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April 2019

EU: Common European Asylum System: deadlock in the Council as "frontline" Member States oppose mandatory "border procedures"

Council discussions on controversial proposals for dealing with asylum applications at the external borders of the EU hit a wall recently, with "a large majority" of Member States who favour tougher measures facing opposition from those on the "frontline". Member States' diplomatic representatives were called upon to try to reach a resolution, but the Council is remaining tight-lipped on the outcome of those discussions.

Rendition: UK spent £11m of public money fighting Libya rendition case (Guardian, link):

"Figures show vast sums spent resisting apology demands over rendition of Libyan dissidents. The government spent more than £11m of public funds resisting demands for an apology, compensation and prosecutions over MI6’s 2004 rendition of the Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar.

The colossal sum involved has been revealed for the first time through a freedom of information request that exposes the vast amounts ministers and official were prepared to pay out at a time when legal aid has been severely restricted."

Slovak top court rejects bid to ban far-right party (euractiv, link):

"Slovakia’s Supreme Court on Monday (29 April) ruled against banning a far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Roma party currently polling at just over 10%, saying prosecutors had not produced enough evidence against them.

The Kotleba-People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), which campaigns against letting migrants into the country, entered the 150-member parliament for the first time in March 2016. It currently has 13 seats.

The proposed ban presented by chief prosecutor Jaromir Ciznar was “insufficiently substantiated”, Jana Zemkova told reporters, reading from the court decision."

Germany faces 'civil war' threat from rising far-right groups (Daily Sabah, link):

"The far-right group "Pro-Chemnitz" stages a protest, Chemnitz, Aug. 30, 2018.

German far-right extremists have been training for civil war and a collapse of the state, a secret report by the country's domestic security agency revealed, citing the rising risk of a right-wing terror threat."

'Political predators preying on migration crisis,' says EU top job candidate Timmermans (Euronews, link):

"Frans Timmermans, the socialist candidate for the EU's top job, told Euronews that political predators were taking advantage of the so-called migration crisis.

"The problem arises from the time in 2015 and 2016 when clearly we were not in control of the crisis. Since then we have taken steps to regain control of the crisis. We're not there yet but we're getting there," Timmermans said."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16-29.4.19) including:

Julian Assange's legal battles have only just begun (CNN, link):

"London (CNN)He entered Ecuador's London embassy in 2012, lauded by some as a charismatic defender of truth and journalistic collaborator, fleeing what he claimed were the crosshairs of the United States.

Cut to almost seven years on, the extraordinary scenes of a disheveled Julian Assange dragged from his diplomatic sanctuary exposed the damaging impact of his time in self-imposed exile.

The 47-year-old WikiLeaks founder put his legal problems on hold during the 2,488 days he spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy. And now he's out, they are more complicated than ever."

UK: Launch of the National Mikey Powell Memorial Family Fund (link):

"The fund will to be the first permanent national resource of its kind for those affected by deaths in custody, making small grants available for families and their campaign groups across the UK to provide practical domestic assistance, to further the work of their own campaigns or to assist them in engaging in other local, regional or national campaigns, events and initiatives.

This fund will make a real difference for families and their campaign groups that need financial support during the often long struggles for justice lasting for decades in many cases."

New EU Directive on Whistleblower Protection (EU Law Analysis, link):

"With an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament on 16 April voted in favour of the new law to protect whistleblowers in the European Union. The Directive sets leading standards and has become a prime example of how a concerted effort by civil society – NGOs, trade unions, journalists, scholars, and whistleblowers – together with the European Parliament can lead to progressive legislation and enhance tools that safeguard the rule of law in Europe."

Detention, Insecurity, Rights Deprivation – The Legal Crackdown on Asylum Seekers in Germany (ECRE, link):

"On 17 April 2019 the German Government pushed ahead with the deprivation of rights of refugees with two laws – the so-called “Orderly Return Bill” and an amendment to the social welfare law for asylum seekers. The highly controversial “Orderly Return Bill” promoted by the Ministry of the Interior has now been passed by the cabinet meeting of the Government and will be discussed in parliament. The draft law is part of a recent wave of legal measures that represent a crackdown on asylum seekers. It provides for far-reaching changes which have been sharply criticised by civil society associations as they include the deprivation of rights, expansion of the use of detention, and withdrawal of social benefits. It also makes the status of recognised refugees more precarious, introduces a downgraded version of the “Duldung” (toleration) status, and targets people and organisations involved in refugee support."

IRELAND: Legislation to codify arrest, search and detention powers coming to Cabinet this year (Irish Legal News, link):

"Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told a law conference this morning that he plans to bring legislative proposals to the Cabinet this year to codify powers of arrest, search and detention.

The legislation will also include statutory codes of practice to ensure full clarity and transparency in the exercise of coercive powers.

Mr Flanagan spoke at the opening session of the “Policing, Human Rights & Communities” conference hosted by the School of Law and Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway this morning."

See: A policing service for the future: Implementing the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (pdf) and: The future of policing in Ireland (pdf)

FAR-RIGHT: Vox enters Congress for the first time but falls short of expectations (El País, link):

"The Spanish far-right party Vox was expected to make historic gains at the general election on Sunday but ended up walking away with a more moderate result: 10.3% of the vote and 24 seats in Congress. During the election campaign, images of Vox’s mass rallies fueled fears that the emerging group would make a deal with the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) to form a government. Instead Vox will have to resign itself to being in opposition as the fifth-strongest political force in Spain.

...Support for Vox at this year’s election was more than 50 times greater than that seen at the 2016 polls. From having no congressional representation, the far-right party now has 24 deputies in Congress."

ECHR: Terrorism convict can be deported from France to Algeria without any risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, ECHR rules

The case concerns the applicant’s planned deportation to Algeria after he was convicted in France in 2015 for participating in acts of terrorism and was permanently banned from French territory.

The Court found that the general situation in Algeria as regards the treatment of individuals linked to terrorism did not in itself preclude the applicant’s deportation.

EU: Police press ahead with efforts to automate cross-border information-sharing

Police forces are moving ahead with plans to increasingly automate the sharing of personal data across EU states, according to documents recently shared within the Council of the EU.

EU lawmakers rubber-stamp European Defence Fund, give up parliamentary veto (EurActiv, link):

"MEPs signed-off a deal establishing the multi-billion European Defence Fund (EDF) on Thursday (18 April), giving up parliamentary oversight of the EU’s military subsidies programme.

According to plans, approved by EU lawmakers with 328 votes in favour, 231 against and 19 abstentions, the EDF is set to receive an estimated €13 billion in the EU’s next multi-annual financial framework (MFF) and will finance research projects.

However, the partial agreement does not yet include the final financial figures as the seven-year EU budget still needs to be approved by the next Parliament."

UK: Self-harm in detention centre up threefold in three years despite drop in population, report finds (The Independent, link):

"Self-harm among detainees in one of Britain’s largest immigration removal centres has surged threefold in the last three years despite a considerable drop in the population, the prisons watchdog has warned.

There were 65 incidents of self-harm recorded in Colnbrook detention centre during the six-month period to September 2018, compared with 20 in the same period in 2016, according to a report by the Prison Inspectorate."

See: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons: Report on an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre (pdf) and: Action plan (pdf)

German Police launches „National Internet Referral Unit“ (Matthias Monroy, link):

"Europol has requested the removal of Internet content in almost 100,000 cases. The companies adressed are responding to a considerable extent. The German BKA has now also set up a contact office, which has sent almost 6,000 reports since its short existence and cooperates closely with Europol, also about „smuggling crime“.

...With the new department the German Government precedes the EU regulation for preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The legislative proposal was presented by the EU Commission last September, and after only a few months and thus at a rush, the EU Parliament agreed on its position last week. The aim is to adopt the regulation as quickly as possible after the election of the new EU-parliament."

MALTA: Media reports on foreign suspects show worrying trends, researchers say (Times of Malta, link):

"Reports on foreign suspects show “worrying trends”, making ex-plicit reference to the ethnicity of alleged perpetrators when they are foreigners, researchers said.

A National Media Report on media representation of suspects found media outlets consistently made explicit reference to the ethnicity and nationality of alleged perpetrators, particularly when they were not Maltese.

The report was carried out by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, organisation Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb Rights International Spain, the Vienna University and Aditus."

EU: National security and fundamental rights: new paper examines problems with definitions and the rule of law

The Council of Bars & Law Societies of Europe has issued a paper examining the protection of fundamental rights in the context of national security, focusing in particular on the way "national security" is legally defined.

GREECE: Racist Violence Recording Network: Annual Report 2018 (pdf):

"In 2018, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) recorded an increase in incidents of racist violence, especially against refugees and migrants. This increase is linked to the political polarization at a global level regarding the reception of refugees and migrants, coupled with national and local factors shaping the situation in Greece. The reinforced presence of the far-right parties in Europe encourages the violent xenophobic groups that claim an increasing proportion of the public sphere. In view of the European elections, the more space is occupied by the far-right agenda and euro-scepticism, the more the far-right, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups across Europe gain further strength and form alliances with each other or even compete in committing racist attacks."

UK: Home Office: Implementation plan for the joint review of forensics provision (April 2019, pdf):

"The Review was commissioned to evaluate the provision of forensic science to criminal investigations and criminal court proceedings in England and Wales, following Key Forensic Services’ entry into administration in January 2018 and persistent stakeholder concerns regarding quality.

The Review’s primary focus was the operation and management of the market, but Ministers and the Review team recognised that a broader set of issues have a significant impact on stakeholder’s confidence in the system’s ability to deliver high quality forensics into the CJS."

And see: Forensics Review: Review of the provision of forensic science to the criminal justice system in England and Wales (July 2018, pdf)

IRELAND: One country blocks the world on data privacy (Politico, link):

"Last May, Europe imposed new data privacy guidelines that carry the hopes of hundreds of millions of people around the world — including in the United States — to rein in abuses by big tech companies.

Almost a year later, it’s apparent that the new rules have a significant loophole: The designated lead regulator — the tiny nation of Ireland — has yet to bring an enforcement action against a big tech firm.

That’s not entirely surprising. Despite its vows to beef up its threadbare regulatory apparatus, Ireland has a long history of catering to the very companies it is supposed to oversee, having wooed top Silicon Valley firms to the Emerald Isle with promises of low taxes, open access to top officials, and help securing funds to build glittering new headquarters.

Now, data privacy experts and regulators in other countries are questioning Ireland’s commitment to policing imminent privacy concerns like Facebook’s reintroduction of facial recognition software and data-sharing with its recently purchased subsidiary WhatsApp, and Google’s sharing of information across its burgeoning number of platforms."

Libya: Detained refugees shot as clashes near Tripoli continue (Al Jazeera, link):

"Refugees and migrants trapped in a detention centre on the front line of conflict in Tripoli for weeks say they were shot at indiscriminately on Tuesday by fighters aligned with eastern forces advancing on Libya's capital.

At least 10 people were seriously wounded by gunfire, detainees said.

"Right now they are attacking the centre, shooting more people … They are shooting us directly," an Eritrean man told Al Jazeera through the messaging service WhatsApp."

And: Migrants in Libyan jail were reportedly seriously wounded in shooting: U.N. (Reuters, link)

Germany: Hundreds of open warrants for far-right suspects (DW, link):

"Hundreds of warrants seeking the arrest of suspects from the right-wing scene across Germany are still outstanding, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said Thursday.

By the end of September, 467 people had warrants out for their arrest. Theft, fraud, verbal insults and traffic offenses account for 82% of the criminal acts, according to a BKA statement. In some cases, suspects have multiple warrants out for their arrest."

Mass travel monitoring: 500 new posts for German Passenger Name Record system (Matthias Monroy, link):

"EU-wide surveillance of air travellers is gathering pace. In the first year, the German BKA manually inspected tens of thousands of passengers after the automated screening. The authorities ordered follow-up measures for 277 passengers. These include arrests, open or discreet checks.

German authorities continue to look for personnel to implement the retention of passenger data. Of the more than 500 posts planned for the new system, around one third are currently occupied. This was written by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior in response to questions on the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive."

EU: Legislative transparency within the Council (Council document 7888/19, LIMITE, 26 March 2019, pdf):

"The Council has started a reflection on legislative transparency, in the context of ongoing developments in other institutions, a large number of access requests, developments in the relevant case-law and technological evolutions such as the trilogue editor, as well as the report of the Ombudsman regarding the transparency of the Council legislative practices.

...Beyond the consideration that the existing access to documents rules may not be sufficient in light of today's context, it would be in the Council's interest to agree on a clear position in order to avoid being forced to react and adapt to decisions taken by other institutions. In addition, increasing coherence and consistency of practice would be beneficial for the good functioning of the Council as an institution.

Guidance from Coreper is therefore required on the way forward."

SPAIN: Ethnic profiling in Catalonia: for every police identity check on a Spanish national, there are seven checks on foreigners

Black or ethnic minority individuals or those with a foreign nationality are stopped more frequently by Catalan police officers than those who are white and/or have Spanish nationality, according to a recent report by the organisation Pareu de Parar-me (Stop Stopping Me).

Germany sets tougher rules for deporting migrants (AP, link):

"The German government has agreed on a set of rules aimed at making it harder for failed asylum seekers to avoid deportation.

The country’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, said Wednesday that the package agreed by the Cabinet focuses on people who have exhausted all legal avenues to obtain asylum.

Seehofer told reporters in Berlin that people who try to hide their true identity can be jailed and those who fail to replace lost travel documents may face fines.

Authorities will double to about 1,000 the number of prison places designated for deportees."

GERMANY: Investigation against activist artists dropped, but questions remain (DW, link):

"The 16-month criminal investigation against the artist collective Center for Political Beauty (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit, ZPS) has been suspended, Thuringian State Premier Bodo Ramelow announced on Monday.

The fact that the art group's director, Philipp Ruch, was under investigation for "forming a criminal organization" was revealed last week and the case obtained international media attention. The criminal investigation has been described as the first of its kind in Germany's postwar history, as the country's constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees freedom of artistic activity.

Even though the investigation has been dropped, the artists say the case has raised further questions they still want answered, ZPS spokesperson Tilda Rosenfeld told DW. What were the political motivations of the prosecutors who launched the investigation? Why did it go on for so long? And why didn't the federal government react to the unfounded proceedings, even though there is proof that it had been informed?"

EXCLUSIVE: Campaigners against Uighur oppression blacklisted on terrorism database (Middle East Eye, link):

"An internationally recognised advocacy group raising awareness about the repression of the Uighur minority in western China has been added to a terrorism blacklist used by many of the world’s biggest banks, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The Germany-based World Uighur Congress (WUC), which has advised the United Nations and the European Union, plans to sue the owner of the World-Check financial database after it used Chinese allegations to link the WUC to terrorism.

Dolkun Isa, the president of the WUC, and two other senior members of the organisation who were also added to the blacklist as individuals are also planning legal action."

‘I’m not racist, but …’ - Daniel Trilling reviews 'Whiteshift' by Eric Kaufman and 'National Populism' by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin (London Review of Books, link):

"Kaufmann, Eatwell and Goodwin fail to see the danger in what they are proposing. Their arguments rest on the notion that there is a normal, reasonable amount of nationalism or ethnic preference that can be accommodated in order to keep majority-white populations happy, and that this settlement needn’t shade into racism and violence. They smooth over the differences in culture, history, class and political outlook that exist among people who might be categorised as white, and they are even less careful in discussing everyone else. They do not consider the ways in which the social uncertainty caused by globalisation is a worldwide phenomenon, and do not see that to retreat behind closed doors is the path to disaster. Worst of all, they close off any possibility that the prevailing order might be challenged by people coming together in their difference to work towards common goals. Unless we can move beyond arguments like theirs, sooner or later we will come to realise that the walls we build to defend ourselves are the walls of a prison."

Fighting in Libya will create huge number of refugees, PM warns (Guardian, link):

"Fayez al-Sarraj says Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli ‘will spread its cancer through Mediterranean

Hundreds of thousands of refugees could flee the fighting caused by Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the prime minister of the country’s UN-recognised government has warned.(...)

There have been concerns that Libya could become a “new Syria”, with civil war leading to massive population displacement.(...)

“There are not only the 800,000 migrants potentially ready to leave, there would be Libyans fleeing this war",

EU pushes to link tracking databases - Proposal will make it harder to find ‘needle in the haystack,’ critics say (Politico, link):

"The European Union is about to become a lot safer — at least on paper.

Lawmakers are set to approve plans for an enormous new database that will collect biometric data on almost all non-EU citizens in Europe’s visa-free Schengen area. The database — merging previously separate systems tracking migration, travel and crime — will grant officials access to a person’s verified identity with a single fingerprint scan.

The question, say the plan’s critics, is whether it truly represents an improvement to safety — and whether it adequately takes into account concerns about civil liberties and privacy.".

The exceptional become the norm: Border controls: state of emergency becoming state of normality (euractiv, link);

"Germany, as well as other EU member states in the Schengen area, is extending the period of random border checks. The EU Commission is not pleased. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Actually, border checks should only be temporary. However, the deployment of the German Federal Police at the German-Austrian border, which began at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015, has since been repeatedly extended."

ECHR: Police discriminated against Roma family by using ethnic profiling to justify raid on their home (pdf):

"In its committee judgment in the case the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held, that there had been:
- a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned the ill-treatment of the applicant family during the raid, and
- two violations of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 3 because the raid had been racially motivated and the related investigation had been ineffective.

The Court found that there had been no justification for the disproportionate use of force during the raid on the applicant family’s home, which had left them with injuries requiring treatment in hospital. The applicants had been unarmed and had never been accused of any violent crime, while the four gendarmes who had raided their home had been highly trained in rapid intervention."

European Parliament: Personal data protection achievements during the legislative term 2014-2019: the role of the European Parliament (pdf):

"Considerable progress was made in safeguarding privacy during the legislative term 2014-2019 – most importantly, new EU data protection rules strengthening citizens’ rights and simplifying the rules for companies in the digital age took effect in May 2018."

On the other hand: Protection of EU external borders Achievements during the legislative term 2014-2019: the role of the European Parliament (pdf):

"Considerable progress was made regarding safeguarding the EU’s external borders during the legislative term 2014-2019 - most importantly after the migratory crisis of 2015 had made the deficiencies of the European common policy had become evident. (...)

EP has had mixed reactions to the development of external border management policy. It has broadly supported the upgraded organisational role of the EBCGA and the other relevant Union agencies, often calling for their role to be further enhanced as the EU grapples with the migration crisis in the Mediterranean"

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-15.4.19) including:

US Army terminal missile defense system is headed to Eastern Europe (Defense News, link):

"So far only the Pacific region and, more recently, the Middle East have seen operational deployments of the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, but now it’s headed to Romania this summer, according to an April 11 U.S. European Command statement.

Questions have swirled for years on when, where and if THAAD would deploy to Europe, particularly as the situation on the eastern flank has heated up since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

The THAAD system, according to the USEUCOM statement, will deploy this summer “in support of NATO Ballistic Missile Defense” — in other words, it’s filling in for the operational Aegis Ashore missile defense system while it undergoes a “limited period of scheduled maintenance and updates.”"

UK: Britons going to terror hotspots face 10 years in jail under new laws (The Guardian, link):

"British citizens travelling to live in foreign terrorism hotspots could face up to 10 years in prison under controversial new laws.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 comes into force on Friday and creates a criminal offence of entering or remaining in a “designated area” overseas.

Ministers unveiled the measure last year as part of efforts to boost authorities’ ability to tackle the threat from so-called foreign fighters. The act allows the home secretary to designate an area, subject to parliamentary approval."

And see: Stricter laws to tackle terrorism come into force (government press release, pdf)

The U.S. Government's Indictment of Julian Assange poses grave threats to press freedom (The Intercept, link):

"The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document (pdf) and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.

So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations... The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new...

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing."

EU: Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament “EU Defence Fund provisional agreement sets dangerous precedent against democratic functioning of the EU” (pdf):

"On Wednesday 17 April [note: now Thursday 18 April], you will be asked to approve the provisional agreement on the legislative proposal creating a European Defence Fund ( 2018/0254(COD) in the next EU budgetary cycle (MFF 2021-2027).

This agreement sets a dangerous precedent against the democratic functioning of the EU and, in particular, against the oversight role of the Parliament on EU programmes.

It is in your hands to close this Pandora’s box while there is still time. If not, it will pave the way for the EU to become merely a cash cow for profit-making companies and national short term interests, and the Parliament reduced to a rubber-stamping body.

This is not what EU citizens are expecting from you ahead of crucial elections, nor will it improve EU’s legitimacy to their eyes.

We urge you to oppose the adoption of this provisional agreement and let the next Parliament have the power to decide what to do with 13 billion Euros."

See also: What is the European Defence Fund? (ENAAT, pdf)

IRELAND: Plans to regulate private security enforcing court orders welcomed by civil rights group (Irish Legal News, link):

"Plans to regulate private security personnel employed to enforce court orders have been welcomed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

The civil rights group told Irish Legal News that tensions over the conduct of security officials at evictions in Dublin last year illustrated the need for public oversight.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday secured agreement from his Government colleagues to bring forward draft amendments to the Private Security Services Act 2004 (as amended).

Bringing enforcement guards within the licensing remit of the Private Security Authority (PSA) was the key recommendation of an inter-departmental working group report presented to the Cabinet yesterday."

Three Steps Ahead, One Step Aside: The AG’s Opinion in the Commission v. Poland Case (verfassungsblog.de, link):

"On 11 April Advocate General Tanchev issued his long-awaited opinion in Case C-619/18 Commission v Poland concerning Polish measures (i) lowering the retirement age of the judges of the Supreme Court appointed to that court before 3 April 2018 and (ii) granting the President of Poland discretion to extend the active mandate of Supreme Court judges upon reaching the lowered retirement age. As AG Tanchev aptly noted, this case presented the Court with the opportunity to rule, for the first time within the context of infringement proceedings under Article 258 TFEU, on the compatibility of certain measures taken by a Member State concerning the organisation of its judicial system with Article 19(1) TEU in connection with Article 47 of the Charter (para 2 of the opinion).

UK-USA: Julian Assange faces US extradition after arrest at Ecuadorian embassy (Guardian, link):

"WikiLeaks founder’s removal from London embassy brings seven-year diplomatic stalemate to an end.

Julian Assange is facing extradition to the United States and up to five years in prison after he was forcibly dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday, bringing an extraordinary seven-year diplomatic stalemate to an end."

EU: French anti-terrorist unit demands removal of adverts, books, US-government produced reports from web archives

France's Internet Referral Unit has been busy sending requests to the Internet Archive for the removal of hundreds of web pages, but the Archive has said there is a serious problem - none of the URLs in question contain terrorist propaganda.

The pages that the French unit wants the Internet Archive to remove include works from the American Libraries collection, old television adverts and programmes, the Smithsonian Libraries, television broadcasts of the US House of Representatives and even an academic paper entitled 'Spectrum Sharing in Cognitive Radio with Quantized Channel Information'.

As the Internet Archive has highlighted in a blog post, such requests pose a clear threat to freedom of expression and information.

Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament: “EU Defence Fund provisional agreement sets dangerous precedent against democratic functioning of the EU” (pdf):

"On Wednesday 17 April, you will be asked to approve the provisional agreement on the legislative proposal creating a European Defence Fund ( 2018/0254(COD) in the next EU budgetary cycle (MFF 2021-2027).

This agreement sets a dangerous precedent against the democratic functioning of the EU and, in particular, against the oversight role of the Parliament on EU programmes.

It is in your hands to close this Pandora’s box while there is still time. If not, it will pave the way for the EU to become merely a cash cow for profit-making companies and national short term interests, and the Parliament reduced to a rubber-stamping body.

This is not what EU citizens are expecting from you ahead of crucial elections, nor will it improve EU’s legitimacy to their eyes.

We urge you to oppose the adoption of this provisional agreement and let the next Parliament have the power to decide what to do with 13 billion Euros."

EU: Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants (Open Democracy, link):

"This weekend, thousands of people marched in Berlin, and several other German cities including Nuremberg and Cologne, to protest a bill, proposed by the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, that would toughen the country’s asylum and deportation laws and criminalise pro-migrant activism.

The protest was not the first of its kind. Over the last few months, there have been several coordinated demonstrations over migrant policy across Germany. Between July and September last year, tens of thousands of people dressed in orange, many wearing life jackets, took to the streets to protest a growing clampdown on migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the civil society organisations aiding them."

HUNGARY: Migrant debit cards: a tool of terrorism? Yes, so vote Fidesz (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

"Commentators outside of the Fidesz propaganda media claim that Orbán’s seven points, which are the basis of Fidesz’s campaign program for the European parliamentary election, are meaningless and undecipherable. Naturally, they are all about migration, but none of them addresses existing EU regulations or directives, which Orbán’s campaign is fighting against. For example, the fourth of the seven points is a demand to terminate the issuance of ‘migrant visas’ and ‘migrant cards.’” In light of the Orbán government’s latest propaganda effort on an international scale in the form of a news agency, V4NA, I think it might be educational to see how the regime creates fake news and uses it for propaganda purposes."

IRELAND: Plans to regulate private security enforcing court orders welcomed by civil rights group (Irish Legal News, link):

"Plans to regulate private security personnel employed to enforce court orders have been welcomed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

The civil rights group told Irish Legal News that tensions over the conduct of security officials at evictions in Dublin last year illustrated the need for public oversight.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday secured agreement from his Government colleagues to bring forward draft amendments to the Private Security Services Act 2004 (as amended).

Bringing enforcement guards within the licensing remit of the Private Security Authority (PSA) was the key recommendation of an inter-departmental working group report presented to the Cabinet yesterday."

EU: Council wants a "comprehensive study" on data retention that considers "a future legislative initiative"

The Council of the EU is set to ask the European Commission to "prepare a comprehensive study" on the legal possibilities for retention of telecommunications data for law enforcement purposes, to be ready by the end of 2019. That study should include "the consideration of a future legislative initiative," according to a set of draft conclusions due to be discussed in a Council working party tomorrow.

EU offers terse response to Gaza youth shot by Israelis (EUobserver, link):

"People shot by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip want the European Union to cut research funding to Israeli defence and security industries.

But their demands have been met with short shrift by the European Commission, highlighting the sense of abandonment of a population ring-fenced in an open air like prison."

Italy’s Salvini Capitalizes on Romanian Criminals’ Deportation (Balkan Insight, link):

"talian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s hardline rhetoric about law-breakers among the country’s large Romanian community have raised concerns that by highlighting only criminal elements he is fuelling anti-Romanian feeling in Italy.

Salvini announced on Facebook that a flight that left Rome for Bucharest on Wednesday transported 13 convicted felons back to their home country to serve their sentences at the expense of the Romanian government."

EU: Security Union: European Commission welcomes the final adoption of the new European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third country nationals (press release, pdf):

"The Council gave today its final approval to the Commission's proposal to create a European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third country nationals.

This central system aims to improve the exchange of criminal records information regarding convicted non-EU-citizens and stateless persons through the existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS)."

And see: New criminal records database for non-EU nationals is "disproportionate and discriminatory"

European Data Protection Supervisor: EDPS investigates contractual agreements concerning software used by EU institutions (pdf):

"As the supervisory authority for all EU institutions, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is responsible for enforcing and monitoring their compliance with data protection rules. In this capacity, the EDPS is undertaking an investigation into the compliance of contractual arrangements concluded between the EU institutions and Microsoft, the European Data Protection Supervisor said today. (...)

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, Assistant EDPS, said: “New data protection rules for the EU instiutions and bodies came into force on 11 December 2018. Regulation 2018/1725 introduced significant changes to the rules governing outsourcing. Contractors now have direct responsiblities when it comes to ensuring compliance. However, when relying on third parties to provide services, the EU institutions remain accountable for any data processing carried out on their behalf. They also have a duty to ensure that any contractual arrangements respect the new rules and to identify and mitigate any risks. It is with this in mind that the contractual relationship between the EU institutions and Microsoft is now under EDPS scrutiny.”

EU: Terrorist content online: Civil Liberties Committees makes improvements but proposal still dangerous

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) has agreed its position on a proposal to prevent the "dissemination of terrorist content online". Digital rights groups say that while LIBE's position is an improvement on the Commission's proposal, the text is still a danger to freedom of speech online.

CoE: Commissioner Mijatovic highlights main human rights challenges in Europe (link):

"While the report covers a variety of the most pressing human rights issues in the Council of Europe member states, the Commissioner highlights migration, women’s rights, human rights of persons with disability, the protection of human rights defenders and the safety of journalists as the most recurrent topics of her work.

“Migration is among the most pressing human rights issues on my agenda”, she says. “National authorities should improve the treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies”."

See; Annual activity report (link)

ECHR: Arbitrary detention of an 8-year-old child in a police station (link):

"In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Tarak and Depe v. Turkey (application no. 70472/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

- a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the detention of an eight-year-old child, Birtan Sinan Depe. He was taken to a police station following a search carried out at the home of neighbour to whom his mother had entrusted him. He was detained alone in the station for at least one day."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-8.4.19) including:

European Parliament study: The Scrutiny of the European Defence Fund by the European Parliament and national parliaments (pdf)

"Since 2016, the European Union has developed a number of new initiatives on security and defence. In particular, the introduction of Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund have been designed to allow the EU to become a more autonomous actor with regard to crisis management, capacity building and protecting Europe and its citizens. Yet the development of these new initiatives raises questions about their overall coherence and the role of parliamentary scrutiny. It is necessary to analyse the role of the European Parliament and national parliaments in relation to the scrutiny of the European Defence Fund. There is a need for recommendations on how parliamentary scrutiny can be enhanced at the EU level in the area of security and defence."

UK: The DCMS Online Harms Strategy must “design in” fundamental rights (Open Rights Group, link):

"DCMS [the Department for Culture, Media and Sport] talks a lot about the ‘harm’ that social media causes. But its proposals fail to explain how harm to free expression impacts would be avoided.

On the positive side, the paper lists free expression online as a core value to be protected and addressed by the regulator. However, despite the apparent prominence of this value, the mechanisms to deliver this protection and the issues at play are not explored in any detail at all."

See: Online Harms White Paper (pdf)

Serbia Convicts State Security Officers of Journalist’s Murder (Balkan Insight, link):

"Belgrade Higher Court on Friday convicted four former Serbian state security employees of the murder in 1999 of journalist and editor Slavko Curuvija, who was known for his opposition to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Former head of Serbian State Security Radomir Markovic and security service officer Milan Radonjic were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, while secret service agents Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak were each given 20 years in prison.

The verdict said that Markovic told Milan Radonjic of the plan to assassinate the critical journalist, and Radonjic made a deal with Romic and Kurak to execute Curuvija.

The court’s first-instance ruling can be appealed."

Far-right launch EU campaign at Milan mini-meeting (EUobserver, link):

"Danish, Finnish, German, and Italian far-right political figures will discuss plans for an EU alliance in Milan on Monday (8 April), prior to a larger congress in May.

Originally meant to attract a bigger attendance, the event, at the ritzy Hotel Gallia in Milan, was branded a "flop" by some Italian politicians.

But Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy's far-right League party and its deputy prime minister, who is hosting Monday's meeting, said there would be a larger one in the Circus Maximus, a classical-era chariot stadium, in Rome in May ahead of the European Parliament (EP) elections later that month. "

EU: What Does the Spring Bring for the Rule of Law in Europe? (Verfassungsblog, link):

"A few weeks before the European Parliament elections the Commission took new interest in safeguarding the rule of law in Europe. On April 3, 2019 it started a new infringement procedure about the Polish judicial reform, this time focusing on the new disciplinary regime for judges. On the same day it also launched a reflection process “to strengthen the rule of law in Europe,” in the hope of “setting out possible avenues for reflection on future action”.

It is in the spirit of much needed reflection and – even more – hope about more robust future action against violators of (allegedly) shared European values that the recent opinion of the Venice Commission on Hungary’s administrative court reform is worth a closer look."

Spanish fireman faces 20 years in prison for rescuing migrants at sea (El País, link):

"“We could only save half of them, many people drowned,” remembers Roldán, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern city of Málaga, who has been part of the underwater unit of the Seville City Hall Fire Department since 2013. His act of solidarity that day, as well as his help on other rescue missions in the summer of 2017, could land him behind bars for 20 years for allegedly aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers."

CoE: European states must demonstrate resolve for lasting and concrete change for Roma people (link):

"On 8 April, we will celebrate International Roma Day. This is a day to celebrate Roma culture and Roma contributions to European societies, and the cultural diversity of Europe. The 8th of April, which commemorates the first World Romani Congress held in London in April 1971, should also be a reminder of the urgent need to better protect the human rights of Roma.

Across Europe, the continuation of human rights abuses targeting Roma goes against all efforts otherwise made to improve their access to education, health care and employment and prevents them from fully participating in society."

And see House of Commons - Women and Equalities Committee: Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Travellercommunities (pdf)

Right-Wing Populism and Counter-Movements in Rural Europe (arc2020.eu, link):

"Right-wing populism has gained high levels of support among rural population in Europe. How could this happen and what are the solutions? Natalia Mamonova, of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative, explains the causes of populism in the European countryside and shares some ideas on potential resistance and the building of alternatives to the regressive nationalist politics."

European Parliament Study: framework for algorithmic accountability and transparency (pdf) and Annex (pdf):

"A significant factor in the adoption of algorithmic systems for decision-making is their capacity to process large amounts of varied data sets (i.e. big data), which can be paired with machine learning methods in order to infer statistical models directly from the data. The same properties of scale, complexity and autonomous model inference however are linked to increasing concerns that many of these systems are opaque to the people affected by their use and lack clear explanations for the decisions they make."

USA-GREECE: Memorandum of Cooperation on Implementing Greece’s Passenger Name Record Law (link):

"The use of PNR in traveler screening is an important part of Greece’s efforts to prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other mala fide actors from traveling, in line with international and European Union obligations. Acknowledging this and other border security improvements and based on the memorandum, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now initiate the process to restore the validity of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for Greek citizens traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for business or pleasure for stays of up to 90 days."

EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean (link):

"The European Union has mandated Italy to set up several maritime control centres in Libya. The Coast Guard and Maritime Police will be linked to European surveillance systems, the authorities will communicate directly with Frontex. The project costs 46 million euros and starts in July. But the Libyan Coast Guard has since long been connected to Italian counterparts."

European Parliament: Briefing: Recasting the Return Directive (pdf):

"Taking into account the decrease in the EU return rate (45.8 % in 2016 and 36.6 % in 2017), and following European Council and Council calls to review the 2008 legal text to enhance the effectiveness of the EU return policy, the Commission has proposed a targeted recast of the directive aiming to 'reduce the length of return procedures, secure a better link between asylum and return procedures and ensure a more effective use of measures to prevent absconding'."

See also: Lock ‘em up: the proposal to amend the EU’s Returns Directive (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers.

UK: Fighting Sus! then and now (IRR News, link) by Joseph Maggs:

"A new project Fighting Sus! brings the youth experience of racialised policing to the fore.

In Fighting Sus! a group of young people engage with past struggles against racist state violence and, with angry intelligence and politicised creativity, range themselves against its present manifestations. "

UK: Court of Appeal overturns draconian injunctions preventing protests against INEOS fracking activities (Garden Court Chambers, link):

"The Court of Appeal has today, 3 April 2019, given judgment in INEOS v PERSONS UNKNOWN and allowed appeals against injunctions that had been obtained on allegations of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means and in public nuisance. As a result of the court's decision, injunctions were discharged and the claims based on those allegations were dismissed. The court allowed injunctions preventing trespass and interference with land confined to particular sites to remain in force temporarily pending reconsideration by the High Court, but said that even those needed further consideration as to whether the appropriate test under section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 was met, and to consider time limiting those injunctions."

See: Full-text of the judgment ([2019] EWCA Civ 515, pdf)

EU: New Visa Code: Final text for plenary vote in the Parliament on 17 April 2019: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) (pdf)

See also: Letter to Claude Moraes, Chair of LIBE from the Council (60 pages,pdf)

EU: MEPs make last-ditch attempt to halt mandatory fingerprinting of all ID holders

Last-ditch amendments are being proposed by MEPs to try to prevent the mandatory fingerprinting of every national identity card holder in the EU and the potential construction of national fingerprint databases, before a final vote on a proposed new law in the European Parliament due this Thursday (4 April).

Interpol and Europol extend facial recognition (Matthias Monroy, link):

"The two police organisations are using new capabilities to search biometric images. Investigators can mark persons or things and match them with other files. At the G20 summit, the Hamburg state data protection commissioner criticised this procedure."

Presumption of innocence in Bulgaria: abuse for political ends (Fair Trials, link):

"A fundamental element of the right to a fair trial is that every person should be presumed innocent until proved guilty following a fair trial. In the EU, the Directive on the Presumption of Innocence clearly states that the burden of proof for establishing guilt is on the prosecution. The directive also prohibits public authorities and courts from making any public references to guilt before the final verdict. But how well are these rules respected in practice? One example comes from Bulgaria, where our LEAP member Asya O. Mandzhukova-Stoyanova works as a criminal lawyer and told us about the situation."

European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) to adopt new Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard

Today the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee will be adopting the final text coming out of trilogue meetings on a new: Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard (240 pages, pdf)

N Ireland: Solidarity protest outside Belfast court for No Stone Unturned journalists (NUJ, link):

" the lawyers representing Trevor and Barry challenged the search warrants and argued in court that there was no evidence in the public interest for the redactions made to the search warrant applications by Durham Constabulary and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).(...):

Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said: "Today’s hearing was technical in nature but hugely important. Justice should be administered in daylight and not in the dark. In order to comprehend the reason why the original warrants were granted it is vital that the entire proceedings are available. Barry, Trevor and their legal teams cannot adequately vindicate their rights with their hands tied behind their back. It is obvious that barriers are being put in place at every turn in this case. The strain on two working journalists and their families cannot be underestimated. Amid the legal arguments and technicalities it would also be easy to forget that those responsible for the Loughinisland murders remain at large, grieving families are still denied justice and only journalists seeking the truth are at risk of criminal convictions."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.3-1.4.19) including:

Undemocratic civil society laws are appearing in democracies (Open Global Rights, link):

"Amnesty International recently released a startling report which discusses the ever-growing number of countries using repressive techniques, including the passage of restrictive legislation, to prevent or deter civil society organizations (CSOs) from performing their critical work...

Interestingly, the restrictions Amnesty documents seem to transcend geography, GDP, development status, and most perplexingly, political structure or regime type. Indeed, they are appearing, and increasingly so, in countries of all economic and political types, including strong, consolidated, long-standing democracies. Not only do Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar appear in the list of countries that have adopted restrictive CSO legislation; the US, UK, Australia, and Ireland are named too. The startling fact that strong democratic countries, the very ones that most vocally support a strong and independent civil society, are part of the closing space trend has yet to be fully probed or documented."

UK-USA: Police investigating role of UK officers in torture of al-Qaida suspect (The Guardian, link):

"Metropolitan police detectives have launched an investigation into allegations that MI5 and MI6 officers involved in the interrogation under torture of an al-Qaida suspect committed serious criminal offences.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that a senior investigating officer, who is familiar with other rendition cases, has begun examining the role of UK intelligence officials during the questioning of Abu Zubaydah at CIA so-called ‘black sites’."

See: Statewatch Observatory on "rendition"

UK-SPAIN: Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson criticised for meeting with far-right party (The Press and Journal, link):

"A north-east MP has been criticised after pictures emerged of him smiling alongside a member of a far-right Spanish party.

Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson was snapped in Parliament with Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, who is a senior member of Vox, on Wednesday.

The party, which won a number of seats in southern Spain in December, has attracted widespread controversy with pledges to abolish a 2007 “law of historical memory” which demanded the removal of Franco-era fascist symbols from public places.

Its leader, Santiago Abascal, has also raged against what he calls “supremacist feminism and gender totalitarianism” and the party has complained that existing domestic violence laws are unfairly weighted against men."

EU: Evaluation of legal migration rules finds them mostly "fit for purpose" but highlights "critical issues" for the future

An extensive evaluation of the rules on legal migration into the EU concludes that while existing measures are largely "fit for purpose", a number of "critical issues" remain if the EU "wants to achieve in full the Treaty objective of developing a common legal migration policy".

EU: New roles for Frontex agreed by Council and Parliament - but externalised deportations excluded

The European Parliament and the Council have agreed on new rules for Frontex - or the European Border and Coast Guard Agency as it is now formally known - including the setting up of a "standing corps" of 10,000 operational staff by 2027, executive powers for the agency's staff and the possibility for joint operations and deployments outside EU borders.

UK: Privatisation Is Creating Unfair Access to Immigration Services (Novara Media, link):

"High profile outsourcing failures such as Interserve and Capita have led to questions around the sustainability of private companies managing crucial public services, yet the government has not shown any signs of curtailing the practice.

Last year, French company Sopra Steria was handed a £91m contract to help ‘digitise’ the UK’s visa and immigration system. It has now opened almost 60 new UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) centres for processing paperwork. At £200 per visit, the Premium Lounge is the most expensive of these centres, but they all offer the same core service, a way to upload scans of important documents like passports rather than risk losing them by posting them to the Home Office. In time, the government has said it will phase out the old postal option and most applications will be processed via a Sopra Steria outlet."

EU cooperation instruments with North African states: promoting or restricting migrants’ and refugee rights?

Two new briefings by the EuroMediterranean Human Rights Network look at the implications for migrants and refugees of EU policies and financial aid to North African states. The first examines the main cooperation agreements aimed at realising the rights of migrants and refugees, while the second looks at policies and projects dedicated to border management "and their often negative consequences on the rights of persons migrating."

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