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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
April 2016

News Digest (25.4.16)

News Digest (22.4.16)

News Digest (18.4.16)

News Digest (11.4.16)

News Digest (8.4.16)

News Digest (4.4.16)

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."



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