

The bill had faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups who said it went too far, while gay activists said it was too timid."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Attorney General orders fresh inquest into shooting of escaped internee Hugh Coney (The Irish News, link): "ATTORNEY General John Larkin has ordered a fresh inquest into the death of a Co Tyrone man shot dead while trying to escape from Long Kesh internment camp more than 40 years ago.

Hugh Gerard Coney was shot in the back by a British soldier as he and other internees tried to escape in November 1974.

From Annaghmore, near Coalisland, Mr Coney was detained without charge in June 1973.

An inquest held in 1975 delivered an open verdict and his family has been campaigning to have the case re-examined."

UK, Bulgaria PMs Talk Migration, Corruption, Energy Security (Novinite, link): "The migration crisis in Europe, protection of borders, fight against corruption, and energy security have been discussed in a meeting between Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his British counterpart David Cameron in London.

"We talked about the processes that unfold between the [European] Commission, [European] Parliament and Turkey, the state of our border," Borisov said after the meeting, according to a news release from the government press office in Sofia."

UK: Hillsborough victims honoured with freedom of Liverpool (The Guardian, link): "The 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 are to be posthumously awarded the freedom of the city of Liverpool, the local council has announced.

Kenny Dalglish, the manager of Liverpool FC at the time, and his wife, Marina, are also to be awarded the freedom of the city, along with the former bishop of Liverpool James Jones and Prof Phil Scraton, a campaigner for the bereaved families’ cause."

UK: Still fighting the complacency at the heart of our justice system (The Justice Gap, link): "REVIEW: Miscarriages of justice used to be big news, and investigating them commanded big media budgets. In the 1980s, both Granada and Yorkshire television invested heavily in the issue, making films with high production values and months of research devoted to the cases they chose to examine."


News Digest (12.5.16)

EU: US hails 'important step' as missile defences go live in Romania (The Guardian, link): "A US missile defence system in Romania becomes operational on Thursday in a move welcomed by US officials as an “important step” but also one likely to infuriate Moscow.

The missile interceptor station in Deveselu, southern Romania, will help defend Nato members against the threat of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles – particularly from the Middle East, said US assistant secretary of state Frank Rose in Bucharest on Wednesday.

Russia has taken a dim view of the project, seeing it as a security threat on its doorstep. Rose said: “Both the US and Nato have made it clear the system is not designed for, or capable of, undermining Russia’s strategic deterrence capability.”"

UK: Construction firms apologise in court over blacklist (The Guardian, link): "Leading construction firms have formally apologised to hundreds of trade unionists for putting them on an illegal blacklist and denying them work.

The firms issued the “unreserved and sincere” apology in the high court to bring to an end a long-running legal action by workers who had sought to uncover the truth behind the secret blacklist.

The firms have agreed to pay sums understood to total about £75m to 771 blacklisted workers, under out-of-court settlements to avoid a trial that was due to open this week. Payouts to individuals range from £25,000 to £200,000."

UK: DRONES: Cross-Government Working Group includes police, Border Force and Surveillance Commissioner: Unmanned Air Vehicles: Written question - 36083 (www.parliament.uk, link)

UK: Short term migrants largely account for National Insurance data discrepancy (Office of National Statistics, link): "ONS has published the findings of work carried out to explain the differences between the number of long term migrants entering the UK, measured by the International Passenger Survey (IPS), and the numbers of non-UK nationals registering for National Insurance Numbers (NINos).

Using a range of administrative and survey data, we have analysed the reasons why the number of NINos being registered has been higher than the number of people estimated as migrating to the UK, and why in recent periods the gap between the two figures has grown.

The key findings are:


News Digest (11.5.16)

FRANCE: Who becomes a terrorist, and why? (Washington Post, link): "After major terrorist attacks hit Brussels and Paris, Europe is still reeling. These atrocities prompted a heated dispute between two noted French scholars of political Islam, Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy, over why a handful of European Muslims become terrorists.

Their disagreement isn’t just an intellectual squabble. It strikes to the heart of how the West understands violent Islamist extremism — and what the appropriate policy responses might be."

LUXEMBOURG: LuxLeaks prosecutors seek jail term of 18 months for whistleblowers (The Guardian, link): "Prosecutors in Luxembourg have called for two whistleblowers on trial over the so-called LuxLeaks scandal to be jailed for 18 months and for a journalist to be fined.

Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet, French former employees of auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), are accused of leaking thousands of documents to journalist Edouard Perrin.

The documents revealed the huge tax breaks that Luxembourg offered international firms including Apple, Ikea and Pepsi, saving the companies billions of euros in taxes.

A verdict is not expected until mid-June."

UK: Afghan interpreters for UK armed forces lose claim that relocation scheme was unlawful (Free Movement, link): "Former interpreters for UK armed forces in Afghanistan have lost their claim that the Afghn interpreter relocation scheme was unlawful on the basis it was less generous than the Iraqi equivalent. They succeeded on the basis that the public sector equality duty had not been properly complied with but this made no difference overall."


News Digest (9.5.16)

EU-US: TTIP trade deal under threat after Germany claims US not making 'any serious concessions' (The Independent, link): "The controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been thrown into further doubt after a senior German minister claimed the United States was not willing to make "any serious concessions".

Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt is the latest senior European politician to criticise the American approach to the negotiations, which Barack Obama had hoped would be completed this year.

Mr Schmidt told German newspaper Der Spiegel: "So far at least they have hardly made any serious concessions.""

EU: Companies gun-shy on privacy shield (Politico, link): "Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic are rushing to get the so-called privacy shield up and running next month. Businesses, on the other hand, are in no hurry.

Companies have been in legal limbo since October, when the European Court of Justice struck down the international agreement protecting data transfers — from family photos to payroll information. As regulators polish a new pact, companies are gun-shy about signing on because privacy advocates will almost certainly ask for another judicial ruling.

That risk is not worth it for many. They can use clumsy alternatives in the interim. What’s at stake is public confidence. In the age of mass surveillance and increasing police powers, Europeans, in particular, fear what happens to their data when it moves to the U.S.

POLITICO interviewed more than two dozen executives, lawyers and trade groups about the risks and potential of the privacy shield. Companies want an international agreement for cost and convenience and an end to the current piecemeal approach to handling data transfers."

EU: Crunch time for net neutrality rules, says EU digital rights warrior (Ars Technica, link): "The next few months will be a critical time for net neutrality in the EU, according to the chief of Europe's digital rights' lobby group.

Joe McNamee, executive director of EDRi, told Ars that it was crucial to engage people about the issue over the course of the next few months. Draft net neutrality guidelines are due to be presented by the European Commission on June 6, followed by a consultation for 20 working days on those proposed rules.

"The next four months are equivalent to the moment when the big successes were achieved in the US and India," he said."

EU: Joint action to tackle West African human trafficking networks (Europol press release, link): "The third pan-European operation to combat the trafficking of human beings from West Africa was carried out by law enforcement authorities in sixteen European countries on the 28th of April and lasted until early morning of the following day. The operation was aimed at targeting Nigerian criminal networks operating across Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

According to provisional figures, more than 1000 persons, mainly women from West African countries were checked. Over 400 potential victims of trafficking (mostly women from Nigeria) were identified. Via cross-checks at the Europol headquarters, more than 30 persons were found to have links to criminal structures. As a result of the day of action, new investigations have been launched in several participating countries with Europol's support."

EU: Press release: New report details extent of Israel lobby in Brussels’ connections to US Islamophobia industry and illegal settlements (EuroPal Forum, link): "A new report on The Israel lobby and the European Union will be released on 9 May (Brussels) and 13 May (London) 2016. Researched and written by Public Interest Investigations/Spinwatch and published by EuroPal Forum. The report reveals the extent to which noted American funders and proponents of the Islamophobia industry in the United States and Israel’s illegal settlement project in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem are also financing the expanding Israel lobby in Brussels."

EU transparency register inaccurate, say campaigners (The Parliament, link): "76 per cent of the entries at the top of the EU's voluntary lobby register are flawed, according to new research.

The study, by LobbyFacts, a lobby data website, suggests that out of the 51 organisations declaring the highest lobby spend "only 12 are likely to, in fact, be among the biggest lobbyists."

"There is only one reliable-looking entry among the 30 entries declaring the highest lobby spend," says LobbyFacts.

The group produced the list by cross-referencing declared expenditure with the number of meetings held with senior staff at the Commission and the numbers of European Parliament passes held.

It says these are good indicators of an organisation's actual lobby activity."

Israel brings fresh charges against nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu (The Guardian, link): "Israeli prosecutors charged nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu on Sunday with violating the terms of his release, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year jail term.

Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was slapped with a series of restraining orders, some of which he has violated in recent years, the justice ministry said."

SCOTLAND: Sunday Mail spy scandal: Secret emails reveal senior officers targeting Sunday Mail journalists were warned their actions would be illegal (Daily Record, link): "A POLICE chief stands accused of misleading MSPs over his force’s hunt for Sunday Mail sources .

Acting Deputy Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson’s testimony to Holyrood’s Justice Committee is under scrutiny after we obtained internal emails undermining his evidence.

Despite his repeated denials to MSPs, the emails reveal officers were given specific warnings that seizing phone data to find the source of our stories would be illegal but went ahead anyway.

One committee member said: “This is of concern. It must be investigated.”

Secret emails have revealed how senior officers behind the spying operation to find Sunday Mail sources were repeatedly warned they would be acting illegally."

UK: Cyber attacks: Two-thirds of big UK businesses targeted (BBC News, link): "Two-thirds of big UK businesses have been hit by a cyber attack in the past year, according to government research.

Most of the attacks involved viruses, spyware or malware, the Cyber Security Breaches Survey says. A quarter of large firms experiencing a cyber breach did so at least once a month.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said it was "absolutely crucial businesses are secure and can protect data"."

UK: Human rights chief challenged over managing potential conflicts of interest (The Guardian, link): "The City lawyer appointed as the new head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) must “keep an eye” on any potential conflicts of interest, an influential parliamentary committee has said.

David Isaac was appointed as the head of the equality watchdog despite concerns expressed by MPs and peers about his plans to remain an equity partner at his law firm, which is involved in a range of government work."

UK: Inescapable realities that face UK prisons (The Guardian, link): "It is the fact of imprisonment that is the issue, and the nature and culture inside that needs to be changed, otherwise the deaths Michael Jacobson describes will continue irrespective of the issue of overcrowding. Overcrowding exacerbates the problem of self-inflicted deaths but it is not the cause. The shocking statistics to which he refers belie any suggestion that the government is successfully pursuing a reform agenda."

UK: Orgreave inquiry 'a must' after Hillsborough verdict says Vera Baird (Chronicle Live, link): "Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has backed calls for a public inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave following the Hillsborough inquest result.

The violent clash between pickets and South Yorkshire Police in June 1984 resulted in 95 miners, including four from Durham, facing charges including riot.

These were dropped and compensation paid to the accused after the evidence was found to have been fabricated, as it had been by the same force five years later at Hillsborough.

Ms Baird QC, added her voice to those of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, Dave Hopper."

UK: Crowdfunding campaign by the AIRE Centre (link): Stop deportation without fair trial: Judicial Review of Home Office Immigration Enforcement policy (Crowd Justice, link): "We are bringing a Judicial Review to challenge a joint Met Police and Home Office initiative, Operation Nexus, that allows people to be deported from the UK without any convictions.

Our case:

We believe that everyone has the right to a fair trial. But since the government launched Operation Nexus in 2012, many people living legally in this country have faced arbitrary deportation."

UK: Two prison officers 'seriously injured' in Wormwood Scrubs attack (BBC News, link): "Two prison officers were "seriously injured" and taken to hospital after an attack by an inmate at Wormwood Scrubs in west London.

The Prison Officers' Association (POA) said the officers were attacked while on duty on Sunday morning.

About 50 members of staff walked out for a day on Friday, citing health and safety concerns after recent attacks."


News Digest (6.5.16)

BULGARIA: Clashes at Anti-Roma Rally in Radnevo, Bulgaria (Balkan Insight, link): "Three policemen and four protesters suffered injuries after violent clashes broke out the rally in Radnevo, the Bulgarian interior ministry said on Thursday.

Around 2,000 people joined the protest on Wednesday evening, following an incident in which four men of Roma origin assaulted three Bulgarians in a street row on Monday.

The violence erupted when the crowd, shouting “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians”, “Bulgarians – heroes”, “Bulgaria above all” and various anti-Roma slogans, reached the Roma neighbourhood of Kantona, which was cordoned off by interior ministry special forces.

Some of the protesters tried to break through the barricades and enter the Roma neighbourhood, throwing stones and fireworks at the policemen, who responded by dispersing the crowd with batons."

FRANCE: Disgraced ex-police officer’s corruption trial opens in France (France 24, link): "The trial of Michel Neyret, once one of France’s most respected law enforcement officers, opened in Paris on Monday, where he stands accused of a litany of crimes, including corruption, drug trafficking and embezzlement.

Neyret’s fall from grace has been a spectacular one. Known for his charisma, Neyret headed up an anti-gang unit in the southeastern city of Lyon for 20 years, a job that earned him France’s highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, in 2004 from then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

He quickly rose up the ranks over the next three years and was promoted to deputy chief of police in Lyon in 2007.

Neyret’s career, however, came to a crashing halt with his arrest on September 29, 2011, after an investigation into a major drug trafficking ring led straight to his office."

FRANCE: Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'? (The Local, link): " Police unions have called on officers to take to the streets for their own march to call for an end to "anti-cop hatred" after clashes with protesters left 300 officers injured.

It feels a long time since January 11th 2015, when as millions of marched through the streets of Paris to mourn the victims of the terror attacks, the crowds clapped and cheered as vans of riot police snaked their way through the throng.

The incident made headlines, because it was so rare in France for the public to show such an appreciation, even warmth for the forces of law and order.

Things have deteriorated somewhat since then."

GERMANY: PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann found guilty of inciting hatred (Deutsche Welle, link): "A district court in the eastern German city of Dresden ruled on Tuesday that Lutz Bachmann must pay a penalty of 9,600 euros ($11,044), after being found guilty of inciting hatred.

Prosecutors had called for a seven-month prison sentence for Bachmann, while his defense pleaded for his acquittal.Tuesday's verdict is not yet legally binding, however.

The founder of the Islamic and xenophobic alliance, PEGIDA, was charged with inciting hatred in October 2015. According to the indictment, Bachmann insulted refugees on his Facebook page in September, 2014 when he described asylum seekers as "cattle," "scum," and "trash.""

MACEDONIA: Macedonians Mark Anniversary of Fatal Police Beating (Balkan Insight, link): "Thousands of people gathered on Thursday evening on Skopje's main Macedonia square, where 21-year-old Martin Neskovski was beaten to death on June 6, 2011, when the ruling VMRO DPMNE party was celebrating its election victory.

The protesters covered the square with giant red slogans like "You cannot hide murder, nor wash blood from your hands", "Justice for Martin, Freedom for All" and "Murderers".

They also dyed the water in the square’s fountains red and threw red paint balls at giant pictures of former prime minister and VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski and his former interior minister Gordana Jankuloska."

Russia vows response to NATO plan in Poland and Baltics (Al Jazeera, link): "Russia will take retaliatory measures if NATO deploys more battalions in Poland and the Baltic states and will reinforce its western and southern flanks with new divisions, officials said.

Andrei Kelin, a department head at Russia's Foreign Ministry, said on Wednesday that the proposed NATO deployment spoken of by various officials was a source of concern for Moscow.

Russia has scrambled jets to intercept United States reconnaissance planes in recent weeks and made simulated attack passes near a US warship in the Baltic Sea."

SWEDEN: Q&A: 'Racism is on the rise in Sweden and it is scary' (Al Jazeera, link): "Last week, activist Maria-Teresa "Tess" Asplund, 42, took part in a counter-demonstration during a Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) rally where she stood alone with her fist firmly raised confronting hundreds of neo-Nazi marchers.

The act of defiance lasted for only a couple of seconds, but was enough for photographer David Lagerlof to capture the action.

Asplund was adopted when she was 17 months old by a Swedish couple, who brought her to Sweden.

She describes herself as Afro-Swedish and is a part of the Afrophobia Focus organisation that addresses afrophobia and hostility towards people with a sub-Saharan African background in Sweden."

UK: Prisoner found dead at County Durham young offenders' institute (Chronicle Live, link): "An investigation has been launched after a teenager died in a County Durham young offenders’ institution.

Ryan Gorton, 19, was found unresponsive in his cell at HMYOI Deerbolt on Monday May 2.

Paramedics were called to the jail on the Bank Holiday Monday, however the teenager was pronounced dead."

UK: Wormwood Scrubs prison staff walk out over safety concerns (The Guardian, link): "More than 50 staff at Wormwood Scrubs prison have walked out, saying they do not feel safe there.

The 1,200 inmates of the west London jail have been locked in their cells and all visits have been cancelled as a result of the action by prison officers.

Laura Janes, the legal director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, tweeted: “Cannot get into Wormwood Scrubs to represent young person who does not feel safe as staff have walked out because staff don’t feel safe.”"


News Digest (3.5.16)

EU: Lobbying at EU level: Parliament hosts conference on mandatory transparency register (press release, pdf): "An upgrade of the EU lobbyist register is in the works after the European Commission launched a public consultation on switching from voluntary to mandatory registration for anyone interested in speaking to EU institutions to influence their work."

ITALY: Sino-Italian police patrols launched in Italy (New China, link): "Police officers from China are to collaborate with police officers from Italy in two joint patrols in Rome and Milan in a program based on a Sino-Italian agreement launched here on Monday.

According to the program, police who patrol touristic areas of Rome in central Italy and the business city Milan in northern Italy will include two Chinese officers each, who can speak Italian and English besides Mandarin, for two weeks starting from Monday.

"Today it is an important day because we are strengthening collaboration with China in a very special field," Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told a press conference in Rome in the presence of the two countries' authorities.

Alfano said Chinese uniformed police would work together with Italian uniformed police in Rome and Milan to reinforce the sense of safety for the many Chinese tourists visiting Italy."

LUXEMBOURG: Deltour to give testimony in LuxLeaks trial (Luxemburger Wort, link): "On Tuesday LuxLeaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour is to give his version of events in the Luxembourg Criminal Court.

The former PwC Luxembourg employee is accused of stealing 45,000 pages of secret documents from more than 400 PwC clients.

The Frenchman is expected to say he did not plan to take the documents in advance and when he did, he acted in the general interest.

Deltour has always said he "acted out of conviction" for his ideas, "not to appear in the media.""

Poland’s ruling party calls for new constitution (New Europe, link): "Poland’s ruling Law & Justice party is gearing up to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s modern constitution next year by starting to work on replacing the charter.

As reported by Bloomberg, the party’s co-founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski dug in over the party’s conflict with the Constitutional Tribunal, saying it won’t accept a court that’s putting itself “above the law”.

“We might not find enough support to change the constitution during this term, but it’s time to start the work,” Kaczynski said in Warsaw on May 2. “We can ask Poles if they prefer Poland that we’ve all seen or the one that’s ahead of us.”"

UK: Blacklisted workers win compensation from big construction firms (The Guardian, link): "Hundreds of workers who were blacklisted by large firms in an illegal conspiracy have won compensation following a long-running lawsuit.

Approximately 420 trade unionists have secured damages from major construction firms after launching legal action four years ago.

On Friday, they announced that they had reached out-of-court settlements with the firms. However, another group of approximately 90 workers have yet to settle and are scheduled to have their case heard in the high court on 9 May."

UK: Officers accused of 'hit-and-run' after police car collides with cyclist, crushes bike and drives off (Evening Standard, link): "The police 4x4 hit the cyclist – causing him to stumble backwards and drop his bike – and then crushed a second bike under its wheels before racing off on Friday night.

Witnesses described the incident at the junction of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Millbank as a “hit and run” as they slammed the officers’ actions.

Scotland Yard said police were trying to drive away in their BMW X5 after being “targeted by demonstrators”. They drove over the bike after it had been deliberately left in the road as an obstruction, a spokesman said."

UK: Spycops impresario Lambert referred to as core influence on entryism in Quilliam report (UndercoverInfo, link): "The Government’s flagship ‘counter-extremism’ think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, extensively references the ideas and approach associated with discredited spycops impresario Bob Lambert, according to a document seen by UndercoverInfo. The document, published by Quilliam, refers to ‘Lambertism’ (or entryism into the Muslim community – specifically the ‘non-violent extemist’ element) to describe this approach. A detailed analysis of Lambertism and its application to current counter-extremism strategies is provided in the document. What is astounding, however, is that Quilliam Foundation document mentions nothing about how Lambert is a core player in the spycops scandal, currently under investigation via the Pitchford Inquiry."


April 2016

News Digest (25.4.16)

AUSTRIA: Women targeted in anti Muslim attacks in Austria (The Local, link): " There were 156 assaults against Muslims in Austria in 2015, with the vast majority of incidents targeting women, according to the first ever anti-Muslim racism report presented yesterday in Vienna.

Around 95 percent of the incidents were aimed at women, according to the report presented by the Documentation Office for Muslims in Austria in partnership with the Islamic Faith Community in Austria (IGGiÖ).

The organisation documented incidents from December 2014 up to the end of 2015 and said they expect the number of assaults to increase in the future."

Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank hackers compromised SWIFT software, warning to be issued (Reuters, link): "The attackers who stole $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank probably hacked into software from the SWIFT financial platform that is at the heart of the global financial system, said security researchers at British defense contractor BAE Systems.

SWIFT, a cooperative owned by 3,000 financial institutions, confirmed to Reuters that it was aware of malware targeting its client software. Its spokeswoman Natasha Deteran said SWIFT would release on Monday a software update to thwart the malware, along with a special warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures."

LUXEMBOURG: Former PwC employees face trial over role in LuxLeaks scandal (The Guardian, link): "Two former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers accused of being behind the biggest ever leak of confidential corporate tax deals face criminal trial in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

Antoine Deltour and a second man, who is expected to be named in court this week, are charged with carrying out the LuxLeaks theft, violating the Grand Duchy’s strict professional secrecy laws and other offences. Their criminal prosecution follows a complaint to Luxembourg’s public prosecutor by PwC."

Saudi Arabia, 9/11, and the secret papers that could ignite a diplomatic war (The Independent, link): "Twenty-eight secret pages of a report locked away in a room in the Capitol in Washington lie in the centre of a crisis between America and Saudi Arabia which threatens to have severe and widespread repercussions.

The US Congress is considering legislation which would enable the families of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, presented by the West as its most valuable ally in the Middle East, over alleged links with al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attacks on New York and Washington."

UK: British spies hacked themselves and family members to get personal information to send birthday cards, new papers reveal (The Independent, link): "British spies have been collecting bulk data on people for years, and abusing it to find out people’s addresses for birthday cards, new releases show.

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been collecting and relying on huge amounts of data collected on almost every person in the country, according to new documents obtained by Privacy International during a legal hearing.

And spies have even been hacking themselves to find out that personal information so that they can use it for booking holidays and spying on their family members to get personal details, the papers show.

The papers also prove that the collection of bulk data has been happening for much longer than previously known."

UK: Race and racism: exhibition: A Nation's Theatre - Selina Thompson: Race Cards (Arts Admin, link): "Selina Thompson has devised 1000 questions concerning issues of race and identity. You are invited to respond to one of the questions which will feed into her research for this ongoing project."

News Digest (22.4.16)

BELGIUM: Four alleged hackers detained during police raids (Flanders News, link): "The Brussels Federal Judicial Police has detained four suspected member of the hackers’ group Down-Sec. The suspected hackers were detained during a series of raids in Liège. IT material was also confiscated during the raids. Two of those detained are minors."

BULGARIA: Ban on Surveys in Bulgaria's Voting Campaigns Infringes Free Speech - Pollsters (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian Association of Marketing and Opinion Researchers (BAMOR) has lashed out at a recent draft amendment which would make it illegal to announce results of opinion polls while an election campaign is unfolding.

Currently, a ban is in place on the announcement of exit polls for the respective election day until 19:00. However, for years some pollsters have been going around the ban by publishing "fake" poll results containing hidden voter preferences. "

Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front Submits Motion to Ban Wearing Burqas in Public Places (Novinite, link): "Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front proposed to Parliament on Wednesday to ban the wearing in public places of burqas, or head veils hiding the face, citing potential threats to national security.

If approved, the proposed new article in the Penal Code would ban the wearing of any apparel that hides the face of a person entirely or in part.

(...)

The Patriotic Front proposes a fine of BGN 200 (EUR 100) for first-time offenders of the ban. Repeated violations of the ban would carry fines of BGN 1,500 each and suspension of social benefits payments for three months if the offender is entitled to receiving them.

Persuading people to wear burqas would carry jail terms of three years and fines of BGN 5,000. Those who persuade a minor to wear a burqa, will be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of BGN 10,000."

Czech Police Accused of Excessive Force Against Protesters (ABC News, link): "Czech center-right opposition parties have condemned what they call an excessive use of police force against citizens protesting China's human rights record during a recent visit of the Chinese president.

For three days of President Xi Jinping's March visit, police dealt with numerous skirmishes between Czech protesters and what appeared to be well-organized groups of Chinese people supporting their leader.

Police say 23 people were detained in total from both camps."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Security Council rebuffs Brussels’ stricter gun control plans (Radio Prague, link): "The National Security Council has rejected plans by the European Commission to introduce tougher gun control laws, following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. The commission wants to make it considerably more difficult for individuals to hold certain firearms, among them some semi-automatic weapons. Czech officials are against the proposal, saying that Czech gun laws are already among the toughest."

CZECH REPUBLIC: School pupils back Muslim classmate targeted over headscarf (Radio Prague, link): "Secondary school students in Teplice have launched a campaign in support of a Muslim classmate under pressure for wearing a headscarf. The school’s principal has received dozens of emails calling for her expulsion for “promoting Islam” but says the teenager is going nowhere."

FINLAND: Police under scrutiny over racial profiling claims (YLE, link): "Police and the Finnish Border Guard have organised a total of four immigration control operations targeting foreigners in central Helsinki. The monitoring exercise allegedly focused on people assumed to be of foreign extraction and involved ID checks.

Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kirsi Pimiä says she has received complaints about checks targeting foreign nationals, many of whom say they feel they have been wrongly profiled based on their appearance.

The office says it will demand a report from the Helsinki Police Department on its surveillance of foreigners."

German spies imply Snowden leaked files for Russia (The Local, link): " NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have been acting under the influence of the Russian government, the heads of Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence agencies said on Friday.

“It's very remarkable that he exclusively published files about the work of the NSA with the BND [Germany's foreign intelligence service] or the British secret service GCHQ,” BND head Gerhard Schindler told Focus magazine.

“Leaking the secret service files is an attempt to drive a wedge between western Europe and the USA – the biggest since the Second World War,” Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz), told Focus in the double interview."

MACEDONIA: EU-Mediated Macedonia Crisis Talks in Vienna Cancelled (Novinite, link): "The EU-mediated meeting of Macedonian political leaders for resolving the country’s political crisis has been cancelled after the main opposition Social Democrats declined to attend, the EU mediators have said.

The meeting, set for Friday in Vienna, was called by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and three members of the European Parliament in a bid to ensure that Macedonian political leaders will continue to implement the provisions of the EU-brokered Przino agreement reached in June-July last year."

UK firm hired African former child soldiers to fight in Iraq (Middle East Eye, link): "A British defence contractor hired mercenaries from Africa for a reported $16 a day to fight in Iraq for the US, with one of the company's former directors saying no checks were made on whether those hired were former child soldiers.

James Ellery, who was a director of Aegis Defence Services between 2005 and 2015, said contractors recruited from countries such as Sierra Leone to reduce costs for the US presence in Iraq. "

News Digest (18.4.16)

EU: New passenger regulation spells end of data privacy (Times of Malta, link): "Where did you travel on your last flight? How did you pay for it? Did you book a hotel through your airline and what did you eat on board? The government wants to know – and under a new measure approved by the European Parliament this week, your airline is obliged to tell them."

France vows crackdown after rolling protest clashes (Reuters, link): "France's interior minister on Friday ordered a crackdown on violent fringe demonstrators after they smashed shopfronts and cars on the edge of a bigger youth protest rally held overnight against labour law reforms.

Police used teargas and pepper gas late on Thursday to disperse mobile groups of mostly hooded youths who targeted cars, an auto showroom and a state job-search agency in central Paris. Violence was also reported in other French cities.

"There will be no let-up in the pursuit of these visionless people inspired solely by violence, no let-up in arresting them and bringing them to justice," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said."

SWEDEN: Most of Swedish citizens unsure about EU Membership (New Europe, link): "The popularity of the EU membership is falling in Sweden, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted by TNS Sifo for the Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

According to the poll results, only 39 percent of Swedes think it’s a “good idea” that Sweden is in the European Union, compared to 59 percent in autumn 2015. However, the percentage of the Swedish people who are definitely against the EU membership, is much lower, as only 21 percent believe that the EU membership was a “bad idea.” According to TNS the researchers asked 1142 people aged between 18 and 79: “What do you think in general about Sweden being a member of the EU?”"

UK legal aid residence test to be challenged in supreme court (The Guardian, link): "The government’s residence test that deprives those who have lived in the UK for less than 12 months of legal aid faces a major challenge at the supreme court.

Seven justices will hear arguments on Monday, in a case brought by the Public Law Project (PLP), insisting no minister has the power to impose such discriminatory regulations and that the yet to be implemented residence test is unlawful.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has argued that only those who have an established link to the UK should be entitled to legal aid, which is a scarce and costly resource that must be rationed."

UK-EU: Finding the facts: The truth behind referendum claims on EU borders and security (ITV, link): "The UK in a Changing Europe provides independent impartial information, from leading academics, on the UK’s relations with the EU. The ITV News series 'Finding the Facts' is based on the initiative’s work, together with fact check organisation Full Fact, around claims made by both the Leave and Remain campaigns in the upcoming EU referendum."

UK: Home Office deports three times more teenagers to war-torn countries than previously admitted (The Independent, link): "The Government has deported three times as many teenagers to countries ravaged by war and poverty than ministers have previously admitted, figures seen by The Independent reveal.

Charities and politicians have warned the “life or death” decisions of whether to deport young people are being mishandled by a “callous” Home Office without a grip on the facts.

Despite spending their formative years in Britain, children granted temporary leave to remain in the UK as asylum seekers are often sent back to a country they have not lived in for years when they turn 18."

UK: Protesters who blockaded London arms trade fair acquitted after judge sees evidence of illegal weapons on sale (The Independent, link): "There is compelling evidence that arms were illegally being sold at the world’s biggest arms fair which takes place in London, a judge has ruled.

Acquitting eight anti-arms trade protesters who tried to disrupt the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) event at Stratford's ExCel Centre last September, District Judge Angus Hamilton accepted the defendants’ argument that they had tried to prevent a greater crimes, such as genocide and torture, from occurring by blocking a road to stop tanks and other armoured vehicles from arriving at the exhibition centre."

UK: The torture timebomb that could see Jack Straw and an MI6 chief in the dock (Daily Mail, link): "Briefly, Belhaj — a known dissident of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi — was living in China in 2004 when he decided to seek asylum in Britain.

While en route here, he was abducted at Bangkok airport in Thailand by U.S. authorities — after a reported tip-off by British intelligence — and flown to Libya to be locked up and tortured.

The police started looking into the case more than four years ago. Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service, must decide whether to prosecute.

If she gives the green light, it will lead to one of the most sensational trials in British political history.

We could see a former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in the dock, charged as a participant or accessory to the Common Law offence of kidnapping, as well as a statutory offence of torture under the Criminal Justice Act 1988. This carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

We could also see a former senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, charged with the same set of offences. It is not inconceivable that Mr Straw and Sir Mark could appear alongside one another as co-defendants."

News Digest (11.4.16)

EU: 26/11 ‘Mumbai bomber’ enters Europe in ISIS plot: Report (The Indian Express, link): "A Pakistani bomb-making expert linked to the 2008 Mumbai attack is among scores of trained terrorists who slipped into the EU posing as refugees to join the Islamic State’s plot to commit atrocities in Europe, a media report said on Sunday.

Muhammad Usman Ghani, who is linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terror groups, is being held in Austria on charges of participating in a terrorist organisation, The Sunday Times said."

EU: New Reports On Terror Attacks Underline Why Crypto Isn't A Serious Problem: It's Hard To Use And Easy To Get Wrong (Techdirt, link): "As Techdirt has reported, politicians (and some journalists) haven't waited for the facts to be established before assuming that encryption is to blame for recent terrorist attacks. But as detailed information starts to appear, it becomes clear once more that the bombings and shootings did not succeed because things had "gone dark," but largely because intelligence agencies in both Europe and the US missed numerous clues and hints about the bigger picture. This emerges most powerfully from a long article in The New York Times, which charts the rise of ISIS over many years, and how the authorities were slow to catch on"

EU-TURKMENISTAN: NGOs call on the European Parliament to postpone approval of EU-Turkmenistan treaty (IPHR, link): "Twenty-nine NGOs from 15 different countries call on the European Parliament to postpone approval of the new EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) until Turkmenistan’s government meets the Parliament’s human rights benchmarks. A letter with this message was sent to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs ahead of its planned consideration of the EU-Turkmenistan PCA on 11 April 2016 (postponed from 4 April 2016). The letter was also sent to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as well as its Sub-Committee on Human Rights.

For nearly 15 years, ratification of the EU-Turkmenistan PCA has been delayed over grave human rights concerns in Turkmenistan."

UK: EXPLAINER: What Is Mass Surveillance And What Does It Have To Do With Human Rights? (RightsInfo, link): "As the Investigatory Powers Bill continues to progress through Parliament, RightsInfo takes a look this week at some of the key human rights issues raised by the Bill – privacy, big data, and mass surveillance. Today we explore the theme of mass surveillance.

From the Snowden leaks in mid-2013 to the interest surrounding a US court’s ruling that Apple de-crypt a terrorist’s iPhone, the words ‘mass surveillance’ are commonly used to describe many kinds of privacy infringement. In this post we ask ourselves the question – what exactly is mass surveillance and how might it interfere with our human rights?"

UK: Jean Charles de Menezes and the limits of human rights (Media Diversified, link): "Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court) handed down its judgment in the case of Armani da Silva v UK. The case was brought by Patricia da Silva, the cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, a young Brazilian electrician living in Tulse Hill who was killed by Metropolitan Police Specialist Firearm Officers at Stockwell tube station on July 22 2005. The killing came in the wake of the 7/7 bombings, in which 52 had people lost their lives, and the attempted 21/7 attacks, in which a number of bombs were discovered on public transport by police, having failed to detonate. Jean Charles de Menezes lived at 17 Scotia Road; Hussain Osman, one of the 21/7 suspects, lived at number 21. Both properties used the same doorway to access the street. In the course of a surveillance and containment operation Jean Charles was mistaken for Hussain Osman – “it would be worth someone else having a look,” said one officer. By the time forces trained in conducting armed stops had arrived, a ‘Code Red’ had been declared, and Jean Charles had taken a bus to Stockwell tube station. Shortly after he entered a train and sat down, officers ‘Charlie 2’ and ‘Charlie 12’ discharged 7 bullets into his head and ended his life. His death was one of the 58 fatal police shootings that have taken place between 1990 and 2015. Not one of the officers responsible has been convicted."

News Digest (8.4.16)

GREECE: Riot police beats dock workers, as Tsipras-COSCO shake hands on Piraeus Privatization (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Riot police batons fell on protesters’ back, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was shaking hands with the CEO of Chinese COSCO Xu Lirong to seal the privatization of the Port Of Piraeus Organization.

Outside the Zappeion mansion where the official ceremony was taking place, port workers had gathered to protest the privatization.

A small protesters’ delegation was supposed to be allowed to reach Zappeion, but more people tried to come through the police cordon.

Police tried to stop them in the usual way: with batons, tear gas and sound flares. The port workers started to shout at police “Traitors!” and “Thugs!”"

UK: British Special Forces ‘have secretly been helping draw up US ‘kill lists’ for drone strikes against Al-Qaeda targets’ which have helped weaken the group – but sparked hatred towards the West (Daily Mail, link): "Britain has secretly been helping the US to carry out drone strikes in Yemen for six years, it was claimed last night.

Special Forces from the UK are said to have systematically co-operated with the Americans to take out Al Qaeda operatives with targeted strikes.

An investigation has claimed that Britain provided vital intelligence to draw up ‘kill lists’ which were routinely used to carry out missions - and failed to tell the public.

Campaign group Reprieve said that it showed ‘beyond dispute’ that the UK was working ‘hand in glove’ with the Americans to kill in secret."

UK: INTERVIEW: Can Universities Fight Extremism While Preserving Free Expression? (RightsInfo, link): "Last week the Henry Jackson Society published its Report on extremist external speakers at London Universities. The Report concluded that many institutions are allowing extreme or intolerant speakers without ensuring adequate challenge from counter-balancing speakers.

Professor Roland Dannreuther is Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Westminster in London. He talks to RightsInfo in his personal capacity about safeguarding student safety and freedom of expression."

News Digest (4.4.16)

EU: Panama Papers: EU's Canete implicated in leak (EUobserver, link): "The wife of EU climate and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete has been named in a huge leak of documents relating to offshore companies called the Panama Papers, which have also led to accusations of shady financial dealings by the leaders of Iceland, Russia and Ukraine.

The findings, published by several media on Monday (4 April), originated in a cache of 11.5 million electronic files belonging to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca that were initially given by an anonymous source to German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung in early 2015. "

The legal struggle for the right to access to a lawyer in the Netherlands (Fair Trials, link): "On 1st April 2014 the Dutch Supreme Court concluded that arrested suspects do not have the right to access to a lawyer during police interrogation. According to the Supreme Court it is the task of the legislator to grant this right in accordance with the Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings. In practice this meant that in certain cases a lawyer was effectively banned from the hearing. Also, courts throughout the Netherlands have systematically denied requests to exclude incriminating statements made in absence of a lawyer as evidence.

Since the Directive was passed, there are no signs that this right will soon be introduced in the Netherlands and certainly not by the implementation deadline on 26 November 2016."

UK Government's housing policy targeting homeless families is 'tantamount to social cleansing’ (The Independent, link): "Charities and politicians are demanding urgent changes to housing policy across Britain and warning that thousands of homeless children's lives may be at risk because they are disappearing from support services after being rehoused.

The calls come after an investigation by The Independent uncovered cases of homeless children dying from neglect and abuse after families were moved out of their local authority boundaries. Other evidence in the report suggested that the transfer of homeless families to other parts of the country could have resulted in suicides and miscarriages."

News Digest (1.4.16)

AUSTRIA: Further Nazi allegations made against Austrian extremist (The Local, link): "An Austrian photographed making an fascist Islamic salute while standing on a concentration camp monument has now been accused of posting a photo of someone making a Nazi salute online.

Abdurrahman A. was first in the news a few weeks ago after a photo emerged online of him making the fascist ‘Grey Wolf’ salute at Mauthausen concentration camp. The two fingered salute is used by members of a Turkish nationalist party to imply that Turkish Islamists will one day control the world.

Abdurrahman A. is a leading member of the Linz-based organisation Avarsya, who are closely related to the right-wing extremist group Grey Wolves from Turkey."

AUSTRIA: Iran cancels after Austria refuses to ban protest (The Local, link): " A trip by the Iranian President to Vienna was cancelled this week after Austria refused to carry out Iran’s request to shut down an anti-regime protest, according to media sources.

The Austrian President had said that Iran had cancelled the trip planned for March 30th and 31st due to security concerns, although the Interior Ministry has since said there were “no signs of a threat”. "

DRONES: Hacker reveals $40 attack that steals police drones from 2km away (The Register, link): "IBM security guy Nils Rodday says thieves can hijack expensive professional drones used widely across the law enforcement, emergency, and private sectors thanks to absent encryption in on-board chips.

Rodday says the €25,000 (US$28,463, £19,816, AU$37,048) quadcopters can be hijacked with less than $40 of hardware, and some basic knowledge of radio communications.

With that in hand attackers can commandeer radio links to the drones from up to two kilometres away, and block operators from reconnecting to the craft."

ITALY: Man linked to terror cell detained at Rome airport (The Local, link): "A Lebanese man was detained by border police at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Thursday after they realized he had been reported as a member of a terrorist cell.

The man, who was carrying €20,000 in cash, was about to board a flight to Dusseldorf when he was detained during a routine check, Ansa reported, citing sources.

Police are working to gather more information about the man’s identity, the report said."

Poland to introduce a register of sexual offenders (Radio Poland, link): "The bill envisions the creation of two separate parts of the register. One of them would comprise detailed data, including a photograph and the current residence of the offenders. It could be accessed solely by the courts, the police, and special forces.

The other part would consist of less detailed data of paedophiles and repeat offenders, and it would be publicly available."

UK: Investigatory Powers Bill: UK terror watchdog to leave post next year (Ars Technica, link): "David Anderson QC has confirmed that he will quit his job as the UK government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation in early 2017—a period of time when the Investigatory Powers Act (if passed) will be in its infancy."

UK: Still the enemy within: the strike that split Britain (OpenDemocracy, link): "We are London-based filmmakers exploring the reasons behind the strike, what happened that year and what we can learn today from the miners. For our film, Still the enemy within, we have interviewed front line pickets, women and men who organised the soup kitchens, and members of support groups to get some insight into the dispute 30 years on."

UK: Underpaid in the UK? The state probably isn’t going to help you (OpenDemocracy, link): "The government spends nine times more investigating benefits claimants than it spends probing employers who pay less than the minimum wage."

UK setting dangerous precedent in refusing basic information about drone use (Drone Wars UK, link): "In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from Drone Wars, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has again refused to detail the number of armed British Reaper drones undertaking operations in Iraq and Syria, the location of their base in the Middle East or whether they have been involved in missions over Libya. The UK is known to have ten armed Reaper drones in service."


March 2016

News Digest (31.3.16)

BALKANS: Incomplete Analysis Hinders Anti-Extremism in the Balkans (Balkan Insight, link): "Balkan governments need to support efforts to properly measure the scale of radicalisation and violent Islamic extremism and implement comprehensive strategies to tackle the issue, regional experts have warned.

“If we don't have a complete analysis of the phenomenon, how can we adopt an effective strategy, conduct monitoring and coordinate a multi-agency response?” Uros Pena, deputy director of the Bosnian Directorate for the Coordination of Police Bodies said during a conference organised by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, on Wednesday.

In addition to problems with intelligence sharing between Bosnia’s 15 police agencies, Pena also identified gaps in monitoring associates of suspected and known extremists."

EU-TURKEY: Erdogan says European countries enabled terror threat to spread (CNN, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believes many European countries have failed to address the significance of the terror threat and have not done enough to fight it.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Washington, he criticized those countries for allowing ISIS to spread."

EU-UKRAINE: The expected impact of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (TNI, link): "On 6 April 2016, the Dutch electoracte will go to the polls to vote in a referendum on the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine. But what is the referendum about and why is the Transnational Institute campaigning for a No vote? Here we explain why the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will only benefit a number of Ukraine’s elite at a cost to the majority."

NETHERLANDS: Protests at proposals to shut prisons due to lack of criminals (Dutch News, link): "MPs have come out against proposals to shut prisons because of falling crime rates during a debate on Wednesday. Opposition parties and MPs from the ruling VVD and PvdA rejected cabinet plans to close prisons and other penal institutions during this parliamentary period. The government said last week closing prison cells is inevitable, as crime is expected to fall by 0.9% a year, and a third of cells are already empty – at great cost to the country."

NETHERLANDS: Terror suspect’s neighbourhood has problems, but is ‘no Molenbeek’ (Dutch News, link): "The area of Rotterdam where French terrorist suspect Anis B was arrested on Sunday is no Molenbeek, according to the city’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, in reference to the Brussel’s district where many of Belgium’s suicide bombers lived. ‘We are the least segregated city in the Netherlands, and people live together here,’ Aboutaleb said at a meeting with residents from the city’s Nieuw-West district earlier this week."

Romania Jails Former Gulag Boss For 20 Years (Balkan Insight, link): "A Romanian court on Wednesday sentenced former jail commander Ioan Ficior to 20 years in prison for the deaths of 103 political prisoners during the Communist regime.

He has 10 days to appeal.

This was the second trial of a head of a Communist-era lockup in Romania since dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was tried and executed in 1989.

Ficior, 87, was accused of involvement also in beating detainees, depriving them of medical treatment and forcing them to drink dirty water, which caused dysentery."

UK: Doreen Lawrence and John McDonnell to speak at conference on police spies (The Guardian, link): "Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are scheduled to speak at a conference that will examine political policing and state racism.

They are among a number of speakers at the conference that is due to take place on April 16 and 17.

The conference will focus on the role of undercover policing and its impact on those who have been put under surveillance."

UK: London man admits sending tweets encouraging terrorism (The Guardian, link): "An east London man has admitted sending thousands of tweets to encourage terrorism and in support of jihadists fighting with Islamic State.

Mohammed Moshin Ameen, 23, posted thousands of tweets between May and October 2015, using various different accounts.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Jessica Hart told the court that the posts “encourage and glorify acts of terrorism, in particular the actions of Isil [another name used for Isis], and invoke support for that group”.

Ameen pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to five counts of encouraging the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism on Twitter.

He admitted a further charge of inviting support for Isis, as a proscribed organisation, between 4 and 6 October 2015."

UK: My arrest – it could happen to you (Islam21C.com, link): "At 6 a.m. on that day, as I lay in bed, I heard the banging of feet and shouting in the corridor outside of the flat I live in, it was all very frantic and slightly surreal. I did not understand what was happening immediately so my neighbour was the first to run out and see what all the fuss was about. “WE WANT LAURA STUART” I heard and went to open the door. Imagine my shock as police in uniform and stab vests started pouring into my home."

UK-ECHR: Does Art 5 entail a right to legal representation when facing prison for contempt of court? (UK Human Rights Blog, link): "The European Court of Human Rights has held that the detention of an individual following his breach of a civil contact order, where he had no legal representation, did not violate his rights under Article 5, ECHR (Right to Liberty and Security of Person). However, the decision not to provide compensation to the individual following a failure to provide him with a lawyer during domestic proceedings resulted in a violation of Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial)."


News Digest (30.3.16)

EU: As Terrorists Cross Borders, Europe Sees Anew That Its Intelligence Does Not (New York Times, link): "By now it is abundantly clear that the terrorists who work for the Islamic State think, cooperate and operate across borders, ignoring national boundaries. The increasingly urgent question for Europe in its struggle against them is, Can it do the same?

The outlook is not promising. On Wednesday there were renewed calls for a pan-European intelligence agency that would effectively share information from different countries. Members of the European Parliament took to the airwaves and print to denounce, again, the lack of coordination.

Yet the hurdles are as basic as national pride and bureaucratic turf protection, with experts pointing out that even within nations, intelligence-gathering agencies — France alone has some 33 of them — have trouble cooperating."

EU-DENMARK: Minister: Denmark’s security opt-out ‘problematic’ after Brussels attacks (EurActiv, link): "Denmark’s Minister for Justice Søren Pind worries that his country will increasingly miss out on important information that could prevent terror attacks, after EU ministers yesterday (24 March) agreed to step up the information sharing between intelligence services.

Since Denmark voted to keep its opt-out on justice and home affairs in December 2015, the country has been negotiating a special deal for a continued Europol cooperation, but this deal is likely to keep the Scandinavian country out of the most essential parts of the anti-terrorism fight."

HUNGARY: Parliamentary committee takes 20 minutes clearing bill enabling PM Orbán free hand on spending (Politics.hu, link): "It took no more than 20 minutes for Parliament’s budget committee last week to approve a proposal that would authorize the prime minister to decide single-handedly on any state spending, reports 444.hu.

The proposal, which is said to be the brainchild of government office chief János Lázár, would exempt the government and Viktor Orbán from needing Parliament’s approval for spending from the state budget. This would mean that the government can issue a decree on a certain spending item and the resources will be automatically accounted for in the state budget. The last time this method was in use was before the change of systems in 1990."

ITALY-ECHR: European Court issues emergency measure to stop Italy from evicting Roma family (European Roma Rights Centre, link): "A disabled Romani woman and her daughter stopped their eviction by getting the European Court of Human Rights to issue an emergency measure moments before closing for the holiday weekend. The women, who have lived with other family members for years in a “temporary” segregated, Roma-only shelter run by the City of Rome, were threatened with eviction last week. Now in a decision made within 24 hours, the European Court of Human Rights told the Italian Government not to evict the family."

Polish government backs EU-wide exchange of air passenger data (Radio Poland, link): "Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak joined his EU counterparts in calling for the adoption of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive by the European Parliament.

An extraordinary meeting of justice and security ministers in Brussels on Thursday came two days after suicide bombers killed over 30 people in the Belgian capital.

The PNR would give security services of each member state access to an extensive database of information on air passengers."

UK: Art and the Law: Obscene Publications (Index on Censorship, link): "Freedom of expression is essential to the arts. But the laws and practices that protect and nurture free expression are often poorly understood both by practitioners and by those enforcing the law. The law itself is often contradictory, and even the rights that underpin the laws are fraught with qualifications that can potentially undermine artistic free expression.

As indicated in these packs, and illustrated by the online case studies – available at indexoncensorship. org/artandoffence – there is scope to develop greater understanding of the ways in which artists and arts organisations can navigate the complexity of the law, and when and how to work with the police. We aim to put into context the constraints implicit in the European Convention on Human Rights and so address unnecessary censorship and self-censorship."

UK: Criminal justice faces perfect storm of cuts and overstretch (Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, link): "Criminal justice agencies across the UK face a perfect storm of growing demand and shrinking budgets by the time of the next General Election, according to new analysis by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

A rising prison population – set to top 100,000 by 2020 – and inadequate legal aid funding are just two of the threats facing the delivery of justice across the UK, the Centre reports.

Governments in London, Edinburgh and Belfast should pursue a managed downsizing of the key criminal justice agencies to reflect shrinking budgets, the Centre concludes, rather than continuing to squeeze ever greater delivery out of ever diminishing resources."

UK: Stop targeting football fans with ‘draconian laws’, says campaign group (The Guardian, link): "Football supporters are being treated with double standards compared to fans of other sports, according to a campaign group which has revealed there have been 3,033 prosecutions for “draconian” football-only offences since 2010.

The campaign Football Fans Not Criminals (FFNC), launched in conjunction with civil liberties group the Manifesto Club, wants to scrap a series of crimes that only relate to football supporters. These include offences of indecent chanting, encroaching on the pitch and possession of alcohol when entering a ground.

The group, which has the backing of individuals from Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation, also wants to end civil banning orders, “bubble matches” where ticket purchases and travel arrangements are restricted, intrusive body searches, the filming of fans by police, and end the ban on drinking alcohol in stadium spectator areas."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Helen Steel Demolishes “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, link): "Last week’s preliminary hearing of the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing was concerned with issues of disclosure and secrecy.

Helen Steel is a lifelong activist and no stranger to the Royal Courts of Justice. She has just finished a four-year legal case against the police after she discovered her former partner John Barker was in fact undercover police officer John Dines. It was a fight characterised by Metropolitan police attempts to use any tactic to obstruct accountability and justice. At the end the Met conceded “these legal proceedings have been painful, distressing and intrusive and added to the damage and distress”.

The same Met lawyers are now wheeling out the same tactics for the Pitchford inquiry, claiming they can’t talk about officers as there is a long-standing policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’. Helen Steel told last week’s hearing there is no such thing. Clear, comprehensive and authoritative, her speech ended with a round of applause from the court."

USA: Mass surveillance silences minority opinions, according to study (The Washington Post, link): "A new study shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. The research offers a sobering look at the oft-touted "democratizing" effect of social media and Internet access that bolsters minority opinion.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, studied the effects of subtle reminders of mass surveillance on its subjects. The majority of participants reacted by suppressing opinions that they perceived to be in the minority. This research illustrates the silencing effect of participants’ dissenting opinions in the wake of widespread knowledge of government surveillance, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013."


News Digest (21.3.16)

BELGIUM: Abdeslam's arrest raises terror fears (EUobserver, link): "The arrest of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels on Friday (18 March) has raised new concerns about the extent and readiness to act of jihadist networks in Europe.

Belgium has maintained a level-three alert, the second highest, and France has reinforced checks at its border with Belgium.

"We fear that Abdeslam's arrest activates other terrorists cells," Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon told Bel RTL radio on Monday morning." And background: Terrorism frames EU-Turkey summit on migration (EUobserver, link)

EU: Albrecht: We want digitalization and automation, if privacy is built in by design (Deutsche Welle, link): "No one wants to turn back the clocks of our technological development, says German Greens MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht. But privacy and data protection need to be built into the Internet of Things by design."

EU: Greece and Four Other EU Countries May Lose Visa-free Travel to the US (GTP, link): "The US Department of Homeland Security has given Greece and four other EU countries until the end of the month to act and meet new strict criteria or risk losing visa-free travel rights, Greek daily Kathimerini reported on Monday.

The visa exemption program allows citizens of 38 countries access to the United States for tourism or business without a visa.

The US Department of Homeland Security after an increase in the number of forged and stolen passports, which it says could facilitate the movement of terrorists. The number of illicit documents has doubled in the past six years.

France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Greece were initially given a February 1 deadline to fix “crucial loopholes” or lose access to the U.S. visa waiver program. The deadline was then extended to the end of March."

NETHERLANDS: Leaked papers 'compromise' Wilders' right to fair trial (EUobserver, link): "The second trial against Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders commenced on Friday (18 March) in Amsterdam with a dramatic call for an investigation into leaked documents.

Dutch newspaper AD had announced on Thursday night it would publish excerpts of documents from Wilders' legal team that contained their legal strategy.

“Apparently someone has gained access to these documents,” said Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops. He called the leak an “attack on this trial” and said it was a “breach of the right to a fair trial”. He said his legal team was now unsure if their lawyer-client communication can be conducted confidentially."

UK: Gove pledges action on youth custody safety (Children & Young People Now, link): "Appearing before the justice select committee, Gove said he has been working with Charlie Taylor, who is currently conducting a review of the youth justice system, and Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, to address issues in the youth secure estate.

"[We are] making sure we have the additional investment, specifically in the youth estate in order to deal with some of these problems," Gove said."

UK: My two year stint inside Yarl's Wood (Bedfordshire on Sunday, link): "LAST year Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre burst into headline news after Channel 4 released footage of guards' aggressive behaviour.

Over the last twelve months whispers of life inside the controversial immigration centre have spilled into newspaper stories and human rights reports - but who are the women living at Yarl's Wood?

Over the next few weeks, I will be telling their stories.

Mabel Gawanas first arrived in Yarl's Wood in May 2014. Few immigration detention cases are straightforward but Mabel's file is a mess."

UK: National outcry as NUS Scotland officer detained, scheduled for deportation (The Student Newspaper, link): "A newly-elected National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland officer has been detained, separated from his children, and scheduled for deportation over an apparent procedural issue with his asylum status, the NUS has said, sparking outcry across the country and capturing the attention of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Lord Elias Mensah Apetsi, a Master’s student at Strathclyde University recently elected to NUS Asylum and Refugee Officer, was detained by the Home Office twelve days ago after a technical failure with a routine monthly asylum checkin, according to the NUS.

The detention occurred after a Leave to Remain application was submitted past the deadline, the NUS said, in what the organisation called a “human error, not of Lord’s making”."

UK: Nearly 4,000 people referred to Government's anti-extremism scheme last year (The Independent, link): "Almost 4,000 people have been referred to the UK government’s counter-terrorism scheme last year, including children under nine, new figures have revealed.

The rise in the number of referrals to the flagship Channel programme comes after the Government gave prisons, NHS Trusts and Schools a statutory duty to tackle extremism.

In 2015, 3,955 people were reported to Channel - up from 1,681 in 2014."

UK-USA: Pentagon to open major £200m intelligence centre in Britain (The Independent, link): "The Pentagon will announce a major new £200m intelligence centre in Britain this week, which would act as the headquarters for all US military data in Europe and Africa, according to US media reports.

Known as the Joint Intelligence Analysis Centre, the facility will be located at the RAF Croughton, a US Air Force base near Milton Keynes, which already processes about a third of US military communications in Europe.

The proposed ultra-secure data centre would be the US headquarters for European and African military communications, employing up to 1,250 staff analysing intelligence from more than 50 countries. It is due to be completed next year."


News Digest (18.3.16)

GERMANY: Kindergartens banned from serving pork, German Sharia Law and churches turned into mosques; the 'pack of lies' spread by 'racist' Pegida, says defector (Daily Mail, link): "A Pegida defector claims the far-Right extremists spread ‘a pack of lies’ about migrants coming into the country to suit their ‘racist’ anti-immigration agenda.

Rene Jahn says the anti-immigration neo-Nazis ‘whip up’ Islamophobia by spreading ‘xenophobic’ falsehoods about the million refugees that have flooded into the country.

Whistleblower Jahn says lies like German kindergartens being banned from serving pork, Sharia Law being imposed, migrant sex assaults and stories of refugees breaking into a petting zoo and eating a goat all come from Pegida."

Italy Reveals Military Meeting on Libya…UK Denies Sending Troops (Asharq al-Awsat, link): "Military leaders from 30 countries attended a meeting in Rome on Tuesday to discuss initiatives regarding the situation in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Paulo Gentiloni said.

The purpose of the meeting, held at Rome’s Centocelle military airport, was to prepare for the establishment of a joint force to develop stability in Libya, Italian television said without giving further details. Gentiloni stressed that the development of plans does not mean intervention."

NETHERLANDS: Reflections on Dutch Border Practices (Border Criminologies, link): "Post by Vanessa Barker, Docent and Associate Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University. This post is the final installment of Border Criminologies’ themed series on Decision-making in the Dutch Borderlands organised by Maartje van der Woude."

UK: 29 years on and still no answers on Daniel Morgan murder (South Wales Argus, link): " TODAY [10 March 2016] marks the 29th anniversary of the murder of Cwmbran private detective Daniel Morgan – but the truth of how he met his death still remains a mystery.

The 37-year-old had allegedly been investigating claims of corruption within the Metropolitan Police when his body was found in the car park of a south London pub with an axe lodged in his head on March 10, 1987.

Almost three decades on the crime remains unsolved despite a series of police inquiries and a tireless campaign by the family of the father-of-two to reach the truth. It has been claimed the same alleged corruption Mr Morgan was investigating when he died has prevented his killer from being brought to justice. "

UK: I wish I'd never decided to work in an immigration detention centre (politics.co.uk, link): "Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I knew what it was like to work in an immigration removal centre (IRC) before I accepted the position, would I still have come?

My background is in prisons. That's the same for most of the staff. Prisons are horrible. It's a hundred miles an hour from the minute you report for duty until your shift ends. But in the prison service, we're at least trained to a very high standard in all kinds of things, from control and restraint to restorative justice.

Removal centres are completely different. The main reason? The people we look after aren't criminals."

UK: Police Federation investigated over fraud allegations (BBC News, link): "Detectives have begun an investigation into allegations of fraud involving the Police Federation of England and Wales.

Federation officials said they asked Surrey Police to investigate after identifying what they described as "potential fraudulent activity".

As the news emerged, the federation - which represents most police officers - separately confirmed that its vice-chairman, Will Riches, had resigned.

No reason has been given for Mr Riches' resignation. No one has been arrested. "

UK: Public inquiry ordered into police killing of Anthony Grainger (The Guardian, link): "A public inquiry has been ordered into the death of a man shot by police.

The home secretary, Theresa May, announced that the inquest into the 2012 killing of Anthony Grainger would be converted into a statutory inquiry led by a judge with greater investigative powers.

Grainger, 36, from Bolton, was unarmed when he was shot by a Greater Manchester police marksman during an operation in Culcheth, Cheshire."

USA: A Government Error Just Revealed Snowden Was the Target in the Lavabit Case (Wired, link): "It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets for years: the identity of the person the government was investigating in 2013 when it served the secure email firm Lavabit with a court order demanding help spying on a particular customer."


News Digest (17.3.16)

BELGIUM: Radicalisation in Molenbeek: 'People call me the mother of a terrorist' (The Guardian, link): "As anti-terror police raid a Belgian apartment, families in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek say they are unable to stop their children joining extremist groups such as Isis and that authorities must do more"

EU: DiEM25 and the search for a European demos (Open Democracy, link): "A successful Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) needs to redefine European citizenship by leading and shaping debates on the place of the individual in today’s European society."

IRELAND: Journalists ‘at risk’ after gardai seek photos (The Times, link): "Press photographers’ lives are being endangered by an increasing number of attempts by gardai to use images taken at protests for evidence, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.

Concern about the trend has led the NUJ to call for gardai to rely on their own resources to obtain photographic evidence.

Seamus Dooley, the union’s Irish secretary, said that he was alarmed by the growing tendency of gardai to regard photographers and journalists as “collecting agents”, given that there was established case law set down by the European and Irish courts on the issue."

NETHERLANDS: Rising Islamophobia reported in the Netherlands (New Europe, link): "A third of the mosques in the Netherlands have experienced at least one incident of vandalism, threatening letters, attempted arson, the placement of a pig’s head, or other aggressive actions in the past 10 years, according to research by Ineke van der Valk, an author and researcher at the University of Amsterdam."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Those living near peace lines more likely to have poor mental health (Queen's University Belfast): "People living close to peace lines in Northern Ireland have worse mental health than the rest of the population, according to researchers at Queen's University Belfast.

The study conducted by researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen's, indicates that living in an area in close proximity to a segregation barrier, or peace line, increases a person’s likelihood of being on antidepressant medication by 19 per cent and on anxiolytic medication, which inhibits anxiety, by 39 percent."

UK: No one left behind: partial progress on detention campaigning, but not for all (Right to Remain, link): "Last night, in the Immigration Bill debate in the House of Lords, peers voted by 187 to 170 in favour of Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment on immigration detention.

If the amendment survives the House of Commons (where the Immigration Bill will go to next), it would mean improved judicial oversight for some people in detention, or who may be detained in the future."

UK: Six people arrested after protesters disrupt 'arms fair' in Cardiff (Wales Online, link): "Six people were arrested at a protest outside a defence industry event at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on Wednesday.

A 51-year-old man from Pontypool and two women - a 25-year-old from Cardiff and a 54-year-old from Newport were arrested for public order offences.

A 32-year-old woman from Swansea was arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and criminal damage, a 26-year-old man from Carmarthenshire was arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and a 41-year-old man from Bristol was been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, South Wales Police said."

UK: Southampton University bans “controversial” Israel conference again (Electronic Intifada, link): "Southampton University has for the second year running banned an academic conference expected to include critical views of Israel, organizers say.

In a letter to the university’s lawyers seen by The Electronic Intifada, lawyers acting for Southampton academics Suleiman Sharkh and Oren Ben-Dor told the university of their intent to challenge the latest ban in court."

UK-NATO: Ministry of Defence military exercise will feature 'killer robots' (The Guardian, link): "The Ministry of Defence is organising its first-ever “Robo-Wars” exercise this autumn, using drones, seacraft and a host of other innovations as part of the growing trend towards reducing the role of humans in combat.

The large-scale event off the west coast of Scotland will form part of the regular UK-led Nato Joint Warriors exercise.

The navy, on its website, is billing the robotic part as “Unmanned Warrior 2016”, and says: “Recognising a commitment to innovation, the Royal Navy will host a large-scale demonstration in a tactically representative environment of maritime autonomous systems in the autumn of 2016.”"

USA: ‘Chilling Effect’ of Mass Surveillance Is Silencing Dissent Online, Study Says (Motherboard, link): "Thanks largely to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, most Americans now realize that the intelligence community monitors and archives all sorts of online behaviors of both foreign nationals and US citizens.

But did you know that the very fact that you know this could have subliminally stopped you from speaking out online on issues you care about?

Now research suggests that widespread awareness of such mass surveillance could undermine democracy by making citizens fearful of voicing dissenting opinions in public."


News Digest (14.3.16)

EU: A data dozen to prepare for reform (ICO, link): "Manchester becomes the capital of UK data protection this week, with 800 data protection practitioners heading to our conference in the city. And for the delegates heading to the north-west, top of the agenda will be considering the impending implementation of the data protection reforms agreed last December. The reforms encompass the General Data Protection Regulation, which will have direct effect, and a new Directive on data protection related to law enforcement.

The last pieces of work to finalise the texts continue apace, focused on translation and final legal checks. Once that happens, we’ll see final political agreement, hopefully around July and then a two year transition period to accustom ourselves to the new way of doing things."

EU: Fair Trials to launch new report on defence rights in Europe (Fair Trials, link): "Wonder why defence rights are still an issue for human rights defenders in 2016’s Europe? Discover what is at stake in the latest report of the Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP), Defence Rights in Europe: The Road Ahead.

The publication will be launched at a roundtable hosted by Fair Trials, together with MEP Nathalie Griesbeck at the European Parliament on 16th March. The event will gather MEPs, lawyers, academics and representatives of the European civil society to discuss challenges ahead for the defence of procedural rights across the Union, and build on the progress we’ve made so far."

MEDITERRANEAN: The Meaning of Russia’s Naval Deployments in the Mediterranean (Eurasia Daily Monitor, link): "Russian ships equipped with the advanced sea-launched Kalibr cruise missile will now be perpetually present in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Moscow’s naval operations connected to the mission in Syria. This is according to Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) (RIA Novosti, February 19)."

POLAND: Life not too rosy in Polish jails (Radio Poland, link): "The country’s Prison Service says that 71,633 people are being held in Polish jails, which have a total capacity of 83,491.

"Although the situation has improved considerably in recent years when it comes to the population of penitentiary units, the minimum area of a residential cell in Polish jails is still barely three square metres per prisoner," said Dr. Ewa Dawidziuk of the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights.

That figure, she said, is among the lowest in the European Union."

And see: 2014 statistics for all Council of Europe states in: Prison capital: UK locks up more people than any other EU member state (Statewatch News Online)

UK regulator to scrutinise impact of financial crime rules on access to payment systems (Out-Law.com, link): "The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has said it will monitor ongoing reviews of financial crime regulations to see whether it helps to address its concerns about barriers to the indirect accessing of payment systems."

UK: Bar warns against online ‘lawyerless’ court plan (Law Society Gazette, link): "Proposals to introduce an online court mark a ‘fundamental departure’ from the adversarial system of justice, which could have ‘major implications’ for the judiciary and training at the bar, the Bar Council has warned.

Responding to an interim report from Lord Justice Briggs on the structure of civil courts, the bar said the proposals could lead to the departure of talented advocates to other areas of practice or from the bar altogether."

UK: Immigration Bill Latest: Government suffers two defeats in Lords (Migrants' Rights Network, link): "The government has twice been defeated in the Lords over its Immigration Bill. Peers voted to allow asylum seekers the right to work if their claims have not been processed within six months.

They also voted to allow overseas domestic workers to change employers without risking immediate deportation. This defeat for the government will give domestic workers the right to change their employer once in the UK and to remain in the country for up to two years after doing so."

UK: Ministry of Justice orders an urgent probe into former civil servants helping private firms to win multi-million-pound contracts (Mail Online, link): "The Ministry of Justice has started an urgent inquiry after The Mail on Sunday uncovered evidence that ex-civil servants were boasting of Government connections while working for private firms to secure multi-million-pound contracts in Britain and abroad.

This newspaper found several senior MoJ officials recently left Whitehall to take up jobs with a consultancy.

In the months before they departed, the consultancy’s UK branch had helped secure contracts worth more than £600 million for a controversial US firm to run probation services across swathes of the South East, and a Northamptonshire young offenders’ unit."

UK: The real impact of the legal aid cuts (New Statesman, link): "One morning in January 2014, Gloria Jackson was returning from the supermarket with her groceries when she saw five policemen standing near the door of her home in London. When she tried to pass and go inside, the officers told her that she was under arrest. Jackson, a 57-year-old NHS psychiatric nurse who worked with dementia patients, was searched in the street as her neighbours looked on, locked in the back of a police van and driven away."

USA: How new FBI powers to look through NSA intercepts will exacerbate mass incarceration (ACLU of Massachusetts, link): "The wall separating “foreign” intelligence operations from domestic criminal investigations has finally, fully collapsed. The FBI now plans to act on a rule change initiated by the Bush administration and finally massaged into actionable policy by Obama: Soon, domestic law enforcement agencies like the FBI will be able to search through communications collected under the mysterious authority of executive order 12333. Now, FBI agents can query the NSA’s database of Americans’ international communications, collected without warrants pursuant to Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. That law put congress’ stamp of approval on the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was widely denounced as totalitarian when the New York Times‘ James Risen exposed it to the world in 2005."

USA: The Next Front in the New Crypto Wars: WhatsApp (Electronic Frontier Foundation, link): "In Saturday’s edition of the New York Times, Matt Apuzzo reports that the Department of Justice is locked in a “prolonged standoff” with WhatsApp. The government is frustrated by its lack of real-time access to messages protected by the company’s end-to-end encryption. The story may represent a disturbing preview of the next front in the FBI’s war against encryption."


News Digest (11.3.16)

Belgian watchdog cites intelligence failures ahead of Paris attacks (France 24, link): "Belgium's police watchdog has identified several "deficiencies and weaknesses" in the way authorities handled information on the Paris attackers before they unleashed carnage on the French capital, Belgian media reported Monday.

Some of the Paris attackers and alleged accomplices came from the troubled Brussels' neighbourhood of Molenbeek, and Belgium has rejected French criticism of alleged failings by its intelligence services before the attacks in which 130 people died.

RTBF cited as one "glaring example" of intelligence failings the fact that "even before the Paris attacks, a nom de guerre used by one of the terrorists featured in several (police) databases in Belgium, but not in the central database"."

EU: New EU directive on the rights of minors on trial (New Europe, link): "Minors who are suspected or accused of a crime will have the right to a fair trial, assistance of a lawyer and be accompanied by parent or guardian through the proceedings. This is based on new rules approved by the European Parliament on March 9.

According to a European Parliament press release, the text presents a catalogue of rights and guarantees as a common European model of fair trials for children under the age of 18. Caterina Chinnici (S&D, IT), who steered the legislation through parliament, said the goal is to strike a balance between the need to ascertain responsibility for crime and the need to take due account of minors’ vulnerability and specific needs."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Riot fears as loyalists given go-ahead for huge Easter Monday march in Lurgan (Belfast Telegraph, link): "Fears are growing of major disorder after a massive loyalist parade through Lurgan was given the go-ahead, although with a key restriction imposed.

The Belfast Telegraph understands the Parades Commission has approved an application for an Apprentice Boys of Derry march on Easter Monday.

However, it will not be permitted to go through republican areas close to Shankill Parish Church.

Up to 3,600 participants and 61 bands are expected to pass through the town.

The timing of the parade is particularly sensitive as it falls around the weekend when republicans are set to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising."

Polish Government Preparing to Contest Rights Report (ABC News, link): " Poland will challenge the findings of an international human rights commission which is expected to deliver a scathing assessment of democratic backsliding in the European Union's largest ex-communist member state, the foreign minister said Thursday.

Witold Waszczykowski said the government plans to dispute the findings of the Venice Commission, an arm of the Council of Europe human rights group. The commission is scheduled to deliver its report on Friday in Venice."

SWEDEN: Isolated before trial: Pre-trial detention in Sweden (Fair Trials International, link): "This article, jointly written by Teresa Barrio Traspaderne, our Campaigns and Communications Intern, and Daniel Roos, a Swedish criminal lawyer and a member of Fair Trials’ Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP), explores the practice of pre-trial detention in Sweden, and why it has been subject to harsh criticism from international human rights bodies."

TURKEY: Erdogan, prince of Europe, took my newspaper Zaman (EUobserver, link): "When European Council president Donald Tusk was in Ankara and tweeting how his meetings with president Erdogan and prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu were fruitful, the news that an Istanbul court had taken the decision to confiscate Zaman was already circulating the newsrooms. The violent takeover happened when commissioner Johannes Hahn, responsible for accession talks with Turkey, was still in the country.

It is as if Erdogan wanted to teach a lesson to European leaders. The seizure comes just before the second Turkey-EU summit in four months like a slap in the face of European values."

UK: Reducing prison population only way to reduce ‘shameful’ death rates, urge campaigners (Prison Watch UK, link): "Same mistakes being made across policing and prison system, Inquest director says "

UK: Stop Government plans to snoop on your internet history (38 Degrees, link): "No other Government in the world has these kinds of intrusive powers. And they don’t need them. We need to ask why the British police need to access our web history when police forces around the world don’t do this.

Some people say ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’. But we should all be worried about our sensitive personal information being collected and analysed. Companies like Talk Talk have been hacked before, and the sensitive data that all our ISPs will now be expected to keep about us will be very valuable to cyber-criminals.

The Government have tried to push through new snooping powers before and a public backlash stopped them in their tracks. Now we need to come together again and demand Theresa May removes Internet Connection Records from the Bill."

UK: Theresa May wins right to deport failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan after judges remove court injunction (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, link): "Home Secretary Theresa May today won a significant legal battle to resume deportations of failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan after the Court of Appeal overturned an injunction imposed last year amid concerns the country was too dangerous.

The ruling could now see hundreds of failed asylum seekers, including those who arrived in Britain as unaccompanied children years ago, returned on special charter flights from London."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Evidence spycop John Dines worked at heart of Australia’s intelligence-gathering community (UndercoverInfo, link): "A document (see below) shows that for several years UK spycop John Dines worked at the heart of Australia’s intelligence-gathering community (including undercover ops). The man who infiltrated protest groups in the UK and who abused a woman over two years by concealing his true identity has also received an award by the Charles Sturt University in Australia for ‘Professional Excellence’. Dines hoped to escape the London-based inquiry into undercover policing, but last Sunday was spectacularly outed by Helen Steel, an activist with London Greenpeace and the woman whose life he abused, when she confronted him at Sydney airport as he was waiting to greet a contingent of police officers from India, who he is training as part of the course he runs at the University. The university’s executive dean of the faculty of arts, Professor Tracey Green, stated that Dines works only in an ‘administrative capacity’, but another document, referred to below, shows Dines playing a far more active role that merely ‘administrative’… "

UN: China Blasts U.S. 'Rape and Murder' at U.N. Human Rights Council (New York Times, link): "GENEVA — China strongly rejected U.S.-led criticism of its human rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday, saying the United States was hypocritical and guilty of crimes including the rape and murder of civilians.

"The U.S. is notorious for prison abuse at Guantanamo prison, its gun violence is rampant, racism is its deep-rooted malaise," Chinese diplomat Fu Cong told the Council, using unusually blunt language.

"The United States conducts large-scale extra-territorial eavesdropping, uses drones to attack other countries' innocent civilians, its troops on foreign soil commit rape and murder of local people. It conducts kidnapping overseas and uses black prisons.""

USA: Veil of secrecy lifted on Pentagon office planning ‘Avatar’ fighters and drone swarms (Washington Post, link): "High over Alaska last summer, the Pentagon experimented with new, secret prototypes: Micro-drones that can be launched from the flare dispensers of moving F-16s and F/A-18 fighter jets. Canisters containing the tiny aircraft descended from the jets on parachutes before breaking open, allowing wings on each drone to swing out and catch the wind. Inch-wide propellers on the back provided propulsion as they found one another and created a swarm.

The experiment was run by the secretive Strategic Capabilities Office, a Pentagon organization launched in summer 2012 to figure out how to best counter growing strategic threats from China and Russia. The specifics of what the mini-drones can do are classified, but they could be used to confuse enemy forces and carry out surveillance missions using equipment that costs much less than full-sized unmanned aircraft. Video reviewed by The Washington Post shows the tiny aircraft, which weigh about a pound each, moving in packs and gaining situational awareness after sitting inert in the flare canisters."


News Digest (9.3.16)

SCOTLAND: Police Scotland detective accuses deputy chief constable of "misconduct" in spy scandal (Herald Scotland, link): "A top murder detective has accused one of his deputy chief constables of "misconduct" in the scandal of Police Scotland illegally spying on journalists’ sources.

David Moran, who was unlawfully targeted by the single force, has come forward to claim that DCC Neil Richardson may have “made up” some of the “outrageous” evidence he gave to a Holyrood committee."

UK government security fair 'promotes military solution to refugee crisis' (Middle East Eye link): "The UK government is hosting an invite-only international "security" fair that will help arms companies profit from the militarisation of European borders, experts say, as the EU attempts to control hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in the Middle East.

The three-day, Home Office-organised Security and Policing 2016 fair, which started on Monday near a military base in Farnborough, features more than 350 companies including weapons manufacturers BAE, Airbus and Heckler & Koch selling to EU and foreign governments."

UK: Anti-fracking activists in battle of nerves with Surrey Police (Netpol, link): "Opponents of the early stages of flow-testing for a potential fracking site near Horley in Surrey accuse police of deliberately disrupting their right to lawfully protest."

UK: Discriminating against Gypsies and Travellers is 'common across Britain', report finds (The Independent, link): "Discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers by the public, the police and other authorities is “common across Britain”, according to a damning report by the UK’s human rights watchdog which warns the groups are among several being “locked out” by society."

UK: IPCC refers Leon Briggs investigation to the CPS (IPCC, link): "The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has concluded its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Leon Briggs, and has referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a decision on whether criminal charges should be brought against any individual."


February 2016

News Digest (22.2.16)

Bulgarian premier: Greece is not a functioning state (EurActiv, link): "Exasperated by the continued blockade of his country by Greek farmers, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said at the EU summit yesterday (18 February) that Greece was not a functioning state.

Greek farmers protesting the pension report of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have been blocking Bulgaria’s border with Greece for several weeks now."

EU: 5,000 jihadists could be at large in Europe (New Europe, link): "Up to 5,000 EU citizens, trained in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State (IS), have returned in Europe, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said in an interview with Germany’s Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung newspaper.

On 20 February, Wainwright told the German daily that “Europe is currently facing the highest terror threat in more than 10 years.” He said that the EU Member States can expect by the so-called Islamic State (IS) or other religious terror groups to stage an attack somewhere in Europe “with the aim of achieving mass casualties among the civilian population.” Wainwright added that the estimated thousands of returned jihadists “presents EU member states with completely new challenges.”"

EU: Fundamental Rights Forum: connect.reflect.act (EU Fundamental Rights Agency, link): "People from all walks of life will come together in FRA’s inclusive, innovative and forward-looking Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna from 20-23 June 2016 under the banner of Rights, Respect, Reality: the Europe of Values in Today’s World. "

EU: Hearing on respect for fundamental rights and rule of law (European Parliament, link): "Fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law in EU will be at the core of a hearing hosted by civil liberties and constitutional affairs' committees on Monday afternoon, at 16:30. Invited guests are senior lawyers from the EU Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and from Belgium, Hungary and Poland."

UK-EU: Scotland would be better off as an 'independent' EU member, Nicola Sturgeon says (The Telegraph, link): "Scotland would be better off as an “independent” member of the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon has suggested.

The Scottish First Minister said that the EU is “not a perfect institution” but that it “it is better for us in all circumstances to stay in”.

Repeating her calls for Scottish independence, she said that she believes her country would be best served as an “independent member state” of the bloc."

UK: The Tory Trade Union Bill breaches international law (Morning Star, link): "The International Labour Organisation has taken the government to task over its vicious plans to curb the trade union movement – but CAROLYN JONES doubts whether courtroom decisions will be enough to stop the Tories in their tracks"


News Digest (15.2.16)

EU: Bosnia applies for EU membership, hoping to make up ground (AP, link): "Bosnia handed in its application for EU membership Monday, hoping to catch up with its neighbors on the EU path but confronting the reality that many in the country have grown tired of waiting for jobs and prosperity and are already voting with their feet"

EU: Missing Children in EU: what we need to know (The European Post, link): "250,000 children are reported missing every year in the European Union, 1 child every 2 minutes – European Commission."

FRANCE: Access to Connection Data: French Council of State Flees EU Debate (La Qudrature du Net, link): "The French Council of State has released an eagerly awaited decision (fr) on the validity of administrative access to connection data. La Quadrature du Net, French Data Network and the FDN Federation have been calling into question the Military Programmation Law (LPM) and its application decree that enables the administration to access connection data without requiring any judicial control. By refusing to repeal the decree and to transmit the question to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling, the Council of State avoids any judicial debate and isolates French vis-à-vis EU case law."

Greece on high alert after Britons arrested for arms trafficking (The Guardian, link): "The arrest in north-east Greece of three British men with a mammoth cache of arms and ammunition has heightened fears of Europe’s weakest link becoming a major route for the trafficking of weapons bound for Syria and Turkey.

On Sunday, counter-terrorism officials were investigating three men – all Iraqi Kurds with British passports – seized in two separate operations near the Greek-Turkish frontier. They were found in possession of 22 firearms and more than 200,000 rounds of ammunition."

NETHERLANDS: Reinventing democracy as an expression of freedom (ROAR, link): "The sixth New World Summit brought together activists, academics and artists from across the globe to discuss the idea and practice of stateless democracy."

Poland moves to strip leading Holocaust historian of national accolade (i24, link): "Poland's national government has moved to strip a leading Jewish-American scholar of a national accolade for asserting that Poland was complicit in Nazi war crimes against the Jewish population during the Holocaust, the Guardian reported on Sunday.

Polish-born Jan Tomasz Gross, a Princeton University history professor, was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1996 for his work documenting the plight of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland."

UK child prisons: thousands of injuries not disclosed by government (The Guardian, link): "Thousands more children have been injured in custody through the use of controversial restraint techniques than the government had previously disclosed, new statistics show. This has prompted accusations that the true scale of harm in privately run jails has been suppressed. Figures reveal that the number of injuries to children caused by the use of restraint is more than three times higher than the total previously stated by the Youth Justice Board (YJB)."

UK: Early guilty pleas: Justice for whom? (UK Human Rights Blog, link): "New guidelines incentivising people accused of criminal offences in England and Wales to plead guilty as early as possible were proposed last week. While existing rules allow for a maximum one-third reduction in the sentence to those who plead guilty at the ‘first reasonable opportunity’, this benefit is now only available to those who plead guilty at their very first court hearing, with the available reduction falling on a steeper sliding scale thereafter."

UK: Fifth of GCHQ intelligence comes from hacking (The Telegraph, link): "In submissions to the hearing, it emerged that in 2013 around 20 per cent of GCHQ’s intelligence reports contained information derived from hacking.

The tactic, also known as computer network exploitation, allows authorities to interfere with electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs in order to obtain data.

Operations can range from using a target's login credentials to gain access to information held on a computer to more sophisticated tactics such as remotely installing a piece of software in order to obtain the desired intelligence and covertly downloading the contents of a mobile phone."

UK: Kidnapped British father spends 600th day in illegal detention (Reprieve, link): "A British father of three who was kidnapped to Ethiopia in 2014 will today spend his 600th day in detention.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, from London, has been detained by Ethiopian forces since 23rd June 2014, when he was seized at an airport in Yemen and forcibly taken to Ethiopia. He is held under a sentence of death handed down in absentia in 2009, in relation to his activities with an Ethiopian opposition group. The Ethiopian authorities have refused to allow Mr Tsege to see or talk to his British family, and have denied his requests to see a lawyer."

UK: Lincolnshire police SUSPENDED for misusing stop and search (Lincolnshire Echo, link): "Lincolnshire Police has been suspended from a voluntary scheme after misusing the way it stops and searches people.

The force is one of 13 police divisions in England and Wales which has been suspended from the Best Use of Stop and Search with immediate effect.

Lincolnshire officers failed to comply with three or more of the scheme's requirements."

UK: Luqman Onikosi: Nigerian student urges Government not to deport him ‘back to death sentence’ (The Independent, link): "A student who faces deportation, despite suffering from ill health, is urging the Government to see him as “an equal human being” as he insists the Home Office will be sending him “back to a death sentence” in his home country."

UK: Police commissioners have no part to play in the running of schools (politics.co.uk, link): " Many people don't know it – and possibly even fewer care – but in three months, the second cohort of police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will have been elected. The first elections in November 2012 attracted a turnout of just 15% – the lowest ever at a peacetime non-local government election in the UK.

Which is perhaps why the home secretary’s recent speech about the future of PCCs scarcely made a ripple – despite unveiling a catalogue of new powers so absurd they wouldn't look out of place in The Thick of It."

UK: Revealed: Britain’s National Crime Agency Helped Thai Police Put Two Men On Death Row (Buzzfeed, link): "The National Crime Agency secretly assisted the Royal Thai Police with a controversial murder investigation that put two Burmese migrants on death row despite government rules designed to stop British law enforcement contributing to capital punishment convictions overseas."

UK: Tory socks in a twist over charities (Morning Star, link): "As a government minister calls charities that speak out ‘sock puppets,’ SOLOMON HUGHES looks at the interdependency of the two and the wider political implications for a sector with a total income of £37.9 billion"

USA: Drones do ‘lower threshold for use of lethal force’ academic study finds (Drone Wars UK, link): "In essence it is argued that averse public reaction to the death of military forces deployed overseas is a real restraint on political leaders weighing up the option of whether to launch military intervention. Take away that potential political cost by using unmanned systems such as drones and it becomes much easier for political leaders to opt for ‘clean and quick’ use of military force rather than the slow and often difficult political and diplomatic options. While we and others have been making this argument for some time, an important new study by two US academics published in a US military journal sheds new light on the subject.

In ‘The Ethics of Drone Strikes: Does Reducing the Cost of Conflict Encourage War?’ James Walsh and Marcus Schulzke report on their empirical study into how public attitudes towards the use of armed force change when unmanned drones are used in comparison to the deployment of other types of force."

Why ISIS Propaganda Works (The Atlantic, link): "In January, the State Department restructured its own counterpropaganda apparatus, creating a “Global Engagement Center” to “more effectively coordinate, integrate and synchronize messaging to foreign audiences that undermines the disinformation espoused by violent extremist groups, including ISIL and al-Qaeda.” However, even in this new guise—which, while it marks an important push in the right direction, risks being too centralized within national governments at the same time that it lacks the requisite level of coordination among different countries—the coalition’s information operations are facing an almost insurmountable challenge. Such a state of affairs is untenable. To ameliorate it, a new communications architecture is required, based on three pillars: global strategic direction, local delivery, and a broader, more accurate understanding of how and why the Islamic State appeals."


News Digest (12.2.16)

EU: Getting the details right: how Parliament scrutinises how legislation is implemented (press release, pdf): "As co-legislator, the European Parliament is fully involved in setting up general rules and making policy choices in areas as diverse as food safety, data protection and the fight against terrorism. How these rules are then put into practice also matters, as technical requirements can make a big difference to Europeans' everyday lives. That is why MEPs are focussing more and more on the delegated and implementing acts that set out how adopted legislation should be carried out."

GERMANY: Are Germans right to fear limit on cash payments? (The Local, link): "The government has announced plans to set a €5,000 limit on payments in cash - provoking a furious reaction from politicians, media and public alike."

GUANTANAMO: Ex-Guantánamo Detainee Is Freed From Moroccan Prison (The New York Times, link): "A Moroccan judge on Thursday ordered the release of a former detainee at the Guantánamo Bay prison who had remained in custody for nearly five months despite diplomatic assurances that he would probably be freed shortly after his transfer to Morocco.

Though the former detainee, Younis Shokuri, walked free for the first time in 15 years, he still faces the possibility of criminal charges related to allegations that he was involved with a Moroccan Islamist group before his capture in 2001; he has denied the allegations."

Irish journalists threatened by Dublin crime gangs (The Guardian, link): "A number of Irish journalists have been warned about threats made against them by the Dublin crime gangs involved in the recent deadly violence in the Republic’s capital."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Belfast, 9 June: How Public Order Policing Works in Northern Ireland - Launch of Guide (CAJ, link): "The Committee on the Administration of Justice is publishing a guide to how public order policing should work in Northern Ireland. In common with all aspects of policing, the PSNI adopts a human rights approach in relation to planning, operations and accountability for public order situations. This guide goes through the relevant standards to create a coherent narrative which is designed to identify decision points and the mechanisms through which the police are accountable for their decisions and actions."

Spain loses major 20th-century historical archive (El País, link): "A treasure trove of over 2,700 documents shedding light on the wars of the 20th century is to end up at Harvard University’s Houghton Library after the Madrid foundation that owns it was unable to reach an agreement to keep it in Spain."

SPAIN: Puppeteers accused of glorifying terrorism turn in their passports (El País, link): "Two puppeteers who are facing charges of glorifying terrorism appeared before the Spanish High Court on Thursday to turn in their passports as part of their prison release conditions.

Raúl García, 34, and Alfonso Lázaro, 29, refused to answer questions from reporters as they arrived at the court accompanied by a group of friends."

The article notes that "they used their glove puppets to hold a placard that read “Gora-Alka-ETA,” or “Long live Al Qaeda-ETA"." This was part of the performance: a puppet police officer planted the placard on the dead body of another puppet, in order to frame him.

UK: Commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice overseen by Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling lost taxpayer over £1million (Epsom Gazette, link): " Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling oversaw a loss-making commercial venture as Justice Secretary which lost the British taxpayer more than £1million, an investigation has found.

Just Solutions (JSi) was established in 2012 by Mr Grayling’s predecessor, Ken Clarke, and remained in operation until it was recently wound up by current Justice Secretary, Michael Gove.

Mr Grayling declined to comment. "

UK: Freezing undocumented migrants out of NHS care could pose health risks say medics (Migrants' Rights Network, link): "Writing for the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a group of medics and researchers warn that government plans to extend charging for migrants into some NHS primary care services and emergency departments could make the NHS the most restrictive healthcare system in Europe for undocumented migrants."

UK: If the government wants to tackle racism in the justice system, ditch joint enterprise (IRR, link): "If the government seriously wants to tackle racism in the justice system – and they are genuinely concerned about the disproportionate number of black men locked up in British prisons – then they need to tackle joint enterprise as a matter of urgency."

UK: National Pupil Database engorged to 20 million individual kids' records (The Register, link): "The Department for Eduction has enlarged its mega database containing sensitive personal pupil information to nearly 20 million individual records, according to a Freedom of Information response.

The National Pupil Database contains a range of sensitive information dating from the year 2000, including name, postcode, ethnicity, records on absence, reasons for exclusion, types of disability, and whether the pupil is a recipient of free school meals."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: ‘How many more of us were tricked by police officers?’ (Hackney Gazette, link): "The activist deceived by undercover police spy Mark Jenner, who embarked on a five-year relationship with her while married with children, has warned hundreds of women may have been affected by the Met’s infiltration of left-wing political groups."

UK-USA: US drone operations centre to open in the UK? (Drone Wars UK, link): "In December 2015 the US announced plans to vastly expand its drone programme including increasing the number of drones to be purchased, doubling the number of drone operators and opening new drone bases.

According to a report in the LA Times, as part of these plans Pentagon officials are considering putting a drone operations centre at a USAF base in the UK – at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk."

USA: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz fail to understand that torture doesn’t work (The Guardian, link): "One of life’s enduring mysteries is how intent politicians seem to be on ignoring the lessons of history. One recent example involves torture. There was once a consensus that torture was immoral; even today, any sensible person knows torture is of little use if you want accurate information. Yet the current crop of Republican presidential candidates have been trying to outbid one another with promises of barbarism: Senator Ted Cruz confirmed that he favours simulated drowning, which he classifies as an “enhanced interrogation technique” (EIT) that falls short of torture. (The Spanish Inquisition was rather more honest, and called it tortura del agua.) “The Donald” immediately trumped his rival: he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”."


News Digest (8.2.16)

BALKANS: Kosovo, Bosnian Activists Demand End to Visas (Balkan Insight, link): "Activists from Bosnia and Kosovo meeting in Pristina on Friday issued a joint call to their governments to end the visa restrictions impeding relations between the two countries.

The conference in Pristina, part of the “Open Talks Initiative,” brought together journalists, academics, activists and artists to discuss economic, cultural and social ties – and the lack there of – between Bosnia and Kosovo.

“Many things are absurd in the Balkans but this is truly the stupidest!” Azem Vllasi, a lawyer and former President of Kosovo before the collapse of Yugoslavia, said."

HUNGARY: UN special rights rapporteur to visit Hungary (Politics.hu, link): "Michel Forst, United Nations special rapporteur, will visit Hungary next week to examine the situation regarding the protection of human rights in the country, the Hungarian office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told the daily Népszava. Forst will gather information over nine days on the difficulties faced by civil organisations and examine how the space for democracy can be expanded, the UN office told the paper. The rapporteur will pay particular attention to the protection of human rights in light of recent constitutional changes and mounting social fears relating to the refugee crisis."

NETHERLANDS: Dutch build new cells in prison terrorist units (Dutch News, link): "The Netherlands’ two high security prisons in Vught and Rotterdam are overflowing with terrorist and jihadi suspects and the number of cells is being expanded in secret, the AD said on Monday."

NETHERLANDS: Fewer human traffickers jailed, despite renewed crackdown (Dutch News, link): "Just 57 people were jailed for human trafficking last year, the lowest total in 10 years, despite police and justice ministry efforts to crack down on the practice, the AD said on Monday.

In 2005 more than 200 people were sent to jail for trafficking and human smuggling, but by 2014 this had gone down to 60.

Courts are also imposing shorter sentences. Last year four people were sent to jail for longer than a year, compared with seven in 2014, the AD said. In total 90 cases involving human trafficking were taken to court in the Netherlands last year. This too is a drop on previous years."

SPAIN: Judge Jails Puppet Masters For Glorifying Terrorism And Inciting Hatred At Kiddies Play In Madrid (The Spain Report, link): "In an 8-page ruling, Judge Ismael Moreno Chamarro at the duty investigating court in Madrid ordered two puppet masters arrested on Friday to prison on remand, without bail, on charges of glorifying terrorism and inciting hatred."

UK: Data on EU migration would be too expensive to "collate", government says (National Institute of Economic and Social Research, link): "The government’s partial and selective release of some data on EU migrants and in-work benefits has been widely reported. What has been released is enough to make it still more obvious that the Prime Minister’s claim that 40 percent of recent migrants were “dependent on benefits” was, at best highly misleading."

UK: ‘Draconian’ new clause in government grant agreements bans charities from lobbying (civilsociety.co.uk, link): "The Cabinet Office has announced a new clause in grant agreements which will ban charities and other organisations from using government grants to lobby government and Parliament."

UK: Kafka 2016 (Craig Murray, link): "To my astonishment, the FCO Official Spokesman has just confirmed to me that the FCO stands by Phillip Hammond’s statement that the members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are lay persons, and not lawyers. Even though every single one of them is an extremely distinguished lawyer.

I confess I am utterly astonished. I know there is nothing more dull than an old buffer like me droning on about falling standards in public life. But when I was in the FCO, the vast majority of colleagues would have refused to advance what is a total and outright lie, about which it cannot be argued there is an area of interpretation, doubt or nuance."

UK: Peers cannot move to Foreign Office because of expensive bugging equipment (The Telegraph, link): "Expensive bugging equipment fitted inside the Foreign Office could prevent peers from being relocated there while parliament is refurbished.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had been eyed up as a potential temporary home while a multi-billion pound refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster is carried out."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Police facing call to publish list of their undercover spies (The Guardian, link): "More than a hundred individuals who will play a key role in the public inquiry into undercover policing have called for a list of police spies to be disclosed.

The 133 individuals are also calling for a list of political groups that were infiltrated by the police spies to be made public.

They have come together to send a collective letter to Lord Justice Pitchford, the judge who is heading the inquiry examining the infiltration of political organisations by undercover police units since 1968."

UK: Prisons which release most criminals who reoffend will be named and shamed, David Cameron pledges (The Telegraph, link): "Prisons that release most criminals who reoffend should be named and shamed in new league tables, the Prime Minister will pledge today as he criticises the “scandalous failure” of Britain’s jail system.

The new data drive would see tables published that measure each institutions’ reoffending levels as well as tracking how well a criminal is improving at reading and other basic skills."

UK: Sodexo is ruining probation centres, officers claim - 'There is no privacy' (The Independent, link): "The French outsourcing giant Sodexo has been attacked for turning probation centres into “McDonald’s” as part of its contract to reform the system.

Probation officers are dismayed that Sodexo has introduced open-plan interview rooms as part of the part-privatisation of the service. In 2014 the group was awarded six areas, known as “Community Rehabilitation Companies”, in which it has introduced booths for interviewing offenders in open-plan offices."

USA: The Pentagon Just Released 200 Long-Awaited Photos Related to Detainee Abuse (VICE News, link): "The Department of Defense (DOD) released 198 photographs on Friday from Army and Navy criminal investigative files related to allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first time the US government has ever disclosed such images."


News Digest (5.2.16)

BIOMETRICS: 4F allows the use of smartphone finger photos as a contactless fingerprint identification system to match with legacy databases (Biometric Update, link): "Developing an efficient and effective fingerprint biometric system has never been more essential. Preliminary findings demonstrate the capability of a new, proprietary fingerprint biometric system, 4FingerID (4FTM), to produce high quality matches against prints acquired using flatbed fingerprint scanners. The 4F technology requires only a smartphone’s rear-facing camera and its flash to capture multiple fingerprints simultaneously and, as such, opens the door to portable, cost-effective matching against existing legacy databases held, for example, by government bodies."

ESTONIA: One of Estonia’s most powerful agencies embroiled in scandals (BBN, link): "There is reason to be worried about SMIT, the information technology and development centre of Interior Ministry that is one of the most powerful and secretive government agencies and controls all national security IT systems, investigative TV programme Pealtnägija (Eyewitness) reported yesterday."

Fifth workshop on Data Protection in International Organisations (ICRC, link): "On 5 February 2016, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the ICRC will host the fifth workshop on data protection as part of good governance in international organisations at the ICRC Humanitarium, in Geneva."

France, Belgium step up security cooperation (EUobserver, link): "France and Belgium pledged on Monday (1 February) to reinforce their cooperation against Islamic terrorism and called for a "European security pact".

Meeting in Brussels, Belgian and French prime ministers Charles Michel and Manuel Valls also tried to diffuse tension between the two countries. Belgium was criticised after it emerged the authors of the November Paris attacks came from Brussels."

German police arrest suspected terrorists (EUobserver, link): "German police arrested a man in Berlin and a woman and a man near Cologne on Thursday (4 February) for what they believe may have been preparation for a terror attack in the German capital.

Police raids were also operated in Hannover. Two other men are still being hunted by security forces, which are expected to publish photos on Friday."

Germany and Netherlands sign defence agreement (EUobserver, link): "German soldiers will be able to use a Dutch warship under a cooperation agreement signed Thursday by the two countries' defence ministers. Under the agreement, still to be ratified, German commando units will be able to use the supply ship Karel Doorman, equipped to carry Leopard 2 tanks."

SWEDEN: Russian menace pushes Sweden towards Nato (BBC News, link): "In the middle of the Baltic Sea, a chilly east wind blows across a former Cold War frontier.

After more than 20 years of strategic irrelevance, and thanks to increasingly unpredictable Russian behaviour, Gotland is back in the spotlight.

It is the latest chapter in the island's long military history, and one returning soldier is thrilled."

UK: Early day motion in the House of Commons: MILITARY INTERVENTION IN LIBYA (Parliament, link): "That this House notes with concern the reports that the UK is preparing to provide weapons and support to tackle Daesh extremists in Libya; condemns reports that a team of RAF and intelligence personnel met recently in Tobruk to draw up potential targets for airstrikes in Libya; calls on the Secretary of State for Defence to make an urgent statement to the House on plans for military intervention in Libya; and urges the Government not to undertake any military action without the approval of the House."

May wants police commissioners to set up free schools for 'troubled children' (The Guardian, link): "Elected police and crime commissioners should be given the power to set up their own free schools to support “troubled children”, Theresa May has announced.

The move will be part of a major expansion of the powers of police and crime commissioners into the areas of youth justice, probation and court services to be proposed after their second set of elections take place in May."

UK: Modern slavery? The UK visa system and the exploitation of migrant domestic workers (LSE, link): "It might be hard to believe that a domestic worker – or anyone – is currently forced to sleep on a bathroom floor or is locked up in a house. Yet such experiences are very real for those who come to the UK on an overseas domestic worker visa, writes Virginia Mantouvalou. She explains how the current system – which provides a six-month, non-renewable right to stay – does not allow such workers to change employers. Those who run away due to appalling experiences are thus unable to find a new job and become undocumented. She writes that changing the visa system is the only way forward, if the UK is to treat everyone as human."

UK: Sarah Reed wrote to family 'she had been sexually assaulted' in hospital (The Guardian, link): "The prisoner on remand who died in her cell last month wrote to her family to say she had been sexually assaulted while receiving treatment at a secure mental health unit.

The Guardian has learned that Sarah Reed, 32, was charged with grievous bodily harm with intent over the incident in October after striking back at her alleged abuser. But rather than being released back into a secure hospital, she was held on remand at Holloway prison, north London, where she was found dead on 11 January.

UK: Six reasons you can't take the Litvinenko report seriously (The Guardian, link): "An inquiry into the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the heart of London in 2006 has concluded that he was “probably” murdered on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin. This is a troubling accusation."

UK-ECHR: Is the European Court of Human Rights buckling under Westminister pressure? (UK Human Rights Blog, link): "In the last four years there were some 80 judgments where the UK was the respondent and in about 40 of those cases one or more violations were found. This does not seem to be particularly (statistically) out of step with previous periods. However do the key cases suggest the widening of the margin of appreciation for the UK?"


News Digest (1.2.16)

ECHR: Romania: Convict’s tooth torment spurs human rights complaint (Human Rights Europe, link): "A Romanian convict says he lost most of his teeth because prison authorities failed to respond adequately to his severe dental problems.

Adrian Dragan, currently detained in Giurgiu Prison, brought the complaint again Romania in protest at his jail conditions. The European Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgement on the case tomorrow (2 February)."

EU: The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: a tool to enhance and protect the rule of law? (FREE Group, link): "Fifteen years after the proclamation in Nice of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and six years after its transformation in a text of EU primary law, it could be now the right time to evaluate its impact assessment on the European legal order (covering both the EU institutions and the Member States when acting under the EU Treaties) in order to asses where critical tensions emerge or where still are unfulfilled opportunities."

IRELAND: Fine Gael blocked abortion debate at ard fheis (Irish Independent, link): "Fine Gael blocked members from engaging in any debate on abortion at the party's final ard fheis before the General Election, the Sunday Independent can reveal."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Stakeknife: David Ford says UK government should pay for investigation (BBC News, link): "A police investigation into the Army's alleged top agent in the IRA must be funded centrally by the government, Stormont's justice minister has said.

Up to 50 murders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland have been linked to the Army agent, codenamed Stakeknife.

In 2003, the media named Stakeknife as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, but he denies being a British agent.

Justice Minister David Ford has told Irish broadcaster RTÉ the inquiry must be funded centrally, not by Stormont."

NORWAY: Government cracks down on suspected terror travellers (The Foreigner, link): " Authorities may be granted powers allowing them to deny passports more easily.

The proposal, which has been sent to hearing, applies in cases “where there is reason to believe that a person is planning to become a foreign fighter,” says Anders Anundsen, Minister of Justice for the Progress Party (FrP).

If passed, it would mean that passports could either be refused or recalled.

The legislation could be invoked if there were suspicions that the journey out of Norway was due to: participation in acts of terror and/or terror-related acts, or illegal participation in military operations abroad."

POLAND: Polish senate approves Internet surveillance law (Yahoo! News, link): "Poland's senate on Friday approved a controversial amendment making it easier for the secret service and police to access Internet data, stoking concerns about the state of democracy in the EU member.

The new measure will notably give the police direct permanent access to a whole host of metadata regarding the online activity of Poles. The police will no longer have to ask Internet service providers for access each time."

Trusting Big Data Research (SSRN, link): "Although it might puzzle or even infuriate data scientists, suspicion about big data is understandable. The concept doesn’t seem promising to most people. It seems scary. This is partly because big data research is shrouded in mystery. People are unsure about organizations’ motives and methods. What do companies think they know about us? Are they keeping their insights safe from hackers? Are they selling their insights to unscrupulous parties? Most importantly, do organizations use our personal information against us? Big data research will only overcome its suspicious reputation when people can trust it."

UK: Deepcut inquest will not consider 'culture of sexual abuse' claims (The Guardian, link): "An inquest into the death from a gunshot wound of a young female soldier at Deepcut 20 years ago will not consider whether there was a “culture of sexual abuse” at the army barracks, a coroner has ruled.

Opening a fresh inquest into the death of Pte Cheryl James, 18, discovered with a single gunshot wound to her head at the Surrey barracks in 1995, coroner Brian Barker QC said: “This is not a public inquiry into the culture at Deepcut in the mid-1990s.”"

UK: MPs send Tony Blair list of questions over IRA and Gaddafi (The Guardian, link): "Tony Blair has been challenged by a Commons select committee to explain why he allegedly failed to ask for compensation from Muammar Gaddafi for the victims of Libyan-supplied IRA weapons."

UK: Parting shot: Prison inspector steps down with last blast at Grayling (politics.co.uk, link): " The prison system is declining in safety and conditions with more threats on the horizon, the outgoing prisons inspector has warned.

Nick Hardwick, who is stepping down later this year, issued a parting shot to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and, in particular, former justice secretary Chris Grayling in a series of media interviews over the weekend.

Speaking to the influential blog Prison UK, Hardwick pinned the blame for overcrowded and deteriorating prisons directly on the MoJ.

"My time as chief inspector has coincided with a deterioration in safety and conditions in prison," he said."

UK: Prisons inspector Nick Hardwick: ‘You shouldn’t do this job for long because you get used to things you shouldn’t’ (The Guardian, link): "The outgoing chief inspector of prisons is explaining why he is so keen to get out of the job. It’s not the budget fights Nick Hardwick had with the Ministry of Justice, nor the fact that he wasn’t actively encouraged to apply for another five-year stint. It’s not even the fact that the previous secretary of state for justice, Lord Grayling, “robustly” tried to influence him – as Hardwick revealed to a select committee last week.

No, he simply feared that he was becoming desensitised; that he was getting prison-horror fatigue. “You shouldn’t do this job for too long because you get used to things you shouldn’t get used to,” he says. “I’ll give you an example of something that is objectively shocking, but how do you keep the outrage going? Take the level of self-harm and suicide. On one level, one bit of your brain is thinking, ‘Oh well, they’ve only had two suicides since we were last here, good.’ On another level, that is appalling.”"

UK: Stripped of UK citizenship by Theresa May in 2012, former Briton Mahdi Hashi now jailed by New York judge for al Shabaab terror charges (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, link): "Former British citizen Mahdi Hashi was yesterday sentenced to nine years in prison at a New York court for supporting the terrorist organisation al Shabaab, three years after being secretly taken to the US from a Djibouti jail.

Hashi, 26, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2012 by Theresa May, has spent the past three years in solitary confinement in a New York prison. He had pleaded guilty in May last year to conspiring to provide material support to al Shabaab in Somalia several years earlier."

UK-EU: UK referendum: Prime Minister Cameron visits European Parliament (European Parliament, link): "Welcoming UK Prime Minister David Cameron to Brussels today 29 January, President Martin Schulz noted that, as co-legislator, the European Parliament will have a key role to play in the success of any initiatives for EU reforms resulting from negotiations. Their meeting revolved around UK demands for changes to its relationship with Europe ahead of a referendum on the country's membership of the EU. The British vote will also be on the agenda of the upcoming EU summit on 18-19 February."


January 2016

News Digest (29.1.16)

DENMARK: Danish inmates should have more access to mobile phones, says support group (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The prisoner support group Kriminalforsorgsforeningen believes that restricting mobile phone for all inmates is the wrong way to go.

Kriminalforsorgsforeningen chairperson John Hatting was speaking to DR Nyheder following reports that Søren Pind, the justice minister, will start a number of initiatives to counter mobile phones being smuggled into prisoners.

It was revealed yesterday that four inmates serving time for their involvement in last February’s attacks on Krudttønden and a Copenhagen synagogue have had access to seven mobile phones at different times."

DENMARK: Precrime arrests soaring in Denmark (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The number of ‘preventative arrests’ – taking suspects into custody before they commit a crime, which has been permitted since 2004 – has soared in the last three years."

E-voting won't solve the problem of voter apathy (Open Rights Group, link): "As the old English proverb has it “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Such thoughts spring to mind with the launch of the report Secure Voting by campaigning group WebRoots Democracy. WebRoots are volunteers who ‘campaign for the introduction of online voting in Local and General Elections’. We know where they stand on this issue, but how informed is their argument that online voting can be secure?"

EU: Human rights at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 (OpenDemocracy, link): "The Council for Europe's commissioner for human rights warns that Europe’s new security-oriented turn restricts fundamental human rights, a success for terrorists who want us to abandon our lifestyle and live in fear. Short interview."

EU: European External Action Service: Statement by the spokesperson on alleged wrongdoings by EUFOR RCA’s personnel in Central African Republic (EEAS, link): "On 19 January 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights informed the EU about allegations of possible sexual exploitation and abuse by some operation personnel of EUFOR RCA, which closed in March 2015."

EU-USA: Data privacy bill in Congress, trans-Atlantic deal elusive (Reuters, link): "A U.S. Senate panel approved measures on Thursday that were causing concern in Europe among negotiators hammering out a new trans-Atlantic pact on electronic data transfer, an issue for many companies such as Facebook and Microsoft.

In a step toward addressing global concerns about data privacy, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation, headed next to the full Senate for a vote, that would give some Europeans the right to sue in the United States over allegations of electronic data privacy violations.

But amendments were added at the last minute that raised questions from the European Union in Brussels."

FRANCE: Top French court rejects suspending state of emergency (France 24, link): "The Conseil d’État, France’s highest court on administrative justice, on Wednesday rejected an appeal to suspend a state of emergency imposed after the November 13 Paris attacks.

The appeal, filed by the Paris-based Human Rights League (known by its French acronym, LDH)) suggested that if the state of emergency could not be suspended, the Conseil d’État should at the very least suspend some of its measures, such as house searches and the ban on public gatherings."

HUNGARY: Socialists: Fidesz using Communist era style show trials to increase popularity (Politics.hu, link): "The Socialist Party on Thursday said the Fidesz party is organising “show trials” reminiscent of methods used in Hungary’s “darkest dictatorship” to increase its popularity. Gergely Bárándy, the Socialist deputy head of Parliament’s legislative committee,told a press conference that the embezzlement trial of Miklós Hagyó, in which the former Socialist deputy mayor of Budapest was given two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, revealed that charges against Hagyó “were based on lies” and that he never received bribes. Hagyó was accused of running a criminal gang and causing huge damages to municipal public transport company BKV in the years before August 2008. He was acquitted of the main corruption charges but the court ruled that he had instigated embezzlement."

LIBYA: Einsteinian insanity: momentum grows to bomb Libya again (Drone Wars UK, link): "Despite the catastrophic effects of the 2011 military intervention, momentum seems to be growing among western governments for further air strikes in Libya, this time against ISIS."

UK: Drones in four near-misses at major UK airports, air investigators reveal (The Guardian, link): "Drones almost collided with planes near major UK airports in four separate recent incidents, including one near-miss with a passenger jet taking off from London Stansted.

The pilot of a Boeing 737 passenger jet taking off from Stansted in September said a 6ft (2-metre) long remote-controlled plane pass less than 15ft above its path, at 4,000ft, in controlled airspace where any drone flight is illegal."

UK: Fears Over More Powers For Police Volunteers (Sky News, link): "A move to give police volunteers more powers is dangerous, the body which represents rank-and-file officers has warned.

The criticism by the Police Federation is in response to an announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May that police chiefs would get the power to give more responsibility to support staff and unpaid helpers, without becoming a special constable.

It will open the way for members of the public, who are experts in computing or accountancy, to be recruited to help tackle cyber or financial crime." And see: Probationers and specials could be issued with taser (Police Oracle, free account required)

UK: For richer, not for poorer (The Economist, link): "THE Conservative Party promised ahead of its election victory in 2010 that it would bring annual net migration below 100,000 a year. As the economy has grown, sucking in foreign workers, the government has conspicuously failed to meet this goal: net migration in the year to June 2015 was 336,000, a record. However, one small but socially significant subsection has declined and remained low: immigration by Britons’ foreign spouses."

UK: 4 February 2016, London: Free Public Lecture: FREE HER! Women Political Prisoners (Haldane Society, link)

UK: Heterosexual couple lose civil partnership court challenge (BBC News, link): "A heterosexual couple who want to enter into a civil partnership have lost a legal challenge at London's High Court.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, from London, were told in 2014 that they could not enter into a civil partnership because they were a man and a woman.

They brought a legal challenge, saying the law discriminated against them."

UK: Home Office lost its workers' completed security vetting forms (The Register, link): "The Home Office has admitted to The Register that among its data breach incidents last year was one in which security vetting documents disappeared from within secured government premises.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Register has learned that the Home Office – responsible for the UK's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5 – lost documents containing "sensitive personal information relating to security vetting." In a separate incident, at least one birth certificate was lost."

UK-USA: Report: US and UK spied on Israeli drones for years (AP, link): "U.S and British intelligence cracked the codes of Israeli drones operating in the Middle East and monitored their surveillance feeds for almost 20 years, according to documents leaked by an American whistleblower and published in international media on Friday.

Reports by the German daily Der Spiegel and the investigative website The Intercept said the details emerged from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about U.S. government surveillance in 2013."


News Digest (25.1.16)

EU: Hungary foreign minister makes comments at lecture in Bulgaria capital (Focus Information Agency, link): "Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto, spoke Thursday at a lecture delivered at the Central Military Club in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, FOCUS News Agency reported."

EU: Internet and public safety (European Commission, link): "During the Internet Governance week at the end of January 2016, key stakeholders from all over Europe and beyond will gather in Brussels for an intense round of events, meetings and debates.

On Thursday 28 January, the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs will host a meeting of the recently created Public Safety Working Group of the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN. This whole-day meeting will bring together law enforcement and public safety organisations as well as private sector representatives to advance cooperation on the ICANN's policies that have an impact on public safety."

French police foiled another Paris terror attack, says minister (The Guardian, link): "Islamic terrorists planned to attack another concert in Paris and carry out a mass killing in the city streets, the French interior minister has said as he defended the government’s decision to continue the state of emergency imposed after the November attacks."

ITALY: Moroccan 'foreign fighter' nabbed in Calabria (ANSAmed, link): "talian police on Monday arrested a Moroccan 'foreign fighter' near the Calabrian town of Cosenza.

Hamil Mehdi, a 25-year-old street vendor, denied being a member of ISIS and said he had recently visited Turkey "only to pray".

Cosenza police chief Luigi Liguori said anti-terrorism DIGOS law enforcement agents had been trailing Mehdi since last July, after Turkish authorities blocked him at the Istanbul airport and sent him back to Italy."

Poland: Audit finds secret police unit monitoring journalists (index, link): "A recent audit by the bureau of internal affairs (BSW) has uncovered two informal press surveillance units of the Polish police that were set up to monitor journalists in connection with the “tape scandal” for one year between 2014-15."

UK: FOI should apply to prisons and parking tickets, even if contractors hold the information, says Campaign (Campaign for Freedom of Information, link): "Information about prison attacks, penalty fares on London Overground, whistleblowing policies in the NHS and parking tickets has all been withheld under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act because this information was held by public authority contractors and not by the authorities themselves."

UK: Forthcoming reforms to human rights law must not weaken protection (Council of Europe, link): "“The repeatedly delayed launch of the consultation process for repeal of the Human Rights Act has created much speculation and an atmosphere of anxiety and concern in civil society and in some parts of the devolved administrations. There is a real fear of regression in terms of rights’ protection in the United Kingdom” said today Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, at the end of his six day visit to the country, which focused on the government’s forthcoming plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and create a revised Bill of Rights, as well as the implementation of the few remaining judgments from the European Court of Human Rights."

UK: Heathrow climate protesters found guilty of aggravated trespass (The Guardian, link): "Thirteen protesters who chained themselves to railings at the UK’s largest airport have been told it is almost inevitable they will be jailed for their actions.

Members of the Plane Stupid campaign group cut a hole in a fence and made their way on to the north runway at Heathrow in July last year. They were found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome."

UK: Jail kingpins 'test' new legal highs on vulnerable prisoners known as ''spice pigs'' (Mirror, link): " Jail drug lords are testing new legal highs on vulnerable inmates they mockingly call “spice pigs”.

A report reveals dealers give a substance to lags who are weak or in their debt to see how strong or dangerous it is before distributing it – and some desperate addicts are happy to test them as freebies."

UK: Training course: Facing a hostile environment: the impact of the Immigration Act 2014 and the Immigration Bill 2015-2016 - 2 Mar 16 (PM) (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, link): "This course will offer an overview and update of the changes brought by the Immigration Act 2014 and planned by the Immigration Bill 2015-2016, and an opportunity for discussion amongst practitioners and third sector workers offering advice to migrants."

UN: Mind the gap: A review of the right to privacy at the UN in 2015 (Privacy International, link): "In 2015 the United Nations' human rights mechanisms significantly increased their capacity to monitor and assess states' compliance with their obligations around the right to privacy. Notably, the Human Rights Council established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, filling a significant gap in the international human rights protection system. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Committee put surveillance laws and practices in a range of countries under close scrutiny, making key recommendations to remedy violations of the right to privacy, particularly in the context of communications surveillance.

These positive developments are in sharp contrast to the legislative expansion of surveillance powers that are contrary to human rights standards. At the same time that the UN has increased its attention on the right to privacy, some governments have been adopting laws which, in many cases, seek to legalise post facto the privacy invasive practices of their security services. A spate of new laws that expand digital surveillance powers and reduce safeguards below the standards of international human rights law have been adopted, or are in advanced stages of drafting, in countries such as Australia, China, Denmark, France, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, to name only a few."


News Digest (22.1.16)

EU: Davos elites fear weakened European Union (Reuters, link): "Fear of a severe weakening of the European Union is the hot topic in the corridors and executive suites of Davos this year with business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum alarmed at closing borders and the risk of a British exit."

EU: Safe European Home – by Sarah Kay (Euro Rights Blog, link): "Two specific areas of EU coordination could prove crucial in the future, and need no part in the race to enact further legislation and respond to the terrorism threat: the already existing role of Europol, and the Schengen Information System (SIS), currently shaken by immediate decisions to curb travel within the EU. Both offer strong solutions that teeter on the edge of human rights violations, specifically in the right to privacy and freedom of movement. They however offer opportunities that need no derogation and can be subjected to judicial review by EU courts."

FINLAND: 'Soldiers of Odin' street patrol harass expats in Helsinki (Helsinki Times, link): "A group of three expat engineers were harassed by a Finnish man identifying himself as a member of the self proclaimed vigilante group, Soldiers of Odin near Helsinki last weekend. The immigrants, who do not want their names to be published in fear of reprisal, explain their ordeal:"

How trade deals threaten democracy and climate (EUobserver, link): "If there was any doubt that international trade agreements threatened both democracy and the climate, then thank the TransCanada Corporation for making it abundantly clear.

Less than a week into the new year, and less than a month after the international climate talks in Paris, the Keystone XL pipeline developers are demonstrating exactly who the real beneficiaries of international trade deals are – corporations."

Italian man faces charges for fabricating foiled Isis attack (The Local, link): " An Italian man is facing charges for claiming that the hactivist group, Anonymous, had foiled a New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in Italy.

The 29-year-old from Aosta took to Twitter on December 28th to announce that the group, a loosely connected international network of hactivists, had foiled the attack by Isis extremists."

UK to permanently station 1,000 military personnel in Poland from 2017 (The Guardian, link): "Britain will permanently station 1,000 military personnel in Poland from next year, Poland’s defence minister has said late, in an apparent contradiction of an announcement by Britain about plans for temporary exercises on Polish soil."

UK: Abuse survivors ‘re-victimised’ through family court process (Law Gazette, link): "Victims of domestic abuse should not endure the trauma of being cross-examined by their abusers in court, a national charity has recommended in a study on child deaths."

UK: David Cameron calls for action on 'spurious claims' against Iraq veterans (The Guardian, link): "David Cameron has ordered ministers to take action to clamp down on lawyers pursuing claims against veterans of the Iraq war.

Ministers on the national security council have been given the task of drawing up options to end “spurious claims”, including measures to curb the use of “no win, no fee” arrangements and the requirement that legal aid claimants must have lived in the UK for 12 months."

UK: Society demands clarity on legal aid contracting (Law Gazette, link): "The Law Society has issued a plea for clarity on criminal legal aid contracting amid speculation that the government is on the brink of abandoning the troubled tender process."

UK-RUSSIA: Key findings: who killed Alexander Litvinenko, how and why (The Guardian, link): "Sir Robert Owen’s report into Alexander Litvinenko’s death runs to 338 pages. Written in clear prose, with the odd moment of dry wit, it is a damning indictment of the Russian president and his state, and of the two, sometimes hapless, poisoners - Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi - who followed its secret orders."


News Digest 18.1.16

Danish police allowed to scan thousands of licence plates (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The Danish Ministry of Justice has approved a controversial bill that allows police to survey up to 600,000 vehicle registration plates a day, reports IT-magazine Version 2."

DENMARK: Closed doors at hearing for teenager arrested for terrorism (The Copenhagen Post, link): "Both the prosecutor and defence lawyer involved in the case of a 15-year-old girl arrested in Kundby in northeast Zealand have agreed that the girl should be charged behind closed doors.

No information is coming out of the court room in Holbæk. The police arrested the girl at a home in Kundby yesterday. According to reports, she was found with explosives and may have been supporting terrorism."

DENMARK: Marked increase in youth radicalisation in Denmark (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The Danish security and intelligence service PET has revealed that increasing numbers of young Danes are becoming radicalised, reports DR.

Crime-prevention centres (SSPs) that focus on children and adolescents have recorded a higher number of radicalised youth cases, and more Danes have been using VINK, the anti-radicalisation hotline operated by Copenhagen Municipality."

ECHR: Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2015 (Strasbourg Observers, link): "Following an annual and cherished tradition, we are hereby launching our poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2015!

As usual, preselecting a limited number of contenders was both fun and hard. There is always room for debate. Always other judgments that deserve a shot at the title. Other judgments to cheer at. And other judgments to boo (somewhat). But we hope you find your champ among our contenders. If not, you can always support an underdog by selecting ‘Other’.

The winners and losers will be announced in about a month."

EU: CONFERENCE: 10 YEARS OF DATA PROTECTION DAY: REVIEW AND PROSPECTS (AEDH, link): "The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH) is celebrating the 10th anniversary Data Protection Day. It will be the opportunity to take testimony from the many stakeholders who have, in their own way, moved forward the principles inherent to this fundamental right. This will also be the opportunity to look to the future and highlight the possible ways of facing the challenges ahead while respecting fundamental rights."

EU: Macedonians Holding Bulgarian Passports Face Fines for Voting in 2014 EU Elections (Novinite, link): "Many Macedonians in possession of Bulgarian passports are facing fines for having voted in the 2014 European Parliament elections.

The Macedonians holding dual citizenship voted in Bulgarian diplomatic missions in Macedonia, including at the Bulgarian embassy in Skopje, without being eligible to do so.

They did not fulfill the criteria for residence which stipulates that in order to be eligible to vote in European Parliament elections they should have lived in Bulgaria or other EU member state for at least three months prior to the date of the elections."

EU: Press seminar: Terrorism: the EU's response (European Parliament, link): "The European Parliament's Press Service is holding a seminar to provide members of the media and institutional representatives the opportunity to look at the EU's response to terrorism. Parliament is starting to discuss new proposals to criminalise travel for terrorist purposes and terrorist financing, to ban certain weapons and restrict the sale of firearms on the black market."

EU: Viviane Reding on TiSA negotiations: “The right to regulate has to be preserved” (European Parliament, link): "The EU and 22 countries, representing 70% of world trade in services, are currently negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). It can’t enter into force with the approval of the Parliament. MEPs are closely following negotiations and have demanded more transparency. The international trade committee votes on a report with recommendations on 14 January. We asked report author Viviane Reding, a Luxembourg member of the EPP group, what will determine Parliament's approval of any deal."

EU-BULGARIA: Deputy PM: Romania to Receive More Positive EU CVM Report than Bulgaria (Novinite, link): "Romania will be assessed more positively than Bulgaria in a EU Commission report on justice and internal affairs, Bulgarian Deputy PM Ekaterina Zaharieva has said.

In an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio, she has admitted Bucharest has performed far better than Bulgaria over the past year with regard to court cases of public interest, high-level corruption, the fight against organized crime."

FRANCE: Almost a third of French 'weary' after a year marked by terrorism (France 24, link): "“Weary”, “morose” and “mistrustful” are the three words French people say best describe their state of mind, according to a new poll, following a year in which a series of terrorist attacks targeted the country."

GERMANY: Police arrest 40 immigrant men in Düsseldorf raid (Deutsche Welle, link): "Düsseldorf authorities have arrested 40 men in a raid on the city's so-called "Maghreb" neighborhood. German officials say men from North Africa have drawn their attention with involvement in criminal activities."

NETHERLANDS: Former Dutch soldier may face charges for killing IS jihadis (Dutch News, link): "A former Dutch commando who has been fighting alongside an armed Kurdish group against IS in Syria has been arrested in the Netherlands.

Jitse A was picked up in Arnhem and is being investigated for his role in killing Islamic State jihadis while fighting with YPG forces, the public prosecution department said in a statement."

NETHERLANDS: KNVB investigates racist chanting at ADO Den Haag match (Dutch News, link): "Official Dutch football association policy on dealing with racist chants may be changed to allow referees or players to leave the pitch without punishment, a KNVB spokesman said on Monday.

Gijs de Jong, who heads the KNVB’s operational affairs department, was speaking after ADO Den Haag fans made monkey noises when Ajax player Riechedly Bazoer had the ball during this weekend’s premier division tie.

‘If the referee or, in this case, Riechedly Bazoer, no long want to play, the match should be halted,’ De Jong told broadcaster Nos."

SPAIN: New Catalan premier admits he lacks backing to declare independence (El País, link): "“Do we have enough strength to proclaim independence with the current parliamentary makeup? Not yet,” said the man who was mayor of Girona until last week, when his name suddenly came up as a replacement for acting premier Artur Mas at the helm of the Catalan government. His last-minute nomination narrowly averted new elections in the region following more than three months of feuding between separatist forces over who should be the next premier."

UK: David Cameron calls on Muslim women to learn English to combat radicalisation (Independent, link): "Much more needs to be done to help Muslim women learn English and integrate more as a key part of the fight against Islamist extremism, David Cameron will say.

Investigations into the 700, mainly young, Muslims who have left the UK to join Isis reveal that in most cases parents had little idea of their children’s radicalisation."

UK: David Cameron says migrant families could be broken up and mothers deported if they fail new English test (The Independent, link): "Families could be broken up and mothers deported after years of living in Britain if they fail a new mandatory English language test, David Cameron has confirmed.

The Prime Minister today outlined plans to language-test all spouses who immigrate join their partner living in Britain two and a half years after they arrive here.

Failing the language test could lead to the new arrival’s right to stay in the UK being revoked and them being sent back to their country of origin, he said."

UK: Landlord checks: “looking for footprints in the dirt” (Migrants' Rights Network, link): "Private landlords are due to start checking the immigration status of prospective tenants from 1 February. Is this the start of a system where we all become unpaid Border Guards in the government's pursuit of tougher immigration controls?"

UK: Police use new tactic to fight terror threat in City of London (Financial Times, link): "Waiting to meet City of London police officials on Blackfriars Bridge to hear about a new crime-fighting technique, the FT stops to jot down a few notes.

Soon enough a police officer, sporting an assault rifle, appears to ask why exactly this reporter is taking notes.

This, it turns out, was an unwitting example of Project Servator at work — a new tactic to make life difficult for terrorists doing their homework, or “hostile reconnaissance” as the police describe it.

It involves using undercover officers trained in behavioural analysis to spot people who might be scoping out sites for a potential terrorist attack. Their expertise is in noticing the subtle, sometimes unconscious ways in which people behave differently when they are stressed or anxious. They are stationed in a certain area just before the appearance of other officers in hi-vis uniforms and sometimes those on horses, with dogs or heavily armed."

UK: ‘We deserve a justice system that is open and transparent’ (The Justice Gap, link): "Campaigners, university criminal appeals units and innocence projects, and lawyers are calling on the government to stop systematically destroying court transcripts after five years preventing victims of miscarriages of justice appealing their convictions."


News Digest 15.1.16

Belgium charges top ‘jihadist expert’ over false affidavit for detainee (Al Arabiya, link): "Belgian prosecutors said Monday they have arrested a high-profile expert on extremist fighters and charged him with providing a suspected extremist with a false affidavit that he was on a de-radicalization course.

Montasser AlDe’emeh runs a centre in Brussels’ gritty Molenbeek district - where several of those who carried out November’s Paris attacks lived - that aims to prevent young Belgians from going to fight in Syria and also help reintegrate those who do so on their return."

Dutch to push intelligence sharing after missed signals in Paris (Al Arabiya, link): "The Netherlands will push for greater sharing of intelligence data, including lists of suspected foreign fighters, at a gathering of global counter-terrorism officials on Monday.

The Dutch, who hold the rotating European Union presidency, circulated a draft outlining the objective to roughly 250 delegates of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) and Anti-ISIS Coalition meeting in The Hague, an official said."

EU: First-ever EU-wide cyber-security rules
backed by Internal Market Committee
(EP press release, pdf): "Firms supplying essential services, e.g. for energy, transport, banking and health, or digital ones, such as search engines and cloud computing, will have to take action to improve their ability to withstand cyber-attacks under new rules approved by Internal Market MEPs on Thursday. These rules, informally agreed by MEPs and Council negotiators on 7 December, were approved by 34 votes to 2. They now need to be endorsed by the Council and the full Parliament."

EU: Top 5 Tech – All you need to know about the Dutch EU Presidency (vieuws, link): "In this special briefing, leading journalist Jennifer Baker picks out the Top 5 Tech priorities that will be discussed by the European institutions under the Dutch EU presidency:" Covers: encryption, smart borders, safe harbour, the digital single market and spectrum reform.

Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing attacks on Kurds (The Guardian, link): "Turkey has been accused of violating academic freedom by rounding up university teachers who signed a petition denouncing military operations against Kurds in the southeast of the country.

Police have detained at least 12 academics over alleged “terror propaganda” after they signed a petition together with more than 1,400 others calling for an end to Turkey’s “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people”."

UK: Film Screening, 18 February 2016: Leave to Remain with QA from Director Bruce Goodison (Queen Mary University of London, link): "Leave to Remain is a provocative coming of age story about a young Afghan boy who’s arrival sets off a chain of events that jeopardises the future of those closest to him. Unwittingly he plays an unimaginable game of chance where winning and getting Leave to Remain to stay in the UK is not always what it seems, and all hope hinges on just how good a story he can tell."

UK: Phone Hackers: Britain's Secret Surveillance (Vice News, link): "IMSI catchers are portable surveillance tools used for spying on thousands of phones in a targeted area, tracking their location and even intercepting calls, messages, and data. They are supposed to help identify serious criminals, but cannot operate without monitoring innocent people too.

UK police have IMSI catchers, but they refuse to tell the public how and when they are used. This has privacy campaigners worried. And, even if the state is using them sparingly, what if criminals also have access to the technology?

VICE News searches London for IMSI catchers, then goes shopping at a state security fair, and finally finds a shady technology company who'll sell us the spy gear."

Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016 (OpenDemocracy, link): "Commentary misses the point: the legitimacy of Trump or Le Pen comes not from the sudden appeal of a new brand of right-wing populism, but their legitimisation by mainstream politics."


News Digest 13.1.16

EU: TAXE: GUE/NGL member sues European Commission over document access (Fabio de Masi press release, link): "A legal study commissioned by GUE/NGL finds that the European Commission violated EU law when not disclosing documents, such as its minutes of the European Council's Codeof Conduct Group on business taxation, and by imposing restrictions on MEPs' access to documents."

FRANCE: Council of Europe sees French state of emergency risks (Yahoo! News, link): "Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - France's decision to install a state of emergency following the deadly November 13 attacks in Paris could constitute a "threat" to democracy, a European Council human rights observer said Tuesday." And: Etat d'urgence : le Conseil de l'Europe évoque un risque de "dérives" (Europe 1, link)

UK: Ministers accused of trying to ‘steamroll’ surveillance laws (Politics Home, link): "The Government has been accused of attempting to “steamroll” new surveillance laws through parliament without granting MPs sufficient time to scrutinise the proposals."

UK: NUJ criticises Daily Telegraph for monitoring journalists' desk time (The Guardian, link): "The Daily Telegraph has been criticised by the National Union of Journalists for carrying out “surveillance” on its journalists by installing devices that monitor whether they are at their desks.

Journalists at the newspaper’s London HQ arrived on Monday morning to find the boxes, which track whether someone is at their desk using heat and motion sensors, BuzzFeed reported. Telegraph management emailed staff at lunchtime, saying the monitors would be in place for four weeks to help plan measures to improve energy efficiency."

UK: Ofsted speaks to G4S Medway young offenders centre inmates over abuse claims (BBC News, link): "A team from Ofsted have spoken to inmates at a Kent young offenders centre following allegations staff assaulted young people there.

Officials visited the Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) in Rochester, managed by security firm G4S on Monday."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Solidarity demo: Friday 15 January 2016, 1pm, High Court, London (Police Spies Out of Lives, link). For detail see: Undercover policing: women say “enough is enough, release the names and open the files” (link): "On Friday 15th January 2016 a legal case over undercover police relationships will return to the High Court, in a renewed battle to force the police to follow normal court procedure and issue disclosure documents in the case."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: The Met Police must suspend domestic extremism unit now (Undercover Research Group): "The shocking story of deliberate destruction of police surveillance on Baroness Jenny Jones throws into stark relief what we all feared – the Metropolitan Police are going to obstruct the public inquiry into undercover policing."


News Digest 11.1.16

EU: Poland invites German ambassador for talks on politicians' 'anti-Polish remarks' (Deutsche Welle, link): "Warsaw has requested the German ambassador come to the foreign ministry for a meeting on Monday. The move comes after Poland's justice minister dismissed EU backlash over what critics call a crackdown on press freedom. "

EU: Let there be light (New Europe, link): "We return to a dossier of an organization that received EU funding and was audited. Somehow, the audit disappeared (well, was closed by the European Commission). Nevertheless the audit paperwork, did not disappear. For today, we spare you the details of the case.

We bring forward to you two pages of the audit report that we received from the Commission following a request through Regulation 1049/2001. The document we were provided with, appears to the right. This is the first of the two pages, both of which were equally black."

EU-SLOVENIA: Interior minister says systematic border control tough task (STA, link): "Maribor, 9 January - Interior Minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar has told the daily Vecer that a potential introduction of systematic control on the external borders of the Schengen zone, with EU citizens also being under stricter scrutiny, would represent a tough logistic task for the Slovenian police."

Fiction: Breaking Unbreakable Encryption (Monday Note, link): "As discussed in a recent Monday Note titled Let’s Outlaw Math, electronic messages that are encoded with modern encryption techniques are truly indecipherable by interlopers, it doesn’t matter whether they’re criminals or governments. The latter have attempted to legislate backdoors that only they can use (to protect us, of course), but there’s a danger: These “golden keys” could fall into the wrong hands. In any case, a backdoor only works where it’s been installed; unbreakable public domain encryption is available to everyone, terrorists and traffickers included.

So… Case closed, good guys and bad guys alike can “safely” use unbreakable codes?

Not so fast."

FRANCE: Paris assailant had seven identities but is yet unknown (New Europe, link): "The lone assailant who attacked a police station in Paris with a butcher’s knife in Barbès neighborhood on Thursday, January 7th had a criminal record. He had arrests for drug dealing, assault, firearm possession, and sexual harassment. But, his identity is yet to be established with confidence."

GERMANY: Papers criticized for ‘racist’ Cologne covers (The Local, link): " Two of Germany’s leading news publications have been heavily criticized for using imagery described as ‘disgustingly sexist and racist' to portray the Cologne sexual assaults."

GERMANY: Racist attacks ratchet up tension in Cologne (The Local, link): " A mob of men attacked a group of Pakistanis in the Cologne city centre on Sunday evening. A few minutes later a Syrian was also attacked in what appear to be racially motivated attacks.

The group of around 20 men assaulted six Pakistanis in the early evening. Two of the Pakistanis sustained serious injuries and had to be brought to hospital, police report."

Happy All the Time (Lapham's Quarterly, link): "As biometric tracking takes over the modern workplace, the old game of labor surveillance is finding new forms."

IRELAND: Suspects who claim legal aid face having their assets seized (Herald.ie, link): "The Legal Aid Board is to be given CAB-style powers that could see suspects forced to repay legal aid bills footed by the taxpayer.

Radical new proposals by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will also apply to criminals who are planning future appeals against their convictions.

The State spends around €50m a year providing free legal aid, which goes towards the cost of hiring solicitors and barristers, witness expenses and technical and medical reports."

SPAIN: 70,000 people march in Bilbao in support of Basque prisoners [70.000 personas en la marcha de apoyo a presos en Bilbao] (Digaonal Periodico, link): 70,000 people took to the Streets of Bilbao to call for the end of the policy of dispersion and respect for human rights for some 400 Basque prisoners in 70 prisons across all of the Spanish state, France and Portugal, reports Diagonal Periodico.

UK drone and air strikes in 2015 – a look at the data (Drone Wars UK, link): "Analysing updates published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of RAF operations in Iraq and Syria give something of an insight into the use of drones and aircraft for strikes by British forces in 2015. The updates do not give a complete picture as some strikes are omitted (for example the targeted killing of Reyaad Khan) and the number of strikes recorded in the reports do not match officially published figures. Nevertheless they do give a broad indication of British air operations against ISIS."

UK: Iraq abuse inquiry firm referred to SDT (Law Gazette, link): "One of two firms investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for its role in allegations of British army abuses in Iraq revealed today that it had been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. London personal injury and clinical negligence firm Leigh Day said that it 'strongly denies' allegations made by the SRA."

UK: Nearly 300 British veterans face investigation over alleged Iraq war crimes (The Guardian, link): "Nearly 300 British personnel who served in Iraq have been contacted by investigators looking into allegations of war crimes, with some of them facing interrogation on their doorsteps, officials have said."

UK: Taimour Lay on Do It Yourself fresh asylum and human rights claims: video (Free Movement, link): "A DIY approach is difficult in immigration law. Hardly a year goes by without the higher courts complaining about “a degree of complexity which even the Byzantine emperors would have envied” [as lamented by Jackson LJ in 2013]. This is even more of a problem as legal aid is removed from the jurisdiction for everything but international protection and judicial review – and the “Residence Test” may well put paid to the latter."

USA: Eye in the sky computes your emotions (USA Today, link): "Bill Hedgcock knows it sounds a little creepy.

Tucked into the white ceiling tiles, the ceiling camera he had installed at the Pappajohn Business Building at the University of Iowa scans the faces of all who pass under it and instantly calculates their moods — collecting readings for joy, frustration, confusion, fear, anger and sadness."

USA: The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score’ (The Washington Post, link): "While officers raced to a recent 911 call about a man threatening his ex-girlfriend, a police operator in headquarters consulted software that scored the suspect’s potential for violence the way a bank might run a credit report.

The program scoured billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social- media postings. It calculated his threat level as the highest of three color-coded scores: a bright red warning."



Statewatch does not have a corporate view, nor does it seek to create one, the views expressed are those of the author. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement.

© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.