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September 2018

Greece: Lesbos refugee camp at centre of Greek misuse of EU funds row - European anti-fraud agency investigates irregularities after report alleges defence minister benefited from camp funds (Guardian, link):

"The conditions in which thousands of asylum seekers are being detained on Lesbos has unleashed a furious political backlash in Greece, as financing of the island’s overcrowded Moria detention camp comes under scrutiny.

Tensions mounted after the defence minister, Panos Kammenos, filed a defamation action against three journalists, including the editor-in-chief of the Fileleftheros daily, after the publication of a report alleging misuse of EU funds. (...)

The European anti-fraud agency confirmed on Tuesday it was investigating “alleged irregularities concerning the provision of EU-funded food for refugees in Greece”. Athens has received a total of €1.6bn in financial aid for refugees since 2015"

France: Aid Worker Convicted for Tweet - First Such Conviction in French Courts (HRW, link);

"A humanitarian worker’s defamation conviction on September 25, 2018, for an ironic tweet represents a dangerous escalation in official harassment of groups providing crucial aid to migrants, Human Rights Watch said today. It is the first conviction of its kind in France.

A court in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France, found Loan Torondel guilty of criminal libel for a tweet he sent out at the beginning of January and sentenced him to pay a fine, which it suspended, and court costs."

EU: MEPs agree to scrap €70m in Turkey funding (euractiv, link):

"The European Parliament’s Budget Committee has voted to withhold €70 million in pre-accession funds from Turkey, after MEPs decided Ankara has not improved rule of law conditions.

On Tuesday (25 September), budget committee lawmakers voted 27 in favour, and one against, to adopt a draft report that will reallocate the earmarked funds to migration programmes instead."

CROATIA: Criminalising solidarity: Are You Syrious? statement on politically motivated, unjust guilty verdict for our volunteer

This past March, AYS volunteer Dragan Umicevic approached a police control near the Croatian border to alert police to a family of asylum seekers huddled in a field near Strošinci, already on Croatian soil. A few days later, he was shocked to find himself facing charges of aiding and abetting the asylum seekers’ “illegal crossing” of the Croatian border - despite the fact that he had never laid eyes on the family before and hadn’t even communicated with them directly beforehand.

EU: Document round-up: Council discussions on European Production and Preservation Orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters

Discussions are ongoing in the Council on proposals for new rules on cross-border access to electronic evidence, which are intended to make it easier for criminal justice agencies in one Member State to obtain material from telecommunications service providers located in one or more other Member States. The proposals contain some controversial provisions and the documents from the Council reflect some of these issues.

Morocco navy fires on migrant boat, one dead: local officials (France 24, link):

"Morocco's navy on Tuesday fired on a boat carrying migrants which refused to respond to its orders, leaving a Moroccan woman dead and three other people wounded, local officials said.

The patrol was "forced" to open fire on a speedboat driven by a Spaniard who "refused to obey" orders in waters off the Moroccan locality of M'diq-Fnideq, the authorities said in a statement.

Four migrants were wounded, including a Moroccan woman who died of her injuries in hospital, a local official told AFP."

Police Scotland amends counter terrorism plan after fracking fracas (The Ferret, link):

"Police Scotland has amended its counter terrorism plan after a report by The Ferret revealed they had labelled anti-fracking protesters as “domestic extremists”.

We reported on 16 September 2018 – in an article published in tandem with the Sunday National – that Police Scotland considered opponents of fracking as potential terrorists.

Official documents also disclosed that Police Scotland was trying to infiltrate communities near the Ineos petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, in order to glean information on people involved with peaceful anti-fracking groups."

Press release: UK intelligence agency admits unlawfully spying on Privacy International (Privacy International, link):

"- MI5 collected Privacy International’s private data and examined it
- GCHQ, MI5, and MI6 unlawfully collected data relating to UK charity Privacy International
- Privacy International has written to the UK's Home Secretary demanding action against spy agencies
- Disclosures come less than a fortnight after UK laws on mass surveillance ruled unlawful at European Court of Human Rights

The UK's domestic-facing intelligence agency, MI5, today admitted that it captured and read Privacy International's private data as part of its Bulk Communications Data (BCD) and Bulk Personal Datasets (BPD) programmes, which hoover up massive amounts of the public's data. In further startling legal disclosures, all three of the UK's primary intelligence agencies - GCHQ, MI5, and MI6 - also admitted that they unlawfully gathered data about Privacy International or its staff."

BELGIUM: ‘Crimes of solidarity’ in Europe multiply as 11 stand trial in Belgium for helping migrants (Global Voices, link):

"Eleven people who had been arrested and charged with human trafficking in October 2017 appeared in court in Brussels on September 6, the first hearing of a trial that activists say is yet another case of “criminalization of solidarity” in Europe.

The defendants have allegedly assisted 95 undocumented migrants, including 12 minors, to travel from Belgium to the United Kingdom last year, either by hosting them in their homes, by lending them phones and thereby indirectly helping them cross the channel.

On the day of the trial, three hundred people protested in front of the courthouse. Demonstrators say this is a political trial, aimed at dissuading people from helping migrants by establishing an intimidating judicial precedent."

UK: Breaking: anti-fracking protesters become first environmental campaigners to be jailed since 1932 (Drill or Drop, link):

"Three men who took part in what’s believed to be the longest single anti-fracking protest in the UK have been sent to prison.

The packed public gallery at Preston Crown Court listened in silence as the judge sentenced Richard Roberts and Simon Blevins to 16 months and Rich Loizou to 15 months [for public nuisance]...

A fourth man who also took part in the protest was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

The four had climbed onto lorries delivering to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire in July 2017 and stayed there for a total of 99.5 hours.

The three who received jail sentences are thought to be the first people to be sent to prison for taking part in a UK anti-fracking protest. The barrister for one of them said they were the first environmental campaigners in the country to be jailed since the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932."

EU-USA Meeting: Draft agenda of the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials Meeting (Vienna, 25-26 September 2018) (LIMITE doc no: 11859-18, pdf). Includes access to electronic evidence and "Cambridge Analytica".

EU: Trilogue discussions on the European Criminal Records System for Third-Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN

The Council of the European Union is in trilogue discussions on: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) to supplement and support the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS-TCN system) and amending Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011 - Four column table (LIMITE doc no: 11300-18, 6 September 2018, pdf) with the parliament. Covers ECRIS and records on third country nationals. It is a multi-column document showing the Commission proposal, the views of the Council and European Parliament and the agreed "compromises":

EU: Interoperability Regulation for borders: Council discussing its position

The Council of the European Union is discussing its negotiating position, prior to trilogues, on: Proposal for a Regulation OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 767/2008, Regulation (EC) No 810/2009, Regulation (EU) 2017/2226, Regulation (EU) 2016/399, Regulation XX/2018 [Interoperability Regulation], and Decision 2004/512/EC and repealing Council Decision 2008/633/JHA - Presidency compromise proposals after the first reading (LIMITE doc no: 11778-18, pdf): 78 pages of detailed changes to Commission proposal,

Germany: Hambach Forest evictions resume following journalist death (DW, link):

"Clashes broke out earlier this month when police tried to force out activists who have been occupying the forest as part of a protest against coal mining. Activists say there's more at stake than just the Hambach Forest."

European Parliament Study: An assessment of the Commission’s proposals on electronic evidence (pdf):

"This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, analyses the added value and the shortcomings of the Commission’s proposals on cross-border access to electronic evidence, with a special focus on the proposals’ implications for territoriality and state sovereignty and fundamental rights of service providers and users."

The study argues that the use of production and preservation of electronic evidence will create a legally binding obligation on the territory of another member state, compared with the current framework of the mutual recognition of judicial decisions. This will affect the territorial sovereignty of the Member State where the service provider will carry out injunctions and will override the responsibilities of Member States for effective protection of fundamental rights on their territory,

European Parliament Study: Cyber violence and hate speech online against women (pdf):

"This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the FEMM Committee, looks into the phenomenon of cyber violence and hate speech online against women in the European Union. After reviewing existing definitions of the different forms of cyber violence, the study assesses the root causes and impact of online violence on women. It continues by analysing and mapping the prevalence, victims and perpetrators. The document ends with an outline of the existing legal framework and recommendations for action within the EU remit."

European Parliament Study: The future partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom (pdf):

"This study looks at the respective aims for, and principles underpinning, the negotiations, as expressed publicly to date by each party, and analyses some of the legal constraints and existing practices or precedents shaping EU cooperation with third-country partners. This allows assessment of the possibilities and limits of any future EU-UK partnership, in light of the stated objectives and 'red lines' officially announced, leading to the conclusion that, notwithstanding several common aims, significant divergences still persist with respect to the means of achieving the stated objectives."

Poland referred to European court over judges' forced retirement (BBC News, link):

"Poland has been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over a rule which forced almost a third of the country's top judges out of office.

The government lowered the retirement age of Supreme Court judges to 65, in what opponents say is an attempt to appoint more favourable replacements.

The European Commission has now sent the case to the ECJ, saying the change undermines judicial independence."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-24.9.18) including: Missing at the Borders project launches website; humanitarian emergency on Lesvos; Germany seeks cooperation with Algeria on deportation

On the Fragility of Detainees’ and Prisoners’ Rights in the EU (Verfassungsblog, link):

"The further east in the EU one goes, the more one is overwhelmed by the state of prison conditions and the violations of prisoners’ and detainees’ rights. The situation in Bulgaria is particularly challenging because of the scale of the problem and the local authorities’ denial that it exists. Human rights lawyers may be stunned by recent comments by Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Justice who is responsible for overseeing prisons: ‘Bulgaria has won cases in Strasbourg, Bulgaria has lost cases in Strasbourg. Sometimes, frankly speaking, this unpleasant opportunity is being abused… All European countries have been sued and the vast majority have lost cases in Strasbourg, including developed, recognized democracies.’ The comments were made in light of the news that a detainee in custody subjected to degrading treatment intended to submit an application against Bulgaria before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR): in August 2018, Bulgarian civil society was shocked to see how the tiny woman was escorted to hospital to have tumor treatment with handcuffs, leg shackles, and a security belt.

... Bulgaria’s challenges illustrate the necessity for a more concerted effort on an EU level. From a practical perspective, violations of prisoners’ and detainees’ rights undermine the principle of mutual trust and constitute obstacles to judicial cooperation. From a political perspective, the EU is a Union of values, which include the respect of human dignity of all citizens. Needless to say, a country’s capacity to curtail arbitrariness in prisons and detention facilities is a barometer of the state of rule of law, too."

EU: Renewed Internal Security Strategy: draft of the latest Council implementation report

A draft version of the latest implementation report on the Renewed Internal Security Strategy (Council document 12009/18, pdf) jointly prepared by the Bulgarian and Austrian presidencies of the Council whilst the former was preparing to hand over to the latter. It contains an extensive 'to-do' list for the Council's working parties that helps to demonstrate the current scope of the EU's internal security priorities.

UK: Prison expansion programme will turn Britain into a "prison island", says report

This August, Corporate Watch is releasing its new report on prison expansion in England, Wales and Scotland: Prison Island. It shines a light on one of the biggest prison building programs in generations.

This once-in-a-generation prison building programme represents a significant expansion of the repressive apparatus of the British state, entrenching the power of corporations in the criminal justice system even further. This report aims to document and contextualise this escalation in mass incarceration and provide information to support those fighting against it.

Brexit will lead to more EU law for UK’s criminal justice systems, according to new report (Queen Mary University, link):

"Future EU-UK cooperation on security and criminal justice is dependant on the extent to which the UK complies with key EU law standards according to a new report by a taskforce from Queen Mary’s School of Law and the Centre for European Policy Studies.

The report, Criminal Justice and Police Cooperation between the EU and the UK after Brexit: Towards a principled and trust-based partnership, sets out a variety of possible options for post-Brexit cooperation between the UK and EU.

The taskforce found that if the UK wishes to continue cooperating with the EU on matters of criminal justice and policing then it is dependant on a number of variables, including the UK’s continued participation in the European Court of Human Rights. If the UK deviates from this then any future cooperation could be terminated."

See the report: Criminal Justice and Police Cooperation between the EU and the UK after Brexit: Towards a principled and trust-based partnership (pdf)

Hungary upholds 'terrorism' conviction against Syrian refugee (Al Jazeera, link):

"A Hungarian court rejected the appeal of a Syrian refugee and upheld his 2016 conviction for "terrorism", but reduced his seven-year sentence, in what a rights group called an abuse of anti-terrorism laws.

The appeals court handed down the decision on Thursday in the southern city of Szeged to uphold the conviction while reducing Ahmed H's sentence to five years.

Eda Seyhan, Amnesty International's counterterrorism campaigner who was in the courtroom, said in a statement to Al Jazeera, "this judgement comes as a blow for Ahmed, his wife and his two young daughters.""

Italy acquits Tunisian 'migrant smuggling' fishermen (BBC News, link):

"Six Tunisian fishermen arrested earlier this month by Italian authorities for "aiding illegal migrants" have been cleared.

One of the men's lawyers and their fishermen's association confirmed the acquittal to the BBC.

The arrests outraged Tunisian fishermen and activists who demanded their release.

Supporters of the fishermen, from the south-east coastal town of Zarzis, said the men were aiding a boat in distress."

For in-depth background and context to the case and the role of Tunisian fishermen in carrying out rescues at sea, see: When rescue at sea becomes a crime: who the Tunisian fishermen arrested in Italy really are (OpenDemocracy, link)

UK: Crushing terrorism online – or curtailing free speech? The proposed EU Regulation on online terrorist content (EU Law Analysis, link):

"In moving from non-binding to legislative form, the Commission is stepping up action against such content; this move may also be seen as part of a general tightening of requirements for Internet intermediaries which can also be seen in the video-sharing platform provisions in the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive and in the proposals regarding copyright. Since the proposal has an “internal market” legal base, it would apply to all Member States."

See the proposed Regulation and supporting documentation here: Security and migration proposals dominate Juncker's 'State of the Union' announcements - full documentation (Statewatch News Online, 14 September 2018)

UK: Police admit managers supported serious human rights abuses, but try to obstruct court from learning more (Police Spies Out of Our Lives, link):

"The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has admitted that a sexual relationship a police officer had while he was undercover was a violation of her fundamental right not to be subjected to torture or inhumane and degrading treatment.

They have admitted that he had the backing of his cover officers and line manager to have that relationship.

They are now seeking to prevent the Tribunal from examining the legality of the operations, the role of sexism and political persecution in the decisions made, and the involvement of senior commanding officers."

Belgian inquest implicates UK in phone spying (euractiv, link):

"A confidential report by Belgian investigators confirms that British intelligence services hacked state-owned Belgian telecom giant Belgacom on behalf of Washington, it was revealed on Thursday (20 September).

The admission by Belgium is one of the consequences of the myriad revelations made in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden and risks fraying ties between the close allies.

The report, which summarises a five-year judicial inquiry, is almost complete and was submitted to the office of Justice Minister Koen Geens, a source close to the case told AFP, confirming Belgian press reports."

Rule of law in Poland: MEPs to check situation on the ground (link):

"Civil Liberties Committee MEPs will be in Poland from Wednesday to Friday this week to assess the rule of law and respect for fundamental values

This delegation will meet representatives of the Polish government and judiciary, Poland’s ombudsman, and representatives of other authorities, organisations and stakeholders to gather insights into the latest developments as regards the rule of law in Poland. Meetings are also scheduled with media representatives and women’s rights activists.

...Yesterday’s suspension of the Polish National Judicial Council (KRS) from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) has shown that this mission is crucial and timely. I am looking forward to the important discussions.”"

EU: Fixing the Refugee Crisis: Holding the Commission Accountable (Verfassungsblog, link) by Cathryn Costello and Elspeth Guild:

"Whatever its rhetoric, the Commission’s room for manoeuvre as a political norm entrepreneur on hot issues is constrained. Nonetheless, it could still have worked better, and seized the opportunity to make a success of relocation, and abandon Dublin decisively. However, it failed to shine as technical coordinator, to maintain its integrity as guardian of EU legality, or even stealthily act to maintain EU scrutiny before the CJEU. The ‘political Commission’ appears to have been politicized, in the sense of creating space for ad hoc governmental power over asylum, with all the deep divisions and disagreements that entailed. Much has been lost in that process."

UK: Anti-terrorism bill 'undermines access to legal advice' (The Law Society Gazette, link):

"Suspects detained under latest terrorism legislation making its way through parliament could be questioned for an hour unaccompanied by a solicitor, the Law Society has warned. Even then, the onus is on the detainee to request a solicitor and consultations would not be private, Chancery Lane added.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords next month. Chancery Lane has flagged up multiple concerns that appear to undermine suspects' rights to legal advice...

Christina Blacklaws, Society president, says the idea that detainees could potentially be questioned for an hour before being able to get legal advice 'runs against the usual standards of justice'.

Even when a solicitor is present, Blacklaws says the bill undermines a suspect's right to communicate confidentially with a lawyer. The bill states that a detainee may consult a solicitor 'only in the sight and hearing of a qualified officer'."

ECHR-BELGIUM: Exclusion from a courtroom of a woman wearing the Islamic headscarf (hijab): violation of Article 9 of the Convention (press release, pdf)

"The Court found that the exclusion of Mrs Lachiri – an ordinary citizen, not representing the State – from the courtroom had amounted to a “restriction” on the exercise of her right to manifest her religion. It also held that the restriction had pursued the legitimate aim of “protecting public order”, with a view to preventing conduct that was disrespectful towards the judiciary and/or disruptive of the proper conduct of a hearing. The Court found, however, that Mrs Lachiri’s conduct on entering the courtroom had not been disrespectful and had not constituted – or been liable to constitute – a threat to the proper conduct of the hearing. The Court therefore held that the need for the restriction in question had not been established and that the infringement of Mrs Lachiri’s right to freedom to manifest her religion was not justified in a democratic society."

See the judgment: Lachiri v Belgium (application no. 3413/09, French only, pdf)

German government seeks greater cooperation with Algeria on deportations

The German government wants to classify Algeria as a safe country of origin in terms of asylum law, as it has already done with Tunisia and Morocco. Rejected asylum seekers could be deported more quickly.

‘Fort Trump’: US considers permanent base in Poland (Military Times, link):

"President Donald Trump said the U.S. is considering a permanent military presence in Poland, something the Eastern European country has sought for more than a decade.

Speaking to reporters at the White House after he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said, "Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland. If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about.”

Poland has openly courted a permanent U.S. present since President George W. Bush was in office, and that administration had considered the possibility of using one of Poland’s military bases as part of its missile defense system and locating ground-based interceptors there. Those talks eventually fell through."

CoE: Hungary: anti-torture Committee observed decent conditions in transit zones but criticises treatment of irregular migrants when ‘pushed back’ to Serbia (link):

"The report highlights that in the context of ‘push-backs’, there was no procedure which would assess the risk of ill-treatment following the forcible removal, and the CPT recommends that the Hungarian authorities put an end to the practice of ‘push-backs’ to the Serbian side of the border.

The CPT expresses its misgivings about the fact that all foreign nationals seeking international protection, including families with children and unaccompanied minors (14 to 18 years of age), are compelled to stay in the transit zones at Röszke and Tompa while their asylum claims are being processed."

See: Report (pdf)

NUJ welcomes ECHR judgement on surveillance of journalists

(Press release) "The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the UK government has violated press freedom following a four year case brought by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. In January 2016 the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland (NUJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) backed the case, and made a joint submission to the ECHR.

The NUJ said the judgement is significant victory for the campaign to protect journalists' sources and the right of journalists to adhere to the NUJ's ethical code of conduct that states:

"A journalist protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work."

Still The Heart of the Race, thirty years on (IRR News, link):

"A seminal radical black feminist text, first published in 1985, which tells the story of black women’s experiences in Britain, has now been republished by Verso, at a time when we need it more than ever."

Big Brother in Berlin: As Germany dabbles in state surveillance, facial-recognition technology raises privacy concerns (Politico, link):

"BERLIN — Authorities in a major city scan the faces of tens of thousands of passers-by at a vast train station, using software to compare them to photographs of people in a digital database.

Welcome to Berlin Südkreuz railway station, where a German government experiment with facial-recognition technology is raising privacy concerns in a country scarred by a history of oppressive state surveillance."

German police launch Europe-wide search for G20 riot suspects (DW, link):

"The "top culprits" are accused of committing crimes amid leftist demonstrations during the Hamburg G20 summit in 2017. It comes as one man was arrested in Hamburg, where police conducted raids relating to the protests."

‘Sad day’ as Poland banned from EU judicial body (euractiv, link):

"Poland was banned Monday (17 September) from the EU body representing the member states’ judicial institutions over its perceived lack of independence after controversial government reforms.

The European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) announced it had stripped the Polish National Judicial Council of its voting rights and excluded it from the network following a meeting in Bucharest."

Legal Centre Lesvos calls for urgent action on Greek island hotspots (link):

"We join 19 organisations working in Greece in demanding immediate action to address the shameful reception conditions on the Greek islands:

Over 17,000 people remain crammed in Greek island reception centers with a total capacity for only 6,000, living in desperate conditions which do not meet humanitarian standards. This, despite public assurances from the Greek Minister of Migration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, that the islands would be decongested by September and that thousands of new places would be created on the Greek mainland. As conditions continue to deteriorate, 19 civil society organisations once again urge authorities to engage in the creation of sustainable solutions for the decongestion of the islands and to immediately improve reception conditions for refugees. It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil."

Lesvos, Greece: Moria is in a state of emergency (MSF, link):

"I have worked for 14 years as a clinical psychiatrist in the Mental Health department of Trieste in Italy. I’m considered an expert on psychiatric emergencies and I work with people who have addiction and psychiatric comorbidities. I treat people who have been victims of human trafficking, I provide mental health support for refugees and people in prison, and advise on protection and social recovery programmes. Over the course of my career, I have gained significant clinical and professional experience in difficult contexts and crisis situations.

In all of my years of medical practice, I have never witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions, as I am witnessing now amongst refugees on the island of Lesbos."

UK: White people make up largest proportion of British terror arrests (The Guardian, link):

"White people make up the largest proportion of arrested terrorism suspects for the first time in 13 years, official British figures show.

There were 351 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year to 30 June, a fall of 22% compared with the 449 arrests in the previous year, Home Office statistics show.

The proportion of suspects recorded as white by the arresting officer increased by four percentage points to 38% in the period, while those deemed to be from an Asian background fell by seven percentage points to 37%. The proportion recorded as black fell by two points to 9%.

It is the first time, since the year ending June 2005, the month before the 7/7 bombings, that more of those arrested were recorded as white rather than Asian."

See: Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 and subsequent legislation: Arrests, outcomes, and stop and search, Great Britain, quarterly update to June 2018 (pdf). Further documentation is avaiable on the Home Office website.

EU: Official evaluation of the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur)

The European Commission has published an evaluation of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR), which recommends that the system be expanded for the "systematic inclusion" of all border crossing points; the monitoring of "secondary movements" of migrants within the EU; and to develop new services and better cooperate with "third parties", for example through "big data analysis" of EU databases such as the Schengen Information System, the Visa Information System and Europol's computer systems.

EU: Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism for the Western Balkans to be signed on behalf of the EU with Western Balkans Partners (11848/18, LIMITE, 5 September 2018, pdf)

"Delegates will find attached the draft Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism for the Western Balkans as approved by the Commission.

The Commission informed delegations about this Joint Action Plan at the informal joint COTER/TWP meeting on 10 July 2018 in Vienna. Comments received by the Commission in bilateral contacts with Member States and Western Balkans partners are to a large extent reflected in this Joint Action Plan.

The Western Balkans partners will be asked for confirmation that they can accept this Joint Action Plan.

The document is to be signed by the Commission on behalf of the EU and by Western Balkans partners at the JHA Ministerial meeting in Tirana on 5 October 2018."

EU: Frontex tests drones for border surveillance: €6.5m for Leonardo and Israel Aerospace Industries

Frontex has recently signed two contracts for tests on border surveillance drones with the companies Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica) and Israel Aerospace Industries, worth €1.7 million and €4.75 million respectively.

SCOTLAND: Fracking campaigners are ‘domestic extremists’, say Police Scotland (The Ferret, link):

"Opponents of fracking in Scotland are considered “domestic extremists” by Police Scotland, despite Home Office advice that campaigners should not be bracketed alongside the likes of Islamic State and neo-Nazis under counter terrorism strategy.

Official documents also reveal that Police Scotland has been trying to infiltrate communities near the Ineos petrochemical plant at Grangemouth in order to glean information on people involved with peaceful anti-fracking groups.

The revelations by research group Spinwatch have prompted a furious response from anti-fracking groups, who are calling on the justice committee at the Scottish Parliament to ask Police Scotland to urgently change its approach."

See: Why are counter terrorism police still spying on the anti-fracking movement? (Spinwatch, link)

GREECE: 19 organizations demand decongestion of the islands and immediate improvement of refugee reception conditions

Athens, September 13, 2018 - Over 17,000 people remain crammed in Greek island reception centers with a total capacity for only 6,000, living in desperate conditions which do not meet humanitarian standards. This, despite public assurances from the Greek Minister of Migration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, that the islands would be decongested by September and that thousands of new places would be created on the Greek mainland. As conditions continue to deteriorate, 19 civil society organisations once again urge authorities to engage in the creation of sustainable solutions for the decongestion of the islands and to immediately improve reception conditions for refugees. It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil.

UPDATED: Statewatch Observatory: Creation of a centralised Justice & Home Affairs database is "a point of no return". This Observatory covers the so-called "interoperability" of EU JHA databases which in reality will create a centralised EU state database covering all existing and future JHA databases.

EU: Court of Justice: A person cannot be excluded from eligibility for subsidiary protection if he is deemed to have ‘committed a serious crime’ on the basis of the sole criterion of the penalty provided for under the law of the Member State concerned (press release, pdf):

"...the Court takes the view that, even though the criterion of the penalty imposed under national criminal legislation is of particular importance for the purpose of assessing the seriousness of the crime justifying exclusion from subsidiary protection, the competent authority of the Member State concerned may apply the ground for exclusion only after undertaking, for each individual case, an assessment of the specific facts brought to its attention with a view to determining whether there are serious grounds for taking the view that the acts committed by the person in question, who otherwise satisfies the qualifying conditions for the status applied for, come within the scope of that ground for exclusion."

See the judgment: Shajin Ahmed v Bevándorlási és Menekültügyi Hivatal (case C-369/17, pdf)

Informal Summit of Heads of State or Government, Salzburg 2018 (link to Austrian Council Presidency): Agenda includes:

"The summit is part of the Leaders' Agenda and it will focus on internal security. Heads of state or government will take stock of progress achieved to:

- upgrade police and judicial cooperation
- strengthen border security and resilience in cyberspace

On the eve of the meeting, leaders will meet for an informal working dinner with migration as the main topic. Leaders will discuss the latest developments in this area. They will also assess progress achieved to reduce irregular arrivals and to cooperate with third countries."

UK-BREXIT: Security Cooperation: Government response (pdf) to Home Affairs Committee report (pdf)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8-14.9.18)

EU: Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament calls on the EU to act

Parliament has asked EU member states to determine, in accordance with Treaty Article 7, whether Hungary is at risk of breaching the EU´s founding values.

The request was approved by 448 votes to 197, with 48 abstentions. To be adopted, the proposal required an absolute majority of members (376) and two thirds of the votes cast - excluding the abstentions.

UK: Young black men more likely to be prosecuted over dispersal orders (The Guardian, link):

"Young black men in London are disproportionately more likely to be prosecuted for breaking public dispersal orders available to police as part of a range of measures to crack down on antisocial behaviour.

Research produced by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies looked at a range of powers given to councils and police in 2014 and found that they had resulted in almost 1,000 young adults being prosecuted in two years.

One of these, the controversial dispersal power, allows police to ban individuals from an area for 48 hours if they believe there is a risk of antisocial behaviour. The order must be signed by an inspector or above but does not have to be consulted on more widely before coming into effect.

Anyone in breach of an order can be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500 or imprisoned for up to three months."

See: Anti-social behaviour powers and young adults: The data (The Guardian, link)

UK: The "deport first, appeal later" policy: Afghan father who sought refuge in UK 'shot dead by Taliban' after being deported by Home Office (The Independent, link):

"An Afghan man who sought refuge from the Taliban in the UK has been shot dead in his home town after being deported by the British government.

Zainadin Fazlie had lived in London with his wife, who had refugee status, and their four British-born children. But after committing a number of minor offences, the 47-year-old was sent back to Afghanistan after 16 years in Britain, despite threats to his life.

Last Friday, his wife Samira Fazlie found out he had been shot by Taliban forces after seeing an image of his dead body on Facebook."

France admits torture during Algeria's war of independence (Al Jazeera, link):

"France acknowledged for the first time it was responsible for systematic torture during the Algerian war of independence in the mid-1950s.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that Maurice Audin, a communist pro-independence activist who disappeared in 1957, "died under torture stemming from the system instigated while Algeria was part of France."

Macron, who paid a visit to Audin's widow on Thursday, was also set to announce "the opening of archives on the subject of disappeared civilians and soldiers, both French and Algerian.""

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: new opinions highlight privacy concerns with biometric identity cards and Visa Information System proposals

The EU's Fundamental Rights Agency has published two detailed new opinions examining recent proposals to expand and amend the Visa Information System (VIS) and to make the inclusion of biometrics (fingerprints and facial images) mandatory in all EU citizens' national identity cards.

EU: Security and migration proposals dominate Juncker's 'State of the Union' announcements - full documentation

A reinforced Frontex, a new European Asylum Agency, more measures against online terrorist content, a strengthened European Public Prosecutor's Office, lowering the standards in the Returns Directive and changes to decision-making in foreign policy were just some of the security and migration-related proposals announced in the 'State of the Union' speech given by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, on 12 September.

GREECE: Update on Moria: mainland travel permitted for some; concerns over growing EASO role in asylum procedure; deportations without due process

Lesvos Legal Centre reports that on Friday 7th September the Greek government began lifting the geographical restrictions for individuals classified as vulnerable who are attempting to claim asylum in Lesvos.

This is supposed to enable around 5,000 people to leave the Moria detention centre/hotspot and travel to the mainland.

This 'solution' to the overcrowding in Moria will not, however, be sufficient to address the needs of the estimated 11,000 people trapped on Lesvos.

ECHR-UK: GCHQ surveillance powers violate human rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that various aspects of the surveillance powers used by the UK's signals intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), violate the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

UK: CPS to take no action against police over death of Leon Briggs (The Guardian, link):

"The mother of a vulnerable man who died after being restrained by police has spoken of her devastation after learning officers will face no criminal charges.

The police watchdog passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in March 2016 concerning two Bedfordshire police constables, three sergeants and a member of police staff, suggesting they may have committed crimes over the death of Leon Briggs in 2013.

In January, prosecutors said no action would be taken against one of the officers, and they have now confirmed the other five people will also face no charges."

UK-BELGIUM-FRANCE: Eurostar to trial passenger data exchange with Belgian authorities (IRJ, link):

"This requirement already applies to airlines and private aircraft flying in and out of Belgian airports. The Belgian government cites the move as a response to previous terrorist attacks and to prevent other serious crime.

The trial exchange of PNR data, which the Belgian government says has already been agreed with the British government, will be tested on Eurostar services between Brussels and London. Long-distance bus operator Flixbus is also included in the trial for its services operating from Belgium. The Belgian government has the powers to undertake this date collection as, under the PNR Directive, member states are allowed to determine their own approach for trains, buses and ferries.

According to reports in the Belgian media, the information will be given to the newly-created Passenger Information Unit within the Interior Ministry (known as the Federal Public Service of Belgium) where Belgian Federal Police, customs, security services and military intelligence share data."

GREECE: Lesvos: support at court for journalists in social media abuse case

Fifty journalists and supporters gathered at the court in Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesvos on Tuesday 11th September for the initial court procedure in a case involving the abuse of journalists for reporting on fascist activities.

EU police show little interest in processing passenger data (Matthias Monroy, link):

"Once called for as an indispensable tool in the fight against terrorism, the implementation of the EU directive on the use of passenger data is slow.

The "Passenger Name Records“ (PNR) package adopted over two years ago should have been transposed into national law by all Member States by 25 May this year. However, a considerable number of governments have not yet reported this to the Commission. This was confirmed by EU Internal Affairs Commissioner Julian King at a hearing in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Previously, the civil rights organisation Statewatch had also reported on this."

UK-IRELAND: Human rights judges reject final appeal of Troubles 'hooded men' (The Guardian, link):

"The European court of human rights has rejected a final attempt by the Irish government to redefine as torture the maltreatment of 14 men interned without trial at the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Judges at the ECHR refused to refer the case of the so-called “hooded men” to its internal appeal court, the grand chamber. The “hooded men” were mainly republican suspects seized in predawn raids across North Ireland in August 1971.

The authorities in Dublin, backed by human rights organisations, had asked the ECHR in 2014 to revise its original 1978 judgment after large numbers of documents from the years of internment emerged."

See the original press release: ECHR rejects Irish request to find torture in 1978 judgment against UK (pdf) and: Full-text of Judgment (pdf)

UK-EU: Negotiating Brexit: policing and criminal justice (Institute for Government, link)

"Failure to secure a new agreement on policing and criminal justice after Brexit will make it harder to extradite dangerous criminals from the UK and reduce the number of people brought back to the UK to face justice.

Negotiating Brexit: policing and criminal justice says that without a new agreement, the UK will fall back on the patchwork of insufficient security arrangements that predate EU cooperation. Currently, the UK uses the European Arrest Warrant to extradite more than 1000 people a year – under the previous, politicised system of extradition the figure was less than 60.

It will also be harder to bring people who are suspected of committing crimes back to the UK to face trial. UK authorities will lose access to huge EU-wide databases and prosecutors will face difficulty collaborating with EU partners without initiatives like Europol.

The report explains how the UK has the most bespoke deal on policing cooperation of any EU country, but it will not be able to maintain this once it has left. The EU has not accepted the UK’s proposal of an overarching security agreement and is offering only slightly better arrangements than those it has with other 'third countries' including Canada and Norway. The report argues that this does not recognise the UK’s contribution to EU-wide policing, or the UK already trying to allay concerns around human rights."

FRANCE-UK: The Jungle ‘Performance’: Recreating a Refugee Camp on the Fly (Refugees Deeply, link):

"In early 2017, just three months after the demolition of the Jungle, asylum seekers started to return to Calais. For the past year, there have been 400–700 migrants living informally in the area at any given time. Yet the Jungle has not reappeared.

There is no physical camp in Calais. Newcomers play an absurd game of cat and mouse with authorities, building makeshift shelters that are then destroyed by police. In response, volunteer humanitarians reclaim the camp in the only way they can: They publicly “perform” a recreation of the protective space that the Jungle provided for asylum seekers, challenging the police’s attempts to criminalize everybody involved."

And see: French police clear 500 migrants from Dunkirk camp (The Local, link): "Police moved in to clear 500 migrants from a camp near the French port city of Dunkirk, along the English Channel where many gather hoping to stow away on trucks or ferries heading to Britain, officials said Thursday."

UK: Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology: Biometric technologies (pdf):

"Biometric technologies identify individuals based on their distinguishing physical and behavioural attributes, such as fingerprints, face, and voice. Unlike passwords or traditional identity documents, biometric attributes are inherently linked to a person and cannot usually be lost or forgotten, potentially providing greater security and convenience. This briefing focuses on how these technologies work, their applications, and the policy challenges raised by their use."

GREECE: Lesvos: Moria camp "dangerous to public health" and majority of detainees "never feel safe"

The notorious Moria "hotspot" camp on the Greek island of Lesvos must be cleaned up within 30 days or otherwise closed down. Inspectors declared the camp "dangerous for public health and the environment," after finding "broken sewage pipes, overflowing garbage bins, and stagnant water and flies in the toilets," according to a report in the The Independent. Meanwhile, a recent investigation has found that over 65% of people living in the camp "never feel safe" there.

EU: European travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS): Council adopts regulation

On 5 September 2018 the Council adopted a regulation establishing a European travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS).

ETIAS will allow for advance checks and, if necessary, deny travel authorisation to visa-exempt third-country nationals travelling to the Schengen area. It will help improve internal security, prevent illegal immigration, protect public health and reduce delays at the borders by identifying persons who may pose a risk in one of these areas before they arrive at the external borders.

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.8-7.9.18) including: UK asylum dispersal system close to failure; anti-migrant militias spring up in Central Europe; Mediterranean search and rescue operations not a "pull factor" for migrants

Council of Europe: Despite challenges in managing mixed migration Spain should guarantee effective access to asylum also in Melilla and Ceuta

Strasbourg, 06.09.2018 - ”Every person arriving in Spain, including those jumping the border fences in Melilla and Ceuta, should be protected against refoulement and collective expulsions with a real possibility to have access to an effective and fair asylum procedure”, says the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees Ambassador Tomáš Bocek in a report published today.

The Keys to Data Protection: A guide for policy engagement on data protection (Privacy International, link):

"In this section, you can access the different parts of our guide for policy engagement on data protection "The Keys to Data Protection". The guide is intended to help organisations and individuals improve their understanding of data protection, by providing a framework to analyse the various provisions which are commonly presented in a data protection law.

The guide was developed from Privacy International’s experience and expertise on international principles and standards applicable to the protection of privacy and personal data, and our leadership and research on modern technologies and data processing."

The guide covers: Data Protection Explained (Part 1); General provisions, definitions and scope (Part 2); Data protection principles (Part 3); The rights of data subjects (Part 4); The grounds for processing personal data (Part 5); The obligations of controllers and processors (Part 6); and Oversight and enforcement structures (Part 7).

UK: London, 13-14 October 2018: State racism, collusion and resistance (CCJS, link):

"A two-day conference discussing the pervasive nature of racism, injustice and austerity in contemporary Britain and their impact on working class communities.

The aims of the 2-day conference are twofold: firstly to identify and discuss the motivating factors of the pervasive nature of racism, injustice and austerity and their impact on working class communities. Secondly, we aim to bring different campaigns and communities together so that we can begin to collectively address the challenges ahead.

...The conference is an initiative of The Monitoring Group, co-organised with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and supported by Imran Khan and Partners and South Bank University."

Anti-migrant militias spring up in central Europe (EUobserver, link):

"Czech and Slovenian authorities have voiced alarm over the emergence of armed anti-migrant militias in the two central European countries.

The concerns come after revelations of a paramilitary base, with tanks and armoured personnel carriers, used by a biker gang with Kremlin ties in Slovakia.

The Czech intelligence service, the BIS, voiced its worries about a group that calls itself the National Home Guard in a classified report seen by Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.

...The home guard groups, which have up to 2,500 members in 90 national branches, patrol the streets of some small Czech towns, such as Nymburk, 50km west of Prague, looking for irregular migrants.

They appear to have links with local police and have political support from National Democracy, a fringe far-right party."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Loughinisland killings: arrests an "attempt to intimidate journalists and whistleblowers"

"A search and arrest operation during an investigation into the suspected theft of confidential documents from the Police Ombudsman's Office was an attempt to intimidate journalists and whistleblowers, the High Court heard today.

Counsel for the company behind a documentary into the loyalist murders of six men in the 1994 Loughinisland massacre claimed police had abused their powers.

Two award-winning journalists involved in the film 'No Stone Unturned', Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, were arrested, questioned and released last week as part of the probe."

Impasse on migration clouds EU-Africa relations (euractiv, link):

"The issue of how to control migration from Africa may have exorcised European leaders in recent years, but it could also derail the EU’s main political agreement with the continent.

Eighteen months of talks on a new agreement to replace the 2000 Cotonou accord with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries will begin in the coming weeks, with EU and African leaders far apart on how to tackle migration policy."

Council of the European Union: Commission Implementing Decision establishing the report of the 2017 evaluation of the United Kingdom on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the Schengen Information System (LIMIITE Document no: 11474-18, pdf)

"On this basis, the Presidency will suggest that Coreper recommends, as a I/A-item, that the Council invite the Commission to present a proposal for a Council Implementing Decision setting out a recommendation to address the very serious deficiencies identified in the evaluation of the United Kingdom in view of fulfilling the conditions necessary for the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the Schengen Information System, pursuant to Article 15 of Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013...."

UK: Arms industry spends millions to promote brands in schools - Defence groups sponsor lessons that promote building and sale of military hardware (Observer, link):

"Arms manufacturers are spending millions of pounds a year promoting their brands in Britain’s schools, the Observer has learned.

The companies, which between them have sold tens of billions of pounds of weapons to overseas governments, including those with poor human rights records, sponsor a series of school events at which their brands are prominently on display. (...)

“When these companies are promoting themselves to children they are not talking about the deadly impact their weapons are having,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade. “Many of these companies have profited from war and fuelled atrocities around the world."


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