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22nd year reporting on civil liberties and the state in the European Union (updated 7.4.20) Editor: Tony Bunyan
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European Parliament: Draft report: on the draft Council implementing decision on the launch of automated data exchange with regard to dactyloscopic data in the United Kingdom (link): Rapporteur: Juan Fernando López Aguilar:
"1.Rejects the Council draft;
2.Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments."
Hungary: Law to fight coronavirus creates 'uncertainty' for journalists (DW, link):
"These are turbulent times in Hungary, with a single political decision receiving massive international attention. It's not the first time Hungary has been in the headlines for government decrees that have raised eyebrows nationally and internationally. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has freely described his understanding of democracy as "illiberal," and refers to his decisions as "unorthodox.""
Coronavirus: Call for single EU tracking app with data protection (BBC News, link):
"Europe's data protection watchdog has called for a single coronavirus app to be used across the EU, instead of every country making its own.
Several countries are developing tracking apps, but privacy advocates warn of the dangers they might pose.
The European Data Protection Supervisor says a single EU app with strong data protection built in is the best solution to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We will not be able to solve it with national tools only," he warned."
Ministers of justice stressed that any extraordinary measures should be in line with the fundamental values of the EU (/eu2020.hr, link):
"At the initiative of the Minister of Justice, Mr Draen Bonjakovic, a video conference of the Ministers of Justice of the EU Member States was held. The European Commissioner for Justice, Mr Didier Reynders, also participated.
Representatives of the European Commission and Member States discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the judiciary. They also exchanged information on measures taken by Member State's governments to prevent its spread. "
CoE: COVID-19 pandemic: urgent steps are needed to protect the rights of prisoners in Europe (link):
"Convicted prisoners and persons on remand are among those most vulnerable to viral contagion as they are held in a high-risk environment: in general, detention facilities are not adapted to face large-scale epidemics, and the basic protective measures such as social distancing and hygiene rules cannot be observed as easily as outside, exposing prisoners to greater health risks.
Furthermore, in many European countries the pandemic strikes in a context of overcrowded prisons and poor detention conditions in cramped, collective cells, with unsatisfactory health services, as well as higher rates of infectious and chronic diseases among detainees, such as tuberculosis, diabetes and HIV.
Across Europe, a number of contaminations and some COVID 19-related deaths in prison have already been reported; tension in prisons has increased since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, leading to acts of protest (sometimes violent) in reaction to restrictions on visits or other activities."
UK: Monitoring and surveillance at work - a practical guide for trade union reps (Labour Research Department, link):
From the introduction: "There have never been so many different ways for management to watch over and monitor the workforce. Moving on from the days of bag checks and timesheets, monitoring is now far more likely to involve looking at internet usage, logging phone calls and taking CCTV footage. New technologies have created even more opportunities with surveillance software making it possible to assess performance on the production line, manage workers remotely, track deliveries, time toilet breaks and even determine if someone is in the right frame of mind for work.
The use of algorithms to assess workers output has led to cases of them being reprimanded for not keeping to strict schedules without any human interaction taking place. Recently Barclays bank found itself in a media storm after it used a software pilot that tracked when employees were away from their desk, how much time they spent on various tasks and that even sent warning messages if they were deemed not to be working hard enough.?
The need for robust safeguards to protect workers from intrusive monitoring has never been more urgent."
EU: The EU Integrated Political Crisis Response Arrangements: Operational Conclusions - IPCR Roundtable 25 March 2020 - COVID-19 (pdf):
"1. Speed up delivery of medical equipment
2. Increase repatriation of stranded citizens
3. Art 222 TFEU [the 'solidarity clause']"
EU: Passenger Name Record (PNR): Commission closes eight infringement proceedings for failure to tranpose passenger surveillance rules (EC, link):
"The European Commission closes today [2 April 2020] infringement procedures against eight Member States as they transposed EU rules on Passenger Name Record data into national law.
The European Commission decided today to close the infringement procedures against Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania as they have now fully transposed EU rules on Passenger Name Record data (Directive (EU) 2016/681) into national law... The Directive is an essential building block towards an effective and genuine Security Union and in order for its benefits to fully materialise, it is crucial that all EU Member States have their Passenger Name Record systems in place. The Commission is now assessing whether the transposition measures adopted by the eight Member States are in conformity with the provisions of the Directive. Today's decision does not prejudge the result of that assessment."
EU: Love thy neighbour? Coronavirus politics and their impact on EU freedoms and rule of law in the Schengen Area (CEPS, link to pdf):
"Restrictions on international and intra-EU traffic of persons have been at the heart of the political responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Border controls and suspensions of entry and exist have been presented as key policy priorities to prevent the spread of the virus in the EU. These measures pose however fundamental questions as to the raison dêtre of the Union, and the foundations of the Single Market, the Schengen system and European citizenship. They are also profoundly intrusive regarding the fundamental rights of individuals and in many cases derogate domestic and EU rule of law checks and balances over executive decisions
This Paper examines the legality of cross-border mobility restrictions introduced in the name of COVID-19. It provides an in-depth typology and comprehensive assessment of measures including the reintroduction of internal border controls, restrictions of specific international traffic modes and intra-EU and international travel bans. Many of these have been adopted in combination with declarations of a state of emergency."
Racial injustice in the Covid-19 response - Covid-19 is disproportionately impacing BAME communities and we need urgent action (Charity So White, link):
"This live position paper provides an overview of the risks and impact of COVID-19 on racial inequalities within the UK. It outlines an urgent call to action, including specific recommendations for civil society and its funders, to put BAME communities at the heart of their response to ensure it addresses root issues and maximises impact. If you are working across any of the principles or issues we have highlighted, please let us know. You can contact us through email@example.com and a member of our team will get back to you.
#CharitySoWhite are all volunteers and have published this paper for free to make it accessible to all. It has taken time and effort for our committee to bring this together. Make a donation when you have read this to recognise the value of our work and to be an ally to #CharitySoWhite.
You can read the executive summary below, and read the whole paper by following clicking the button below. Offline and accessible versions of the whole paper are available for download here."
EU: Joint statement on the principles of the rule of law in times of Covid-19 (German Foreign Office, link):
"Statement by Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden
In this unprecedented situation, it is legitimate that Member States adopt extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and overcome the crisis. We are however deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures. Emergency measures should be limited to what is strictly necessary, should be proportionate and temporary in nature, subject to regular scrutiny, and respect the aforementioned principles and international law obligations. They should not restrict the freedom of expression or the freedom of the press. We need to jointly overcome this crisis and to jointly uphold our European principles and values on this path. We therefore support the European Commission initiative to monitor the emergency measures and their application to ensure the fundamental values of the Union are upheld, and invite the General Affairs Council to take up the matter when appropriate."
UK: How subpostmasters made legal history with biggest referral of potential miscarriages of justice (ComputerWeekly.com, link):
"The referral to the court of appeal of 39 cases of potential wrongful prosecution of subpostmasters, for theft, fraud and false accounting, is the biggest group of probable miscarriages of justice in UK history, according to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
This group will get even bigger, with 22 more cases under review and only delayed because they were more recently taken up by the CCRC, and more potential applicants have contacted the CCRC in the days since the historic announcement was made.
This is completely unprecedented, Helen Pitcher, chairman at the CCRC, told Computer Weekly. She said the previous biggest group referral comprised 10 cases."
See: Postmasters 'rejoice' as convictions appeal granted (BBC News, link) and: CCRC to refer 39 Post Office cases on abuse of process argument (CCRC, link)
UK: New Director General of MI5 appointed (MI5, link):
"The Home Secretary has today (Monday 30 March) announced that Ken McCallum has been appointed as Director General of MI5. He will become MI5's eighteenth Director General and succeeds Sir Andrew Parker, who has been Director General since 2013 and retires in April.
Ken McCallum is an MI5 officer with almost 25 years of experience across the full spectrum of the organisation's national security and intelligence work.
His first ten years was focussed on Northern Ireland-related terrorism, with his work contributing to the peace process remaining a career highlight. Senior operational roles in countering Islamist extremist terrorism followed, and a period leading on cyber security, where he expanded MI5 engagement with the private sector."
From the « war against the virus » to the war against exiles : security responses to Covid-19 exacerbate violence at borders (migreurop, link)
"The Greek hotspots in which exiles are crammed without any protection of their rights or from the pandemic are an example of the precarization of their trajectories by the security policies of States. Migreurop denounces the violence inflicted onto exiles in the name of the war against the virus, their unequal treatment with regard to the pandemic, and demands the immediate closure of all spaces of migrant detention in order to ensure their right to be protected."
CEPS In Brief: Will privacy be one of the victims of COVID-19? (link):
"As the COVID-19 outbreak rages across the world, governments have started observing the effectiveness of different approaches to flatten the curve or contain the spread of the virus. So far, the most effective governments seem to be those that have invested in solid and even redundant healthcare infrastructure, engaged in mass testing, and identified and isolated infected people (and quarantined their contacts) to reduce the spread to healthy individuals.
European countries appear to suffer from a lack of medical and testing equipment, and to be reluctant to impose restrictions on individual rights, such as privacy and the free movement of people. Against this background, a dangerous debate has emerged on whether key tenets of European democracies, including the protection of the fundamental right to privacy, should be set aside during the pandemic to enable a more effective response."
HUNGARY: Orbán to rule by decree with new powers to silence critics (EUactiv, link):
"The Hungarian Parliament approved new emergency powers on Monday (30 March) that will allow the ruling Fidesz party the right to rule by decree, without a set time limit, in a move that prompted an outcry from human rights groups.
The new plans would also see up to five years of imprisonment for those accused of spreading misinformation, as well as up to eight years for those found to be breaching the quarantine measures introduced as a means to stem the coronavirus outbreak in Hungary."
See also: Hungary's emergency law 'incompatible with being in EU', say MEPs group - Measures voted on Monday will allow Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without time limits (Guardian, link)
Statement by the European Commission following the first meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee (pdf):
"Today, the European Union and the United Kingdom held their first Joint Committee meeting on the implementation and application of the Withdrawal Agreement, by means of teleconference. The Joint Committee is co-chaired by European Commission Vice-President Maro efcovic and the UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove. The discussion took place in a constructive and productive atmosphere."
CoE: Parliamentary Assembly: Rapporteur denounces discrimination against Roma and Travellers as coronavirus spreads (link):
"Throughout Europe, there are Roma and Travellers living in desperately inadequate, insalubrious, unsafe conditions, without access to running water, sanitation or other public utilities, and often in a situation of severe overcrowding. Instead of seeking additional ways to protect these particularly vulnerable members of our societies as coronavirus spreads, some politicians have actively fuelled anti-Gypsyism, said Frantiek Kopriva (Czech Republic, ALDE), PACE rapporteur on discrimination against Roma and Travellers in the field of housing."
The Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland: What it says is not what it does (EU Law Analysis, link):
" On Wednesday 11 March 2020, at a meeting of the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee of the House of Commons, the following exchange took place:
Hilary Benn: On goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland under the Northern Irish Protocol, we know there are some regulatory checks at the moment there will be additional checks once the Northern Ireland Protocol is implemented wont there?.
Michael Gove: Thatll be a matter for the Joint Committee.
No it wont. No it isnt. There will be additional checks. Mr Gove is wrong."
EU/Greece/Turkey: Crisis not averted: security policies cannot solve a humanitarian problem, now or in the long-term (pdf)
At the end of February, the Turkish government announced it would allow refugees to travel onwards to Greece and Bulgaria, in the hope of extracting from the EU further financial support as well as backing for its military operations in Syria. It has now taken up its role as Europe's border guard again, but the manufactured crisis induced by the Turkish decision and the EU response highlight the long-term failings of the EU's asylum and migration model.
EU: Data protection in times of coronavirus: not a question of if, but of how (NOYB, link):
"In recent days, the discussions around the use of data to combat the corona pandemic have increased.
Therefore, we have written an ad hoc paper (PDF, English) on compliance with the GDPR and would like to take this opportunity to provide an initial overview of these projects.
...In an article on GDPRhub.eu, noyb has compiled a first overview of concrete apps and projects in Europe and beyond, in order to shed some light on this issue as well.
The vast majority of these approaches are far away from problematic forms of mass surveillance or Chinese approaches.
GDPR allows data to be used in the event of epidemics - the question is not if, but how."
See: Projects using personal data to combat SARS-CoV-2 (GDPRhub, link) and: UK: Statement in response to the use of mobile phone tracking data to help during the coronavirus crisis (ICO, link)
Hungary passes law allowing Viktor Orban to rule by decree (DW, link):
"Hungary's parliament on Monday passed a bill that greatly increases the power of the country's far-right prime minister Victor Orban.
The premier had said the move is necessary to fight the spread of coronavirus. Orban has asked to extend a national state of emergency that would give his government the right to pass special decrees in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Lawmakers passed the bill with 137 votes against 52 in Hungary's lower chamber. Orban's Fidesz party holds a two-thirds majority there."
Court orders Netherlands to pay colonial victims (EUobserver, link):
"A court in The Hague ordered the Dutch state to pay compensation to victims of colonial massacres in the 1940s, the Guardian reports. The court found that 11 men had been killed as a result of actions by Dutch soldiers, mostly by summary executions. Eight widows and three children of the executed man will receive a compensation of between 123.48 and 3,634 for loss of income."
UK: Act to guarantee the rights of EU nationals now: Right to Stay (link)
"The Covid-19 pandemic is dominating government policy, public health and public consciousness and rightly so. We must remember that this crisis puts the lives and rights of migrants into even more uncertainty and danger. Unless we act to prevent it, we could be facing an additional catastrophe in terms of the rights of millions of people living in the UK.
In June 2021, EU citizens without Settled Status will become illegal in the UK. Many will have just played a vital role in keeping the country running and staffing the NHS. Others will have cared for the elderly, or delivered our groceries and take aways. Because of the Covid crisis and potential delays in the Brexit process, people who require face-to-face support and advice with their Settled Status application will not have been able to access it. The most vulnerable communities will not have been assisted or even reached.
There is a very simple solution to this situation. We urge the UK Government to give all EU citizens currently residing in the UK a Right to Stay, guaranteed in primary legislation. This can be done quickly and easily, and must not become embroiled in future delays in EU trade negotiations."
See: EU citizens in UK at risk of becoming illegal as coronavirus response prioritised (The Guardian, link)
Its official: North Macedonia becomes NATOs 30th member (Defense News, link):
"North Macedonia on Friday officially became the 30th member of the NATO military alliance.
North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of 30 nations and almost 1 billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
North Macedonias flag will be raised alongside those of the other 29 member countries at NATO headquarters in Brussels and two other commands simultaneously on Monday."
From Windrush to Covid 19: another scandal in the making (IRR News, link): by Frances Webber:
"A review of differential policies towards different populations draws attention to the ways in which civil society is mobilising to demand protection and an end to the stigmatisation of those with no escape from infection.
The growing coronavirus crisis has exposed many faultlines in the UK and in Europe, and in particular, governments treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable and marginalised populations including prisoners and homeless people, carries disquieting echoes."
UK police use drones and roadblocks to enforce lockdown (Guardian, link):
"A police force has defended using a drone camera to shame people into not driving into a national park during the lockdown, while another force said it was introducing roadblocks to stop drivers heading to tourist hotspots.
A new law came into effect on Thursday allowing police to use force to make people return home.
Derbyshire police tweeted drone footage taken near Curbar Edge, in the Peak District, and said they had checked the numberplates of vehicles in the car park and found that some cars were registered to addresses in Sheffield, a 30-minute drive away."
UK: Police given new powers (gov.uk, link)
"The government has today (26 March 2020) made new public health regulations strengthening police enforcement powers in England, to reduce the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives. (...)
Participating in gatherings of more than two people in public spaces is also not permitted except in very limited circumstances,"
UK broke law over IS 'Beatles' by passing information to US (BBC News, link):
"The UK acted unlawfully by passing evidence to the US that could lead to the execution of two British members of an Islamic State murder squad.
The Supreme Court said former Home Secretary Sajid Javid should not have passed information on Shafee Elsheikh and Alexander Kotey to the US.
Lord Kerr said the seven justices concluded the decision in 2018 breached the UK's strict data protection laws.
The Londoners, linked to 27 murders, are in US custody in Iraq."
Judgment: Elgizouli (AP) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) (pdf) and: Supreme Court's press summary (pdf)
EDPS Annual Report 2019: new EU data protection rules must produce promised result (EDPS, link):
"With new legislation on data protection in the EU now in place, our greatest challenge moving into 2020 and beyond is to ensure that this legislation produces the promised results, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said today, as he published his 2019 Annual Report."
Threats to journalists: The new normal in Germany (ECPMF, link):
"The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom publishes results of its five-year study of attacks on media workers in Germany
ECPMF has been systematically monitoring attacks on journalists since 2015. A clear picture emerges after five years: attacks on the press are now the new normal.
The 2019 results, on the other hand, confirm the findings from previous years despite the lower number of cases. ECPMF has recorded 14 physical attacks on journalists last year. For comparison: in the previous year 2018, 26 violent attacks were verified.
In 2019, with the exception of three attacks, they all came from right-wing groups. This confirms the findings of the past four years: media professionals, journalists and reporters were still most at risk from right-wingers who despise the press. ECPMF is not aware of any attacks from the left in 2019."
UK: Oval Four: Black man framed by corrupt police officer at London Tube station cleared 48 years later (The Independent, link):
"A black man who was jailed for a crime he did not commit has had his conviction quashed almost 50 years after being arrested by a corrupt police officer.
Omar Boucher is the last member of the Oval Four to be formally cleared of trying to steal handbags, amid calls for a review of other cases led by the same officer.
They were arrested at Oval underground station in London in 1972 by an undercover police unit who accused them of stealing handbags.
The unit was run by Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell, who had previously served in the South Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) police force, and was involved in a number of high-profile and controversial cases in the early 1970s."
UK: Rule of Law Monitoring of Legislation - Coronavirus Bill (Bingham Centre, link):
"The Coronavirus Bill is a response to a genuine public health emergency and contains the most sweeping powers ever taken by the UK Government outside of wartime. There is absolutely no doubt that the Government needs to take swift and bold measures to protect citizens, and that some of these measures will unavoidably impinge upon personal liberties in a drastic way.
The role of Parliament in scrutinising these measures is even more important during an emergency. Neither law nor Parliament should fall silent in the war on Covid-19. Parliament will need to be satisfied of the necessity of these measures.
This Report focuses on two fundamental areas of concern.
(1) the two year duration of the Bill
(2) mechanisms for reporting to Parliament"
UK: COVID-19: Protecting people in places of custody and detention (INQUEST, link):
"INQUEST has today published a new briefing on COVID-19: Protecting people in places of custody and detention. The briefing sets out our immediate concerns around the pandemic, focusing on our areas of expertise. We highlight the governments human rights obligations and the need to protect people in places of custody and detention.
We recognise that this is a challenging time for everyone living and working in institutional settings. The impact of more restrictive regimes and practices, suspension of family visits and the anxiety around the virus will impact on peoples mental and physical health - many of whom are already extremely vulnerable.
We also offer a stark warning - without immediate action to implement safety measures alongside efforts to reduce the number of people in some detention settings, the impact could be catastrophic, with many preventable deaths."
Coronavirus derogations from human rights send wrong signal, say MEPs (Euractiv, link):
"At least six European countries have announced plans to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights, (ECHR), invoking the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Critics, however, fear that this sends the wrong political signal.
Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova and Romania have notified the Council of Europe (CoE) of their intention to derogate from the human rights treaty under Article 15, which allows signatories to derogate from the convention in times of a public emergency threatening the life of the nation.
In the meantime, the press in Sofia announced that Bulgaria has also asked for a similar derogation."
And see: (Rule of) Law in the Time of Covid-19: Warnings from Slovenia (Verfassungsblog, link): " In spite of the gravity of the situation, however, any measures adopted to combat it must be adopted by competent bodies, following the procedure and under the conditions envisaged by law. In other words, rule of law concerns have to be fully respected. It is my concern that Slovenia has been failing this rule of law in times of emergency test."
EU: In fight against coronavirus, governments embrace surveillance (Politico, link):
"Chinese-style surveillance is coming to a neighborhood near you.
From drones barking orders at park-goers to tracing people's movements through cellphones, Western governments are rushing to embrace sophisticated surveillance tools that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago.
In the European Union, home to the world's strictest privacy regimen, leaders have taken the unprecedented step of asking telecoms companies to hand over mobile phone data so they can track population movements and try to stop the spread.
The European Commission has gone further, asking all such data to be centralized to speed up prevention across the bloc, three people involved in the talks told POLITICO. But epidemiologists argue that such efforts are only a first step: To be fully effective, some say, the EU will have to follow the example of South Korea and China and make infected people download an app that would reveal exactly where they go and whom they meet."
HUNGARY: Pandemic as Constitutional Moment: Hungarian Government Seeks Unlimited Powers (Verfassungsblog, link):
"Late in the evening on Friday, March 20, 2020 the Hungarian government tabled a short bill to install rule by executive decree for an indefinite period. The bill enables the government to take any measure to prevent and manage the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences. The bill sets no date for expiry or parliamentary review mechanism for the plenary executive powers granted: the regime remains in place until Parliament revokes it.
At the same time the bill envisions that Parliament may not be able to meet due to the pandemic, while it prepares the Constitutional Court for digital operation. Elections and referenda are suspended till the end of the crisis is declared. The bill also seeks to extend the application of emergency measures already in place, amends the definition of the crime of spreading false information and makes violating the terms of epidemiological confinement a crime."
And see: EP stands up for democracy in Hungary during COVID-19 (EP, link): "The Civil Liberties Committee highlights that any extraordinary measure adopted by the Hungarian government in response to the pandemic must respect the EUs founding values."
UK: The Windrush Report: joint statement (Freedom From Torture, link):
"Windrush Lessons Learned Review: 25 organisations representing the Windrush generation, other marginalised migrant groups and refugees, say this must mark a turning point for the government on immigration.
The nation was shocked and appalled when the Windrush scandal hit the news in 2018. Rightly so, for what happened was the destruction of the lives of black Britons as a direct result of a Government policy.
The Windrush Lessons Learned Review puts beyond any doubt what we have said all along: that the scandal was not an isolated mistake, but the inevitable result of Home Office policies aimed at creating a Hostile Environment for people unable to easily prove their right to be in the country. To this day the elements of institutional racism and policies responsible for the scandal, including the Hostile Environment, continue to tear lives apart.
Justice for the Windrush Generation will not be fully served until the Hostile Environment is scrapped and the attitudes which drove its creation are rooted out.
The Review shows that the Home Office culture of disregard for peoples human rights and humanity and disbelief of their testimony and that of experts is pervasive from ministerial level down."
See: Windrush lessons learned review: independent review by Wendy Williams (pdf)
ENAC: autorizzati i droni per il monitoraggio (link):
The Italian civil aviation authority (ENAC, Ente Nazionale Aviazione Civile) has authorised the use of drones on city streets to strengthen the capabilities of police forces and municipal councils. Previous limits for their use that centred on the risk of drones causing damage to people and things in ordinary circumstances may not apply, considering that sidewalks are empty and streets are clear, meaning that drones are useful to monitor gatherings. Derogations to these norms are motivated as follows:
"With a view to guaranteeing the containment of the epidemiological 'coronavirus' emergency, in order to allow operations to monitor the movement of citizens in the municipal territory envisaged in the decrees of the President of the Council of Ministers (PM) of 8 and 9 March 2020, it becomes necessary to derogate from some provisions of the measures in the ENAC Regulation on 'Remotely Piloted Aircraft', 3rd edition of November 2019."
European Commission: State of play as regards the situation of non-reciprocity in the area of visa policy (COIM 119, 2020, pdf);
"the Commission currently considers that the adoption of a delegated act temporarily suspending the exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of the United States would be counterproductive at this point in time and it would not serve to achieve the objective of visa-free travel for all EU citizens.
In this context, it is essential that the EU continues to speak with one voice on this important matter. The Commission will continue to work closely with the European Parliament and with the Council to achieve full visa reciprocity and will keep the European Parliament and the Council informed on the further developments. "
Hungarys state of emergency law is a blank cheque to Orban, critics say (EUactiv, link):
"A draft Hungarian law allowing the government to rule by decree during the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic risks staying in place indefinitely, the opposition has warned.
The Hungarian parliament is due to consider a draft law that would keep the decrees issued under the state of emergency in force until further notice."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17-23.3.20) including:
Anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya: some truths Erdogan in talks with European leaders over refugee cash for Turkey COVID-19: No one is safe until All are protected!
Two new analyses and one new briefing: EU-Italy-Libya cooperation; Spanish migration policies
Statewatch is today publishing three new in-depth pieces, examining anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya; the renewal of Italy's Memorandum of Understanding with Libya and the accompanying parliamentary debate; and a briefing outlining demands for the new Spanish government to ensure that its migration policy respects human rights.
UK: Anthony Grainger shooting: Six officers under investigation (BBC News, link):
"Six officers are under investigation by the police watchdog in connection with the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.
Anthony Grainger, 36, was in a stolen car when he was shot in the chest by a firearms officer in Culcheth, Cheshire.
The retired and serving officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
A public inquiry into the 2012 shooting criticised senior officers for "failings and errors"."
See: IOPC begins new investigations relating to the death of Anthony Grainger (IOPC, link)
Respect Rights in COVID-19 Response (Human Rights Watch, link):
"(New York) Governments should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritizing the right to health for all and respect for human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report.
The report, Human Rights Dimensions of the COVID-19 Response, analyzes government obligations and the human rights concerns posed by the coronavirus outbreak along with examples of responses so far. Human Rights Watch proposes recommendations for governments to address the outbreak while respecting fundamental human rights, including the rights to health, free expression, nondiscrimination, and freedom of movement.
...Governments should avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement and personal liberty, rely upon voluntary social distancing, and move toward mandatory restrictions only when scientifically warranted and necessary and when systems to support those affected can be ensured. When quarantines or lockdowns are imposed, governments are obligated to ensure access to food, water, health care, and care-giving support. They should address the special concerns of people in prisons, jails, and migrant detention centers, older people, and people with disabilities in institutions."
IRELAND: Coronavirus legal response: Dáil passes emergency Covid-19 legislation (RTÉ, link):
"The new laws will allow the State to shut down mass gatherings and to potentially order groups of people in certain areas to stay in their homes.
There are regulations too that would allow for the detention of a person, on foot of a medical recommendation, if they refuse to self-isolate.
Minister for Health Simon Harris proposed that the new powers of detention contained in the Bill remain in place until 9 November.
He said the powers would only be used in the public interest to keep people well, adding that picking a date was an arbitrary process and it was prudent to pick November.
The Minister also said that the legislation would empower authorities to shut down house parties."
See: COVID-19 emergency legislation: everything you need to know. (Irish Council for Civil Liberties, link)
UK: HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT RISKS PUBLIC HEALTH DURING CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK (Liberty, link):
"The Governments hostile environment is stopping migrants from accessing healthcare making them acutely vulnerable to the coronavirus, rights groups have warned.
Liberty, Medact and JCWI are among more than 30 groups to warn this not only puts the most vulnerable at risk it also undermines the Governments attempts to control the coronavirus and protect public health.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, the coalition is calling for an immediate suspension of all NHS charging and data-sharing between the NHS Trusts and immigration enforcement. This is necessary so that migrants can access healthcare free from the fear that their details could be handed to the Home Office and put them at risk of detention or deportation."
And see: Coronavirus Bill Second Reading: Universal Access to Healthcare (JCWI, link to pdf)
UK: "Two Years Is Too Long" for "Draconian" Coronavirus Bill, Warn MPs & Rights Groups (Big Brother Watch, link):
"Parliamentarians and rights groups have today issued an urgent warning that the two year duration of the emergency Coronavirus Bill is too long, ahead of the Governments attempt to push the Bill through the House of Commons this afternoon.
In a joint letter, led by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch and published in todays Telegraph, the group warns that the Bill contains the most draconian powers ever proposed in peace-time Britain and urges for a more proportionate time limit.
Signatories include former Minister David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP, Joanna Cherry QC MP and Acting Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey MP, who are all backing an amendment to shorten the duration of the Bill to six months."
HUNGARY: Orbán introduces 'Enabling Act' in the name of fighting coronavirus (Hungarian Spectrum, link):
"Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán never lets a crisis go to waste. Friday, he put before the Hungarian Parliament a law that would give him dictatorial powers under cover of declaring a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus. Parliament could vote on this law as early as Monday.
The law creates two new crimes. Anyone who publicizes false or distorted facts that interfere with the successful protection of the public or that alarm or agitate that public could be punished by up to five years in prison. And anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.
...These two new crimes would not be, strictly speaking, emergency powers. They would be permanent changes to the criminal law. They would not go away when the emergency is over.
Alarming though those new crimes are, the provisions of this law that implicate separation of powers are even more disturbing and would end the appearance of constitutional and democratic government. (The reality of constitutional and democratic government ended some time ago, but appearances were maintained.) Under this pending emergency law, Orbán would govern alone."
See: Legal scholars and opposition politicians condemn Orbáns Enabling Act; Translation of draft law On Protecting Against the Coronavirus (Hungarian Spectrum, link) and: EU Commission: no comment on Hungary's virus bill (EUobserver, link)
ISRAEL: Mossad bungles coronavirus test purchases: Israeli spies source up to 100,000 coronavirus tests in covert mission (The Guardian, link):
"Israels secretive Mossad intelligence agency launched a covert international operation this week to fly in up to 100,000 coronavirus testing kits, although the effort may have been in vain as critical parts were reportedly missing.
Domestic news outlets, citing government and health officials, reported that the secrecy of the operation was because the kits were acquired from at least two unnamed countries that do not have good diplomatic relations with Israel, meaning the government could not openly buy them.
...The Israeli news website Ynet had earlier quoted the health ministry deputy director general, Itamar Grotto, as saying the kits were missing swabs, which are used to take samples from the nose or the back of the throat.
Unfortunately, what arrived is not exactly what we were lacking Our problem is were missing swabs, he said."
#Euroleaks: the full 2015 Eurogroup recordings now public! (DiEM 25, link):
"Today, March 14, 2020, the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) is releasing the complete audio files of Yanis Varoufakis Eurogroup meetings in 2015 on: euroleaks.diem25.org!
During 2015 Yanis Varoufakis participated in thirteen Eurogroup meetings. After the first three Eurogroup meetings it became clear that no minutes were being taken!
This kind of intransparent action by an unelected group of politicians who influence all our lives is unacceptable. That is why DiEM25 is today releasing the recordings of the meetings of the Eurogroup from 2015."
UK Bill a License for Military Crimes? Law Would Stymie Prosecution of Armed Forces for Abuses (Human Rights Watch, link):
"Given the distractions of the coronavirus pandemic, its likely the proposed new law from Prime Minister Boris Johnsons government on overseas military operations will get far less attention than it deserves. If passed, the bill would greatly increase the risk that British soldiers who commit serious crimes will avoid justice.
The proposed law, the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, would create a presumption against prosecution for members of the United Kingdom armed forces accused of crimes, including torture, committed overseas more than five years earlier. The government asserts this will protect UK forces from vexatious prosecutions a dubious claim, given there have been hardly any such criminal trials. Even though British civil courts and public inquiries having found extensive evidence of torture by UK forces in Iraq after 2003. In addition, the UK government has paid out millions of pounds to Iraqis who alleged abuse by UK forces."
See: Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill (pdf)
Stuck under a cloud of suspicion: Profiling in the EU (EDRi, link):
"As facial recognition technologies are gradually rolled out in police departments across Europe, anti-racism groups blow the whistle on the discriminatory over-policing of racialised communities linked to the increasing use of new technologies by law enforcement agents. In a report by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, daily police practices supported by specific technologies such as crime analytics, the use of mobile fingerprinting scanners, social media monitoring and mobile phone extraction are analysed, to uncover their disproportionate impact on racialised communities.
Beside these local and national policing practices, the European Union (EU) has also played an important role in developing police cooperation tools that are based on data-driven profiling. Exploiting the narrative according to which criminals abuse the Schengen and free movement area, the EU justifies the mass monitoring of the population and profiling techniques as part of its Security Agenda. Unfortunately, no proper democratic debate is taking place before the technologies are deployed."
UK at last follows other EU states: UK pubs and restaurants told to shut in virus fight (BBC News, link):
"Cafes, pubs and restaurants must close from Friday night, except for take-away food, to tackle coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
All the UK's nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres have also been told to close "as soon as they reasonably can".
Mr Johnson said the situation will be reviewed each month. (...)
The announcement about closures follows similar measures taken in other countries - including in Ireland, where pubs and bars were asked to close from last Sunday.
Speaking at a daily Downing Street press briefing, Mr Johnson said the measures would be enforced "strictly" and that licensing arrangements will make doing so "relatively simple"." (emphasis added)
UK: Coronavirus Bill (pdf) and Explanatory Note (pdf)
And see: Police and health officials to get powers to detain under UK coronavirus bill - Bill allows police and officials to order anyone believed to be infected to undergo testing (Guardian, link);
"Police, public health and immigration officers will be able to detain people suspected of having Covid-19 and exact £1,000 fines for refusing tests under emergency powers rolled out by the UK government. (...)
Immigration officers and police will also be handed powers to send people for screening and testing and hold them for a period of time before a public health officer can be consulted.(...)
In a letter to Johnson, Corbyn said people understood the need for temporary restrictions. He added: But given how far-reaching these are proposed to be, peoples elected representatives must be able to decide whether to renew the legislation at least every six months, up to its expiration after two years.
UK privacy activists raise fears over social distancing tracking - Mobile phone operators data could be used to monitor success of coronavirus policy (Guardian, link):
"Privacy campaigners have warned that a UK government plan to use mobile phone data to track the success of the social distancing policy needs to be carried out with radical transparency because of the authoritarian possibilities.
The Guardian reported on Thursday that BT and O2 have talked to the government about providing the data, which would be delayed by 12 to 24 hours and stripped of individual identifiers, to help the government assess whether people are following advice to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants.
Big Brother Watch said it was concerning that the deals had been struck in secret. We need further explanation and much more transparency, said Silkie Carlo, the privacy groups director."
Erdogan in talks with European leaders over refugee cash for Turkey (The Guardian, link):
"Turkey has pressed European leaders to make fresh cash pledges to prevent tens of thousands of refugees from leaving the country and trying to reach Europe amid a Russian-Syrian offensive in north-west Syria.
After intense bombardment in Idlib province last month, Turkeys president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraged thousands of refugees in the country to move on towards the Greek islands and the Baltics, in a repeat of the surge to Europe in 2015.
That push ended when the EU gave Turkey 6bn to house the refugees in Turkey. Nearly 4.7bn has been contractually awarded, but only about 3.2bn paid out.
In a phone call on Tuesday between the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Erdogan, the leaders discussed the possibility of a new refugee deal, ways to combat the continued Russian threat in Idlib, and the fear that coronavirus could sweep through the refugee camps bordering Syria in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan."
BELGIUM: Service providers in Belgium should not have to report irregular migrants, says Council of Europes anti-racism watchdog (Council of Europe, link):
"Strasbourg, 18.03.2020 Belgium should ensure that no service provider, either in the public or private sector, is required to report people suspected of being irregularly present in the country to the authorities responsible for immigration control and enforcement, in order to protect their fundamental rights.
The Belgian authorities should also make sure that the committee responsible for evaluating federal anti-discrimination laws has enough resources to resume and expand the scope of its work, in consultation with civil society organisations.
These two recommendations are highlighted as requiring priority implementation in the latest report on Belgium from the Council of Europes Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), published today (see Dutch and French versions of the report)."
See: ECRI report on Belgium (sixth monitoring cycle) (pdf)
UK: Undercover policing inquiry: secretive Met unit shredded files (The Guardian, link):
"A secretive Scotland Yard intelligence unit shredded a large number of documents after a public inquiry was set up into the undercover infiltration of political groups, a watchdog has found.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced on Wednesday that it had found that documents had been destroyed despite an instruction that they had to be preserved.
The watchdog found that an unnamed officer would have faced a disciplinary hearing on a charge of gross misconduct if he or she had not already retired from the Metropolitan police. Any officer found guilty of gross misconduct would be likely to be sacked.
The watchdog said a number of former managers had refused to cooperate with its inquiry. It said the investigation had uncovered serious failings within the intelligence unit."
See: Materials that may have been relevant to undercover policing inquiry were shredded by Metropolitan Police personnel (IOPC, link)
Existence of secret body confirmed, no meaningful details provided: Hostile state activity assessment body announced (Home Office, link):
"The Home Secretary today publicly confirmed the existence of an organisation established to better understand the threat of hostile state activity and inform the governments response.
The joint state threats assessment team (JSTAT) was created in 2017 in response to the increased and evolving threat the UK faces from hostile states.
...Like other independent assessment bodies, including the joint terrorism analysis centre, JSTAT reports to a governance board comprising senior officials from across the UK intelligence community and wider government departments. The Director General of MI5 has ultimate responsibility for the organisation."
See: Joint State Threats Assessment Team (MI5, link)
UK: End deportation flights!: resisting the new authoritarianism (Verso, link):
"On February 11, a mass deportation flight to Jamaica departed from Doncaster Airport, UK, carrying seventeen people. At the same time the government announced an emergency law to imprison people convicted of terror offences for longer, and the Metropolitan police deployed facial recognition technology on the streets of London. In this article, Gracie Mae Bradley and Luke de Noronha analyse the authoritarian context of the new series of charter flights for so-called foreign criminals, and how to resist it."
UK: This UK Government-Funded AI Programme Wants to Make Face Recognition Ubiquitous. (But Sure, We're Probably Being Paranoid About Face Surveillance) (Privacy International, link):
"The UKs Metropolitan Police have began formally deploying Live Facial Recognition technology across London, claiming that it will only be used to identify serious criminals on bespoke watch lists and on small, targeted areas.
Yet, at the same time, the UKs largest police force is also listed as a collaborator in a UK government-funded research programme explicitly intended to "develop unconstrained face recognition technology", aimed at making face recognition ubiquitous by 2020".
The £6.1m programme, which also includes the Home Office, various biometrics companies, and a University in China home to some of the most pervasive face surveillance in the world shows how governments are investing in facial recognition technology designed for mass surveillance."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-16.3.20) including:
- Little new on migration in Commission's plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa"
- More calls for EU and Greece to uphold international law and refugee rights
- Turkey steps back from confrontation at Greek border
- Border externalisation: agreements on Frontex ops in Serbia and Montenegro head for approval
ITALY: Coronavirus: critical situation in prisons and detention centres
A note issued on 12 March by the ombudsman for people denied their freedom in jails and places of detention on describes the situation as "relatively" calm, despite problems resulting from disturbances and violence in numerous prisons in the past days.
ITALY: Coronavirus: military personnel given police powers to enforce restrictions on mobility and presence in the streets
On 12 March 2020, Italian press agency ANSA reported the contents of an interior ministry circular issued concerning restrictions on mobility first decreed on 23 February and repeatedly expanded upon in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, from Lombardy and 14 provinces (the initial "red zone") to the entire national territory. Presence on the streets must be duly motivated in a justification form, for essential activities, going to work and essential shopping.
Brussels considers pan-EU police searches of ID photos (Politico, link):
"Ready for your closeup? Your face could soon be included in police databases searchable by law enforcement across the European Union.
The Council of the EU has been advised to include photos of the Continents residents in a network of databases that could be searched by police using facial recognition software, according to an internal report circulated by the Austrian government and obtained by POLITICO.
These photos could include pictures culled from drivers licenses and passports, if another recommendation obtained by POLITICO and circulated by the Finnish presidency of the Council last year were to be adopted."
Council of the EU documents on: Facial recognition (13356/19, pdf), vehicle registration data (11264/19, pdf), fingerprints (13556/19, pdf) and DNA (13511/19, pdf) and: Presentation on the TELEFI project (pdf)
Germany puts far-right AfD's 'Wing' group under surveillance (DW, link):
"Germany's domestic security agency will run surveillance on the far-right Alternative for Germany's (AfD) most nationalistic group, the agency's president announced on Thursday.
The step designates the AfD group known as the "Wing" ("Flügel") as a far-right extremist group warranting observation from security forces.
"The Wing evidently has extremist intentions," said Thomas Haldenwang, the president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Germany's domestic security agency."
UK: The Impact of Christchurch Terror Attack | Tell MAMA Interim report 2019 (Tell MAMA, link):
"REVEALED: 1 Year-On After the Christchurch Terror attacks, Tell MAMA Reveals a 692% Increase in Anti-Muslim Hatred that Spiked in the UK After the Attacks...
In the week following the terror attacks in Christchurch, incidents reported to Tell MAMA increased by 692%, with 12 incidents recorded in the previous week (March 8 14) and 95 the following week (March 15 21).
The terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand had a significant effect in the UK, resulting in a rapid but long-lasting increase in anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia."
The EU Is Abandoning Italy in Its Hour of Need (Foreign Policy, link):
"Italy is in lockdown. Schools and universities are closed, soccer games suspended, and restaurant visits banned amid a rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Just grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to stay open, and only absolutely necessary travel is permitted. One might think that fellow European Union countries would count their blessings and send their Italian friends a few vital supplies, especially since the Italians have asked for it. They have sent nothing.
...In the meantime, a partial and flawed savior has arrived. Close to midnight on March 12, a Chinese aircraft landed in Rome carrying nine medical experts and 31 tons of medical supplies including intensive care unit equipment, medical protective equipment, and antiviral drugs. Around the same time, a Chinese truck arrived in Italy bringing more than 230 boxes of medical equipment. It was less than Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi had promised Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio of Italy in a phone call on Tuesday, but two days after the phone call the supplies were on their way."
Artificial intelligence isnt as smart as it thinks - The technology is decades away from being able to mimic human decision-making (Politico, link):
"Digital personal assistants, software that can trounce board game champions, algorithms serving up customized online advertising wherever you turn, artificial intelligence appears to be taking over the world.
But look past the self-driving cars and facial-recognition cameras, and you'll see that the technology is a lot less intelligent than it may at first appear. It's likely to be decades, at best, before even the smartest forms of AI can outdo humans in the complex tasks that make up daily life."
European Parliament Study: The ethics of artificial intelligence: Issues and initiatives (pdf):
"STOA | Panel for the Future of Science and Technology II Chapter 2 moves on to consider the impact of AI on human psychology, raising questions about the impact of AI on relationships, as in the case of intelligent robots taking on human social roles, such as nursing. Human-robot relationships may also affect human-human relationships in as yet unanticipated ways. This section also considers the question of personhood, and whether AI systems should have moral agency. Impacts on the financial system are already being felt, with AI responsible for high trading volumes of equities.
The report argues that, although markets are suited to automation, there are risks including the use of AI for intentional market manipulation and collusion. AI technology also poses questions for both civil and criminal law, particularly whether existing legal frameworks apply to decisions taken by AIs. Pressing legal issues include liability for tortious, criminal and contractual misconduct involving AI. While it may seem unlikely that AIs will be deemed to have sufficient autonomy and moral sense to be held liable themselves, they do raise questions about who is liable for which crime (or indeed if human agents can avoid liability by claiming they did not know the AI could or would do such a thing)."
See also: Overview (pdf)
EU: Justice & Home Affairs Council 14 March 2020 : Background Note (pdf)
"In the morning, home affairs ministers will exchange views on the strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs, with a view to their endorsement ahead of the March European Council meeting.Theywill then come back to the situation at the EU's external borderswith Turkey. The Council will further develop the EU's response to needs expressed by Greece.
Over lunch, ministers responsible for civil protection issues will discuss the coronavirus outbreak.
Representatives of the Schengen associated countriesIceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland will also be present for the point on the situation at the EU's external borders"
See: Greece warned by EU it must uphold the right to asylum (Guardian, link)
EU: Border externalisation: Agreements on Frontex operations in Serbia and Montenegro heading for parliamentary approval
On 29 January the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament (LIBE) approved the conclusion of status agreements on the actions on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) on the territory of two neighbouring non-EU states - Serbia and Montenegro.
Frontex border operation in Greece 'lacks legal basis' after Greece suspends asylum law (euronews, link):
"Experts have questioned the legality of EU border agency Frontex sending officers to the Greek-Turkish border.
Thousands have massed on the frontier after Ankara said it could no longer stop refugees in Turkey from heading to Europe.
Frontex, which manages the European Union's external borders, is deploying reinforcements to Evros from 11 March.
But experts have told Euronews this move "lacks proper legal basis".
This is because Greece - already with a huge backlog - suspended the reception of asylum applications for a month on 1 March.
UK: Police warned about insider threat from extremists inside their own forces (The Independent, link):
"Police have been warned about the threat from extremists inside their own forces.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that while officers work through the governments Prevent counter-extremism programme was broadly good, few considered the possibility that their own colleagues could be radicalised.
The vulnerability of staff generally wasnt referred to in forces Prevent training, but it is a real threat, said a report released on Monday.
...The findings were revealed days after a serving Metropolitan Police officer was arrested on suspicion of being a member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group."
See the report: HMICFRS: Counter-terrorism policing An inspection of the polices contribution of the governments Prevent Programme (pdf): "This report sets out the high level findings from this inspection and is redacted, in the interest of national security."
Secret documents: European domestic intelligence services networking worldwide (Matthias Monroy, link):
"The Club de Berne, in which directors of domestic secret services of the EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland are organized, has grown into a worldwide network. Jan Jirát and Lorenz Naegeli report this in the online edition of the Swiss Wochenzeitung, citing a secret document dated 2011. The Club de Berne is thus involved in an international exchange of information with authorities in several continents.
The informal Club de Berne was founded in 1969 by initially nine heads of secret services. Even then, following research by Aviva Guttmann, the European services cooperated with Israeli partners Shin Bet and Mossad as well as the US FBI. The networking was done via a cable system called Kilowatt."
GREECE: Yaros, the forgotten prison island (DW, link):
"The barren and seemingly godforsaken island of Yaros in the southern Aegean is also known as the "Island of the Devil." Its history as a place of exile goes back to the ancient Romans who sent undesirable people to the island. After the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), Greek rulers kept the old tradition and sent 20,000 communists and other enemies of the government into exile on Yaros. The prisoners were treated to a gruesome educational holiday. Anyone who had dared to defy the government was mistreated until their will was broken and was then reeducated in the ways of "true Greeks."
...But now, it looks like the ball is rolling again. There are plans to turn the island into a nature conservation area and a diver's paradise. The project is being backed by WWF, the world's leading nature conservation organization, and the Cyclades Life program... It will be no easy task due to the complex legal situation."
Coronavirus tests Europes resolve on privacy (Politico, link):
"As governments around the world turn to tech to track the spread of coronavirus, some people are finding out the hard way that tracking tools can expose their private lives.
In South Korea where the state pings people's phones about the location of infected patients one man was publicly pinpointed at a class about sexual harassment. In another case, an infected man was located in an area renowned for prostitution, according to the Guardian leading to a hail of online jeers about his behavior.
Think this could never happen in privacy-conscious Europe?
Statewatch Analysis: Frontex launches "game-changing" recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards (pdf) by Jane Kilpatrick:
On 4 January 2020 the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) adopted a decision on the profiles of the staff required for the new standing corps, which is ultimately supposed to be staffed by 10,000 officials. The decision ushers in a new wave of recruitment for the agency. Applicants will be put through six months of training before deployment, after rigorous medical testing.
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.2-2.3.20) including:
- Open letters, joint statements, responses to the situation at the Greek-Turkish border
- Danish boat in Aegean refused order to push back rescued migrants
- EU governments harassing those who help migrants
Joint letter to Frontex regarding attempts to claim legal costs from transparency activists (6 March 2020, pdf):
"On 31 January 2020, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) sent Luisa Izuzquiza and Arne Semsrott an invoice claiming 23,700.81 in legal costs, establishing a deadline for compliance of 28 days. The recipients are two freedom of information activists and the applicants in the first access to EU documents case against Frontex before the General Court of the European Union.
In light of Frontexs claim, we are writing to demand Frontex refrains from pursuing any financial compensation for a legal challenge aimed at defending and protecting a fundamental EU right. We are also writing to express our concerns regarding the implications of Frontexs action when it comes to civil societys ability to protect and defend fundamental rights in the EU."
ICC authorises Afghanistan war crimes investigation (Reprieve, link):
"The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague has upheld an appeal against the Pre-Trial Chambers decision not to authorise an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan. This paves the way for an independent investigation of abuses committed by US, Taliban and Afghan forces during the conflict."
UK: Landmark Immigration Bill to end free movement introduced to Parliament (gov.uk, link):
"The Immigration Bill will be introduced to the House of Commons today (Thursday 5 March) ending the European Unions rules on free movement.
It represents an important milestone in paving the way for the new UK points-based immigration system. It will be introduced by the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, and marks an historic moment in the countrys history, following the UKs departure from the EU on 31 January 2020."
See: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (pdf)
SPAIN-BELGIUM: European Arrest Warrant: EU Court of Justice passes the buck on Valtonyc (Majorca Daily Bulletin, link):
"The EU Court of Justice has ruled that Spain cannot retroactively apply for the extradition of Majorcan rapper Josep Miquel Arenas, aka Valtonyc from Belgium.
The Luxembourg-based Court said that its ruling does not mean that the execution of the European arrest warrant should be denied, but that it is up to the Belgian Justice Department, which has already refused to extradite the rapper.
Valtonyc fled to Belgium in June 2018, after he was sentenced to nearly 3 years in jail for glorifying terrorism in his lyrics."
CJEU press release: In order to ascertain whether the European arrest warrant against a person convicted in Spain for the offence of glorification of terrorism and humiliation of the victims of terrorism must be executed without examining whether that offence is punishable also in Belgium, the Belgian courts must take into account the length of the sentence imposed by the Spanish law applicable to the acts committed (pdf) and: Judgment (pdf)
UK: Government hired undercover 'spies' at public meeting on road through Litherland (Liverpool Echo, link):
"Highways England paid over £5,000 to a surveillance and security firm to monitor two public information events in Sefton.
The public events related to HE's controversial plans to build a dual carriageway through Rimrose Valley country park, to cope with the increase in HGV traffic resulting from the Port of Liverpools expansion.
Campaigners have argued that the new road will increase traffic related noise and pollution in Litherland, and ruin the park.
But bosses at Highways England insist the staff were at the meeting for security reasons.
The SRV (Save Rimrose Valley) campaign group has now revealed that total of £5,424 was paid by HE to a surveillance company to monitor two events which took place in October last year."
EU: Europol: Novel Actionable information, Criminal intelligence analysis and data analytics portal (CONAN) (Council document 13731/19, LIMITE, 6 November 2019, pdf):
"On 3 October 2019 Europol launched the new criminal analysis portal, named CONAN (CONecting ANalysts), at the European Police Chiefs Convention. CONAN currently connects 1200 criminal intelligence analysts, [emphasis in original] coming from the MS, EU agencies (Europol, EBCGA, Eurojust, EMCDDA, OLAF, ..) and Third partner countries. New analysts are joining up every day.
...The new portal has several functionalities to connect analysts and help them to align ways of performing criminal analysis between law enforcement organisations across the European Union"
Background: "Policing in a Connected World": Council looks to help police deal with "Novel Actionable Information" (Statewatch News, 25 March 2019)
Counter-terrorism programmes are violating human rights, UN expert says (Middle East Eye, link):
"Counter-extremism programmes, including those employed in the United Kingdom and the United States, are contributing to human rights violations, according to a United Nations expert.
A report submitted to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday said religious groups, minorities and civil society actors in particular have been victims of rights violations and are targeted under the guise of countering "extremism."
Special rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aolain said any programme that relies on teachers, social workers and health-care staff to report signs of radicalisation should be scrapped."
See the report: Human rights impact of policies and practices aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism (pdf) and press release: Violent extremism: Prevention programmes should not violate human rights UN expert (UN Human Rights, link)
UK: Britains secret state and the need for whistle-blowing (Daily Maverick, link):
"In November 2003, I was charged with a breach of the Official Secrets Act in the UK. My crime had been to reveal an email from the US National Security Agency (NSA) to Britain's intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) where I was working at the time.
The email, which arrived on 31 January 2003, specified a US operation to target the home and office communications of six foreign diplomats on the UN Security Council. The purpose was to use the information gathered to strong-arm those states into voting for a resolution supporting an invasion of Iraq. "
GERMANY: OPINION: How far-right tensions are boiling over on Munich's mayoral elections campaign trail (The Local, link):
"At first glance, it appeared comical. Behind a barrier festooned with fearsome placards and an expensive PA system, two gentlemen stood glumly, occasionally summoning and murmuring to an offsider.
In front of them stood a crowd of about 15 to 20 counter-protesters punks, hippies and anarchists clad in black clothing. Speakers blared angry rap exhorting youth to fight for their people, and were answered by phones and boomboxes blaring anti-fascist standards such as Bella Ciao and Die Internationale.
Its a scene being played out over and over again in German cities, as parties such as Alternative for Germany (AfD), who many say hold extreme far-right views, increasingly make a play for voters disenchanted with the centrist Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) or centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
And with extremist attacks such as the shootings in Hanau, Halle and the murder of pro-refugee politician Walter Lübcke, the role of the far-right is also being scrutinised further."
UK: 'Gross failures' contributed to man's death in immigration centre (The Guardian, link):
"Neglect and a series of gross failures by the Home Office and other agencies contributed to the death of a vulnerable Ghanaian man from hypothermia, dehydration and malnutrition, an inquest jury has found.
In a damning narrative conclusion, the jury found that Prince Fosu, a car parts dealer, had died suddenly after developing these conditions while he was suffering from psychotic illness.
The jury criticised many aspects of the healthcare systems in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre (IRC) at the time of Fosus death and said there were gross failures across all the agencies.
They found that Home Office staff failed to spot and respond to Fosus deteriorating condition and failed to monitor their contractors adequately."
European Parliament study: European arrest warrant: Framework for analysis and preliminary findings on its implementation (pdf):
"The European Arrest Warrant has led to simplified and faster surrender procedures for suspects and sentenced persons. However, trust in the system needs to be enhanced through proper implementation and further harmonisation of substantive and procedural criminal law."
UK: At least 20,000 people denied information that could prove right to live in UK, in new hostile environment clampdown (The Independent, link):
"At least 20,000 people have been denied information that could prove their right to stay in the UK, in what campaigners are warning is a revival of the hostile environment.
A controversial loophole passed into law despite warnings it risked the next Windrush has been used to block almost 43 per cent of requests for the government to release vital data, The Independent can reveal.
The huge impact of the clause allowing data to be kept secret if release would undermine immigration control comes despite ministers promising it would be used only on a case-by-case basis."
For Norway its Official: The Rule of Law is No More in Poland (Verfassungsblog, link):
"The so-called muzzle law, adopted by the Polish parliament on January 23, was the last straw. On Thursday 27 February, the board of the Norwegian Court Administration (NCA) decided to withdraw from its planned cooperation with Poland under the justice programme of the EEA and Norway Grants, due to concerns over the Polish justice reforms.
In a statement published on the NCA website, the director of the NCA stated that the bilateral cooperation could not continue since basic European standards for legal security are no longer present in Poland. The director referred to criticism of the Polish justice reforms by the Venice Commission, the OSCE and the EU Commission, and concluded that the political control of Polish courts is now so extensive that the NCA and the Norwegian courts could no longer continue their cooperation with Poland within the EEA and Norway Grants justice programme. Crucially, the director voiced concern that Norways cooperation with Poland in the justice field might be considered as an acceptance of the recent justice reforms in Poland."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.2-2.3.20) including:
- Greece: Situation for migrants and refugees goes from bad to worse
- Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal
- Council Presidency and EU agencies want biometric databases for migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans
Janez Jansa, admirer of Viktor Orban, to be nominated PM of Slovenia (EurActiv, link):
"The centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), led by former prime minister Janez Jana, late on Tuesday (25 February) agreed on a future government coalition with three other parties, the four parties said.
The anti-immigration SDS (EPP-affiliated) formed a majority coalition with the centre-left Party of Modern Centre (SMC), the conservative New Slovenia and the pensioners party Desus.
President Borut Pahor is expected to nominate Jana on Wednesday for the post of prime minister, to replace outgoing centre-right Prime Minister Marjan arec who resigned last month. Jana is expected to be confirmed by parliament next week."
Facial Recognition Technology Is the New Rogues Gallery (Slate, link):
"The government has always sought a way to file away and compare the faces of the guilty, but until very recently the technology only allowed for it to occur in a much more rudimentary way. Before there was the fingerprint, or even the police file, there was the rogues gallery, which you could find in most U.S. police departments. The gallery was a large wall or cabinet filled with photographs of alleged criminals that could be used as a way of identifying repeat offenders and coordinating surveillance, and as an example for witnesses... As cumbersome as this technology was, its use in the early 20th century posed the same ethical questions about guilt, innocence, and the nature of governance that we continue to grapple with on an exponentially larger scale. "
First Success Against Facial Recognition in France (La Quadrature du Net, link):
"Earlier this month, the Administrative Court of Marseille heard our case against facial recognition systems controlling access to two high schools in Nice and Marseille. These systems were authorised in December by the PACA Region as experimental. Yesterday, the Court annulled this decision.
The Court found that the Region had no power to take this decision schools only have such powers. Furthermore, the Court found that it breached the GDPR: these systems were based on consent, but students consent cannot be freely given because of the authority relationship that binds them to the schools administration."
More detail: First Ever Decision of a French Court Applying GDPR to Facial Recognition (AI Regulation, link) and the judgment: No 1901249 Marseilles Administrative Court (pdf)
Justice and Home Affairs in the future UK/EU relationship: analysis of the negotiation positions (EU Law Analysis) by Professor Steve Peers (link):
"The EU has now adopted its negotiation mandate for future relationship talks with the UK (discussed here). The UK has now done the same. Lots of commentators have looked in detail at the two sides approach to the future relationship on economic issues: this blog post aims to do the same on justice and home affairs issues (immigration, asylum, civil cooperation, judicial and police cooperation)."
News of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI): ECRI Chair to the Council of Europes Committee of Ministers: alarm bells are ringing over racism and intolerance (link):
"In the context of the publication of the latest annual report drawn up by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Ms Maria Daniella Marouda, Chair of ECRI, held an exchange of views with the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europes decision-making organ.
Shortly after her meeting with Ms Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ms Marouda shared ECRIs views with the Committee of Ministers about the alarming situation in Europe. She underlined that ultra-nationalistic, antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate speech and violence were gaining ground in all too many countries. The xenophobic mass shootings in Hanau in Germany last week demonstrate once again that we not only need to speak urgently about racism and intolerance, but that we also need to be proactive, she said."
Analysis: Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europes borders (pdf) by Matthias Monroy:
Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.
UK: Failures in treatment and policing behind 'boom in illegal drugs' (The Guardian, link):
"Disappearing and underfunded drug treatment services and fruitless attempts to restrict the flow of illegal substances into the country underpin a booming £9.4bn illicit drugs market in the UK, a landmark review has found.
Prof Dame Carol Black was commissioned by the former home secretary Sajid Javid to lead a major review to look into the ways in which drugs are fuelling serious violence."
See also: Review of Drugs: Executive Summary (pdf)
Unprecedented human rights crackdown obligates EU to reevaluate relations with Egypt (CIHRS, link):
"We are writing to urge you to lead a comprehensive review of the EUs relations with Egypt in light of the sustained and unprecedented crackdown on human rights in the country. We call on you to devise and implement a holistic and result-oriented strategy, using all instruments at the EUs disposal to urgently halt this abusive trend and better engage with Egypt on protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and combatting impunity."
UK to withdraw from European arrest warrant (The Guardian, link):
"The UK is to abandon a crucial tool used to speed up the transfer of criminals across borders with other European countries.
Acting against the warnings of senior law enforcement officials, the government said it would not be seeking to participate in the European arrest warrant (EAW) as part of the future relationship with the European Union.
In a document setting out the UKs approach to negotiations with the EU, the government said: The agreement should instead provide for fast-track extradition arrangements, based on the EUs surrender agreement with Norway and Iceland which came into force in 2019, but with appropriate further safeguards for individuals beyond those in the European arrest warrant."
See: 'Agreement on Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters' in The Future Relationship with the EU: The UK's Approach to Negotiations (pdf)
Council Presidency and EU agencies want biometric databases for migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans
The EU should help introduce the biometric registration of migrants and refugees travelling on the 'Balkan Route', according to the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, as part of a series of measures to tackle the "threats arising from an increase in migratory flows and smugglers' networks".
Open Letter to the EU about Climate of Racism in Hungary (European Roma Rights Centre, link):
"Brussels, 18 February 2020: We would like to express our deep concern at the recent statements made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán concerning the school segregation case in Gyöngyöspata. We call on the European Parliament to resolutely condemn the rhetoric of the Hungarian government, which exacerbates inter-ethnic tension and anti-Roma racism; delegitimises the work of human rights organisations yet again; and further undermines the rule of law."
Scottish Government to seek Westminster support in rendition investigation (Reprieve, link):
"In a reversal of its previous position, the Scottish Government now says it will seek the UK governments support in obtaining the full US Senate torture report, in order to establish what role Scottish airports played in CIA rendition flights. So far, only the redacted 525 page Executive Summary of the 6,700 page report has been released.
A spokesperson for justice secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the move following a letter from MSPs, published in the Scotsman. The cross party group wrote: We are deeply concerned that without concerted action by the Scottish and Westminster governments, Police Scotlands investigation will fail to get to the truth."
See: MSPs warn Sturgeon of deep concern over police rendition investigation (The Scotsman, link)
Clashes on Greek islands over new migrant camps (InfoMigrants, link):
"Riot police have clashed with residents on two Greek islands over the construction of new migrant detention centers. The government is insisting that the closed facilities must go ahead to relieve pressure on overcrowded island camps.
On Lesbos, about 500 people reportedly tried to stop heavy machinery from being unloaded on Monday night to begin construction at the site of the new facility.
Police used tear gas on protesters close to the area, some of whom wore surgical masks, news agency reports said. On the island of Chios, at least three people were treated in hospital for breathing difficulties caused by the extensive use of tear gas, according to local officials."
EU: "Data lakes", broken silos, changing the law: Counter-Terrorism Coordinator enthusiastic for Europol's new 'innovation hub'
The EU is in the process of setting up an 'innovation hub' at Europol in order to look at the development and use of new technologies for internal security. The Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC), who initially proposed the idea, has circulated an enthuastic note to national delegations in Brussels setting out his vision for the unit. Meanwhile, minutes of a meeting between EU and Interpol officials suggest that Frontex operations could provide a "test lab" for new technologies.
Analysis: Fort Vert: Nature conservation as border regime in Calais (pdf) by Hanna Rullman:
The construction of a nature reserve in Calais as a way to prevent the return of migrant encampments raises important questions over the political uses of the environment in Europes border regime.
IRELAND: Appeal in Dwyer case referred to EU Court of Justice (RTÉ, link):
"The Supreme Court has said it intends to refer Graham Dwyer's case over the retention and accessing of his mobile phone metadata to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The court made its decision by a majority of six to one.
Chief Justice Frank Clarke said he had expressed a view on three key issues in the case, but because the answers involve matters of EU law and the answers to them are not clear, the court was obliged to refer the issues to the Court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg."
See: Judgment of Mr Justice Clarke, Chief Justice, delivered the 24th of February, 2020 (pdf)
Dont Underestimate Slovakias Neo-Nazi Threat (Balkan Insight, link):
"Only a year ago, analysts spoke of endemic corruption and erosion of the rule of law as the main threats to Slovak society. But as a general election approaches at the end of this month, political scientist Aneta Vilagi says Slovak democracy itself is at stake.
Namely because of the situation weve seen since 2016, when a party supposedly built on a neo-Nazi ideology entered parliament, said Vilagi from Comenius University in Bratislava.
She was referring to the far-right Kotleba Peoples Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), which is polling in second or third place ahead of the countrys February 29 parliamentary election."
Polish rule of law crisis at point of no return (EUobserver, link) by Elena Crespi and Joshua Ratliff:
"Following four-plus years of assault by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the embattled Polish judiciary may be on its last legs.
On 4 February, amid mass domestic and international protest, Polish president Andrzej Duda signed into law a deeply-controversial set of new reforms openly defying the authority of the EU's top court and seeking to prevent Polish judges from applying EU law under penalty of suspension, fines, salary cuts and dismissal.
The power consolidation strategy pursued by the Law and Justice government since it came to power in 2015 has taken repeated aim at judicial restraints on the government's ability to act, and represents at its core an effort to dismantle the very checks and balances that characterise democratic forms of government."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-24.2.20) including:
- European court under fire for backing Spain's express deportations
- Frontexs History of Handling Abuse Evidence Dogs Balkan Expansion
- Italys Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya
EU summit collapses as leaders struggle to fill 75bn Brexit hole (The Guardian, link):
"A summit of EU leaders seeking to fill a 75bn hole in the blocs budget left by Brexit dramatically collapsed after Angela Merkel led major contributors in rejecting a proposal that would have left them paying billions more.
The meeting in Brussels was brought to an abrupt end on Friday evening with the leaders deeply divided, leaving the European council president, Charles Michel, to admit: We need more time.
The UKs departure has left EU states struggling to fund plans over the next seven years to tackle the climate emergency, aid poorer regions and continue to subsidise farmers through the common agricultural policy."
Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers U.S. extradition bid (Reuters, link):
"Almost a decade after his WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret U.S. documents, a London court will begin hearings on Monday to decide whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States.
A hero to admirers who say he has exposed abuses of power, Assange is cast by critics as a dangerous enemy of the state who has undermined Western security. He says the extradition is politically motivated by those embarrassed by his revelations.
The 48-year-old is wanted by the United States on 18 criminal counts of conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law and could spend decades in prison if convicted."
See also: London protesters rally against Assange extradition (UPI, link) and: Julian Assange should not be extradited due to potential impact on press freedom and concerns about ill-treatment (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, link)
Leaked Reports Show EU Police Are Planning a Pan-European Network of Facial Recognition Databases (The Intercept, link):
"A police investigator in Spain is trying to solve a crime, but she only has an image of a suspects face, caught by a nearby security camera. European police have long had access to fingerprint and DNA databases throughout the 27 countries of the European Union and, in certain cases, the United States. But soon, that investigator may be able to also search a network of police face databases spanning the whole of Europe and the U.S."
Balkan spies 'feed' EU's police database via Czechs (EUobserver, link):
"Secret services in at least one non-EU Western Balkan state are indirectly feeding the EU's police database with alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters, according to a confidential document seen by this website.
Drafted by the counter-terrorism section of the Czech Republic National Organised Crime Agency, the nine-page document says over 250 alerts have been flagged by the Western Balkans since last summer."
See: Terrorism Working Party: Summary of discussions (30 January 2020, LIMITE, 5399/20, pdf):
"Delegates took note of the presentation by Europol on the SIS II project. In line with the conclusion from the CTPB (counter terrorism programme board) concerning the insertion and sharing of SIS II hits from Third Parties, in particular Western Balkans. The Czech Republic volunteered to insert and create alerts according to the Article 36(3) of the SIS II based on the lists of FTFs. The test phase started in July 2019. The results are positive and will be presented at the next CTPB in April."
UK: Dutch man wins deportation appeal after judge messes up legal test (Free Movement, link):
"The Court of Appeals judgment in Hussein v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 156 is another reminder of the multiple layers of protection from deportation which EU citizens enjoy. In particular, it focuses on the importance of a properly reasoned decision by the First-tier Tribunal about when deportation meets the serious grounds of public policy test in the EEA Regulations.
Mr Hussein is a Dutch citizen who arrived in the UK in 1998. Starting from when he was a teenager, Mr Hussein eventually amassed 24 convictions over a 15-year period. That included three stints in custody. In March 2016, the Home Office had had enough and made a deportation order."
EU backtracks on plans to ban facial recognition (EUobserver, link)
"The European Commission came under fire on Wednesday (19 February) for ruling out a moratorium on facial recognition, as the bloc's new strategy for data and artificial intelligence (AI) governance was unveiled.
"It is of utmost importance and urgency that the EU prevents the deployment of mass surveillance and identification technologies without fully understanding their impacts on people and their rights," warned Diego Naranjo, head of policy at European Digital Rights.
But the commission vice president Margarethe Vestager said only on Wednesday that the EU's executive body will launch "a broad European debate to determine the specific circumstances, if any, which might justify the use" of facial recognition."
See: White Paper On Artificial Intelligence - A European approach to excellence and trust (pdf) and: A Europe Fit for the Digital Age: Empowering people with a new generation of technologies (EC, link)
Hungary turns its back on Europe (Oktatói Hálózat, link)
"This report has been prepared by independent Hungarian intellectuals who wish to inform the Hungarian and international public as well as European institutions about the severe harm that the Orbán regime governing Hungary since 2010 has caused in the fields of education, science, culture, and the media.
The reason for preparing the present report is that the acts of the successive Orbán governments consistently run counter to and consciously violate the fundamental principles, values, and norms of the European Union, not only as regards the rule of law and political and social rights, but also in the case of the cultural areas discussed here. In Hungary, important European values are being jeopardised, including cultural diversity, scientific and artistic autonomy, the respect for human dignity, access to education and culture, conditions for social mobility, the integration of disadvantaged social groups, the protection of cultural heritage, and the right to balanced information, as well as democratic norms like ensuring social dialogue, transparency and subsidiarity."
Why is regulating artificial intelligence important in Europe? (European Parliament, link):
"Three members from the legal affairs committee are currently working to ensure the EU is prepared for the legal and ethical aspects of developments in artificial intelligence (AI). Find out more in our interview. (...)
Although Europes existing civil liability framework covers most upcoming scenarios, new technologies based on AI will nevertheless expose several unsolved issues.
In the case of an AI malfunction, it will for instance become rather difficult to differentiate between negligent and non-negligent conduct. Who exactly is liable if an AI-driven robot hurts a pedestrian in a public space or makes a mistake during a surgery?
The European Parliament wants to propose a working mechanism that covers the entire spectrum of risks as well as potential harm caused by the use of AI in its various applications."
Eyes wide shut: collective punishment of Roma in 21st-century Europe (Open Democracy, link):
"75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, despite the EU Framework for Roma Integration which closes this year, anti-Roma racism has spiked across the continent."
GREECE: PRESS RELEASE: A criminal complaint was filed regarding the death of a 31-year-old Iranian national at the Pre-Removal Detention Centre of Moria (Lesvos Legal Centre, link):
"February 6, 2020, Mytilene, Lesvos on 29th January a criminal complaint was filed before the public prosecutor of the first instance court of Mytilene by five NGO attorneys, offering free legal aid to the asylum seekers in Lesvos, with the request to investigate the precise reasons and conditions of the death of the 31-year-old Iranian man, who, according to the report of the online journal StoNisi, dated 06/01/2020, was found hanged in the pre-removal detention center of Moria in the morning of that day."
Un-Owned Personal Data Interoperable EU Borders and Transitioning Rights (Migration Policy Centre, link):
"The project investigates whether advanced technologies, inherent in interoperable information systems in the Area of Freedom Security and Justice (AFSJ), undermine the fundamental rights of third-country nationals, including asylum seekers. Given the nature of digital data, which are intangible and un-territorial, third-country nationals exist in a transitioning status beyond borders (e.g.asylum seeker to EU citizen) and across different legal procedures (e.g.migrant to suspect). Our aim is to understand the scope of interoperability in the AFSJ in relation to transitioning rights, in order to ultimately design an integrated model of interoperable justice encompassing different layers of accountability and liability."
Classified documents: Great Britain has been massively violating Schengen rules for years (Matthias Monroy, link):
"Because of serious breaches, British participation in Europes SIS II should have been terminated long ago. With two years delay, the Commission now made proposals to remedy the shortcomings. This fuels the suspicion that the country should continue to participate in the database despite having left the EU.
The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is the largest European information system and currently contains around 90 million entries. In 2015, the EU Commission has granted access to Great Britain. However, the country is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, which regulates the abolition of border controls within the European Union, nor does it implement the free movement of persons. For this reason, British authorities are not allowed to enter or query data in the SIS II concerning irregular migration.
But Great Britain is misusing the SIS II on a large scale."
UK: Police keeping drink-driver's DNA breached his rights, judges rule (The Guardian, link):
"UK police who indefinitely retained in their records the DNA profile of a man convicted of drink-driving breached his human rights, Strasbourg judges have ruled.
The ruling by the European court of human rights (ECHR) over Fergus Gaughrans claim presents a significant challenge for police data storage practices in the UK.
Gaughran, 47, from Newry, had complained that the Police Service of Northern Irelands continued retention of his DNA profile (the digital record of his DNA sample), fingerprints and a photograph was a breach of his privacy."
See the judgment: Case of Gaughran v the United Kingdom (application no. 45245/15, pdf) and: Information note (pdf)
IRELAND: Facial recognition used in public services card programme, department says (Irish Times, link):
"The Department of Social Protection has confirmed that it carries out biometric processing and uses facial recognition technologies as part of its controversial public services card (PSC) programme.
The confirmation prompted concerns among data-protection experts, who said there are questions over the proportionality of creating a database of facial recognition images due to the risks attached."
EU: Internal Council report on the implementation of the EU Internal Security Strategy
"Delegations will find attached the joint paper of the outgoing Finnish Presidency and the Croatian Presidency on the implementation of the renewed EU Internal Security Strategy."
Violence in Northern Ireland Rising Amid Political Paralysis (New York Times, link):
"Violence in Northern Ireland has fallen sharply since the 1998 Good Friday agreement formally ended a bloody 30-year guerrilla war between mostly Catholic republicans, seeking unification with the Republic of Ireland, and predominantly Protestant loyalists and unionists, who favor remaining in the United Kingdom.
But now, paramilitary groups that have been lingering for decades are beginning to reorganize, driven by economic stagnation, political paralysis and the potential impact of Prime Minister Boris Johnsons Brexit plan, which was given a final stamp of approval in last weeks general election after the Conservative Party won a commanding majority in the British Parliament."
HUNGARY: Siege of Budapest: neonazi historical agenda is furthered by state sponsored media group (Atlatszo, link):
"Family, personal and business connections tie the organisers of the infamous Breakout Hike to the top echelons of the Hungarian state, most notably to state broadcaster MTVA and the governing party elite.
The annual Breakout Hike, taking place on Saturday this year, has been being organised every year for the best part of the last two decades. It is traditionally the most popular event of all the memorial activities around the anniversary of the failed breakout attempt of the surrounded German and Hungarian soldiers at the end of the WWII siege of Budapest that ended with the deaths of some 20 thousand soldiers."
UK: Psychological coercion in the hostile environment (IRR, link):
"Join us for a crucial seminar that will explore both the coercive and the exploitative sides of the governments hostile environment policies.
Speakers will discuss a) the operations of a coercive psychological programme which stigmatises migrants and asylum seekers as scroungers and bogus and b) how hostile environment policies create profits for the state, through questionable charging regimes and the exploitation of the work of migrants in immigration removal centres."
Frontex to provide border security expertise to European Commissions research projects (Frontex, link):
"Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, will provide its expertise in the area of border security research and innovation to assist the European Commission in supporting the development of state of the art technology for the border and coast guard community.
The collaboration between Frontex and the European Commissions Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs will be based on Terms of Reference (ToR) that were signed yesterday by Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and the Director General of Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs Monique Pariat.
EU-funded security research enables innovation in technologies and knowledge that is crucial for developing capabilities to address todays security challenges and to anticipate tomorrows threats and opportunities. "
UK to diverge from EU data protection rules, Johnson confirms (EurActiv, link):
"The United Kingdom will seek to diverge from EU data protection rules and establish their own sovereign controls in the field, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (3 February). His comments came despite the EU affirming that the UK should fully respect EU data protection rules.
In a written statement to the House of Commons published yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the United Kingdom will develop separate and independent policies in a range of fields, including data protection, adding that the government would seek to maintain high standards in so doing."
And see: Brexit and GDPR (Law Gazette, link)
Spain: Anti-torture Committee issues report on police detention and prisons in Catalonia (CoE, link):
"Strasbourg, 04.02.2020 In a report published today on a visit to the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain in 2018, the Council of Europes anti-torture committee (CPT) expresses concern about some allegations of ill-treatment received from persons apprehended by Mossos d´Esquadra and from inmates held in special closed regime departments in prisons, notably in Brians 1. The CPT calls on the authorities to abolish the use of fixation of agitated prisoners to beds with straps. With regard to women prisoners, the report acknowledges the good health care services they are provided but underlines the need for improvements to address their specific needs.
Although the vast majority of persons met by the CPTs delegation stated that they had been treated correctly when detained by Mossos dEsquadra officers, a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment were received. The alleged ill-treatment consisted mainly of kicks and punches to the head and body and blows with truncheons to the body of detained persons, usually at the moment of their apprehension."
See: Report to the Spanish government on the visit to Spain carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) (pdf) and: Response of the Spanish government (pdf)
Frontexs History of Handling Abuse Evidence Dogs Balkan Expansion (Balkan Insight, link):
"Internal documents reviewed by BIRN show that the head of Frontex rejected a recommendation in 2016 from the agencys own compliance watchdog to suspend operations on the Hungarian-Serbian border amid concerns of complicity in rights violations by Hungarian officers.
Among the reported acts of brutality: the use of batons, teargas and pepper spray on asylum seekers including children and violent pushbacks of refugees and migrants into northern Serbia.
Meanwhile, as Frontex expands its footprint into non-EU countries in Southeast Europe, critics say agreements between the agency and Western Balkan governments will allow Frontex staff to operate with a worrying level of impunity for any wrongdoing."
Italys Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya (Foreign Policy, link):
"ROMEOver three days in May 2017, the Italian secret servicemasquerading as a humanitarian nongovernmental organizationsummoned to Rome two dozen delegates from the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The pretext was to promote a peace deal for their war-torn region; the real goal was to bring them on board with an Italian plan to curb migration.
The details of the meetings, published here for the first time, expose the pitfalls of a foreign policy that conflates peace and development with migration control. This was just one piece of a wider set of European initiatives with similar features, now widely regarded as a failure by analysts and policymakers. In Libya, they contributed to igniting a humanitarian catastrophe."
European complicity in CIA torture in 'black sites' (Amnesty, link):
"James Mitchell looked almost wistful as he described the various ways he had tortured some of the men sitting across from him. In front of a packed courtroom at the Guantánamo detention facility, Mitchell recalled waterboarding 9/11 defendant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed dozens of times, and walling detainees by slamming them repeatedly into a wall. He described subjecting detainees to days of standing sleep deprivation, slapping, screaming and cursing at them; and threatening to slit the throat of one defendants son.
This gruesome testimony was part of the evidence given by Mitchell at pre-trial hearings for five men due to go on trial in over the 9/11 attacks... They argue that the FBI cooperated in CIA interrogations and any statements to its agents are tainted by torture.
Amnesty has repeatedly said that detainees at Guantánamo should be given fair trials in US federal courts or released Guantánamos military tribunals do not meet international fair trial standards.
But this renewed spotlight on Guantánamo is also an opportunity to hold to account the USs European friends which hosted key black sites, helped to disappear detainees, and facilitated torture and ill-treatment. The fact that they watch the proceedings at Guantánamo from afar unscathed and unaccountable is also an outrage."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.1-3.2.20) including:
- EU aid increasingly taken hostage by migration politics
- New yearly report on torture of asylum seekers by Croatian authorities at EU external borders
- Death of a ten-year-old child in Roissy: another victim of European migration policies?
- Italy guilty of refoulements in 2009 handover of Eritrean shipwreck survivors to Libya
EU: New Council "strategic guidelines" frame the next five years of EU justice and home affairs policy
The Council of the EU is moving towards the adoption of its next five-year set of strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs policies. Priorities listed in a draft document include enhancing the powers of justice and home affairs agencies, such as eu-Lisa and Europol; preventing future migration "crisis situations"; and cooperating more closely with non-EU states to control migration. The intention is for the European Council meeting to adopt the guidelines in March.
ECHR: Requirement to collect data to identify users of pre-paid SIM cards did not violate the right to privacy (pdf):
"In todays Chamber judgment in the case of Breyer v. Germany (application no. 50001/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been: no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the storage of pre-paid SIM card users data by telecommunications companies.
The Court found in particular that collecting the applicants names and addresses as users of pre-paid SIM cards had amounted to a limited interference with their rights. The law in question had additional safeguards while people could also turn to independent data supervision bodies to review authorities data requests and seek legal redress if necessary.
Germany had not overstepped the limits of its discretion (margin of appreciation) in applying the law concerned and there had been no violation of the applicants rights by the collection of the data."
Judgment: Breyer v Germany (application no. 50001/12, pdf)
Viewpoint: The shadowy business of fear-mongers (pdf) by Ana González-Páramo:
Every morning, Spanish radio listeners are bombarded with advertisements for home security alarms, which spread fear of thieves, foreigners and squatters. Interestingly, such sermons mirror the mainstream narrative and messages from certain political parties. Suspicion is transmitted to a gullible society which absorbs this fear. Each European Council meeting reinforces the links between migration and security risks, adding new challenges such as terrorism, organised crime or new and emergent hybrid threats mixing all of them into one big pot. This approach favours the position of the arms and security industry, building a condensed net of private interests and ends up influencing the EU decision-making process and financing mechanisms. Nowadays, borders have become a polysemic and ever-present concept that goes beyond the physicality of a wall. Borders can be portable, digital, remote and adaptable even to the individuals they exclude and keep at bay.
German authorities improve face recognition (Matthias Monroy, link):
"Last week, the German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer surprisingly moved away from plans to expand facial recognition in public spaces. He had demanded that the use of so-called intelligent video surveillance be anchored in the Federal Police Law. In the current draft of the new law, the topic is now excluded. However, it is questionable whether this really means a renunciation of the technology. The Ministry is of the opinion that § 27 of the Federal Police Act allows the automatic evaluation of camera images anyway. It states that the Federal Police may use automatic image recording and image capturing devices. Actually, this meant automatic continuous operation and remote control of video cameras. In the legal literature, it is therefore disputed whether the analysis of images using algorithms or artificial intelligence is covered by this."
EU: European Commission 2020 Work Programme: An ambitious roadmap for a Union that strives for more (press release, link):
"Today the European Commission adopted its 2020 Work Programme. It sets out the actions the Commission will take in 2020 to turn the Political Guidelines of President von der Leyen into tangible benefits for European citizens, businesses and society. The driving force behind this first Work Programme is to successfully grasp the opportunities that the twin ecological and digital transitions will bring."
See: Annex I: New initiatives (pdf)
NORTHERN IRELAND: Rights watchdog will be unable to fulfil duties if funding cuts continue (Irish Legal News, link):
"The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) will be unable to fulfil its duties if funding cuts continue, its chief commissioner has warned.
The rights watchdog is funded by the UK government through the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), but has seen its budget slashed by nearly 50 per cent in a decade.
Chief commissioner Les Allamby and chief executive Dr David Russell met yesterday with newly-elected Finance Minister Conor Murphy, who has pressed the NIO to address the issue."
Brexit and its consequences for cooperation in criminal matters (European Law Blog, link):
"On January 31st, 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, and their mutual relationship entered in a phase of transition. After 47 years of membership, the withdrawal led to a series of changes in various policy areas, in which the UK, as an EU Member State, cooperated with its counterparts. This notably concerns police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and the consequences of Brexit in this particular field will be our focus."
Spain Continued to Fail in Human Rights Protection in 2019 (Liberties, link):
"Rights International Spain has released its annual report on human rights, with the reports and resolutions by international bodies about the human rights and civil liberties situation in the country.
Once again, the Spanish authorities have missed the opportunity to protect civil liberties and human rights in line with international standards."
GREECE: Solidarity Statement: Freedom for Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar: The European Union must stop the arbitrary incarceration of refugees and migrants (pdf)
"We express our solidarity with Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar who are currently being held in pre-trial detention in Komotini, Greece. Both are facing long prison sentences because they are being wrongfully and arbitrarily accused of "smuggling.
Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar are Moroccan citizens who fled their country searching for protection and better living conditions, Hamza Haddi in particular is a known political activist who was hoping to be granted political asylum in Europe.
...Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar are now accused of and are facing trial for the "smuggling" of two persons - one of them being Hamza's own brother Yassine!
The accusations against Hamza and Mohamed are clearly unfounded. They are refugees, not smugglers."
The statement is also available in Italian, Greek, French, German and Arabic (pdfs)
UK: Migration committee rejects full points-based system for UK (The Guardian, link):
"The independent migration advisory committee has rejected a full shift to an Australian points-based system, publishing detailed research which gives a picture of how a reformed immigration system might look after Brexit and the ending of freedom of movement for EU nationals.
The Conservatives promised to introduce an Australian-style points-based system to control immigration as one of six key guarantees listed on page one of their manifesto. The committees chair dismissed the notion as a soundbite."
See: Migration Advisory Committee: A Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration (pdf)
UK: Court of Appeal upholds the right to roam of Romany and Travellers (UK Human Rights Blog, link):
"The Court of Appeal, in The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Bromley v Persons Unknown  EWCA Civ 12 [pdf], has delivered a unanimous judgment reaffirming the rights of the Romany (Gypsy) and Traveller community to live in accordance with their traditional, nomadic way of life.
The case is significant for two reasons. First, in recent years there has been a spate of local authorities applying for injunctions which prevent Romany and Travellers setting up unauthorised encampments in their boroughs. There are now 38 of these injunctions nationwide.
...Second, in its judgment, the Court of Appeal reaffirms the centrality of a nomadic lifestyle to Romany and Traveller tradition and culture."
UK: Met Police could deploy facial recognition against protesters (Computer Weekly, link):
"The operational use of live facial recognition (LFR) by UK law enforcers could artificially inflate tension between political activists and police during protests, as participants may feel under pressure to conceal their identities because of privacy concerns.
According to the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), which monitors and resists policing that is excessive, discriminatory or threatens civil liberties, individuals who seek to conceal their identities to evade LFR on privacy grounds could unwittingly garner more attention from police who may assume they are troublemakers. It could also dissuade them from participating in political action all together, it added."
See also: Facial recognition cant tell black and brown people apart but the police are using it anyway (gal-dem, link)
FRANCE: Death of a ten-year-old child in Roissy: another victim of European migration policies?
This morning [8 January], the body of a child of around ten years of age was found in the landing undercarriage of an aeroplane arriving from Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport (Paris).
Although tragedies are frequent in the Mediterranean, between the Comores and Mayotte, and in other parts of the world, this situation is more exceptional, or at least less well known, in French ports and airports.
EU to target violent right-wing extremism, terrorism and "other extreme political movements"
The EU is taking action to counter "right-wing violent extremism and terrorism" through information-sharing, the development of anti-radicalisation and risk analysis programmes, online censorship and cooperation with third countries. As well as the far-right, "this work shall also address violent extremism and terrorism stemming from other extreme political movements," according to a document produced by the Council Presidency in November 2019.
EU-TUNISIA: About the plan to create a reception centre in Bir El Fatnassiya for asylum seekers who flee the degradation of the security situation in Libya
The Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux is following the news about the creation of a camp in the region of Bir El Fatnassiya, 15 km to the south of the city of Rmada in the governorship of Tataouine within the framework of an emergency plan. After the experience of the camp in Choucha, where volunteer citizens have taken on most of the responsibility and, after the withdrawal of international organisations, Tunisia has been forced to face the consequences of this camp's establishment, including providing accommodation for a group of asylum seekers in the youth centre in Marsa.
Statewatch Analysis: Italy guilty of refoulements in 2009 handover of Eritrean shipwreck survivors to Libya (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:
An Italian court has ruled that the countrys Cabinet presidency and defence ministry were responsible for the refoulement of 14 Eritrean nationals in July 2009, when a warship rescued some 80 people and took them back to Libya, ignoring requests for international protection.
EU gearing up for even more anti-crime measures (EUobserver, link):
"The European Commission is preparing a raft of what it describes as new measures against terrorism, drugs, and crime.
Speaking to reporters in Zagreb after meeting EU interior ministers on Friday (24 January), the European Commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson announced she is also "preparing to reinforce the mandate of [the EU's police agency] Europol", based in The Hague.
On drugs, Johansson said a new EU agenda will be proposed noting that illicit substances have become more widespread, cheaper and more potent. On crime she said plans are underway to freeze and recover assets. And on terrorism, she wants new plans to protect critical infrastructure, such as energy, transport, finance and health."
FRANCE: When Anti-Populism Makes the Far Right Mainstream (Jacobin, link):
"When the far-right Front National (FN) changed its name to Rassemblement National (National Rally, or RN) in June 2018, media commentary tended to follow a familiar pattern taking party leader Marine Le Pens words at face value. The Associated Press interpreted the change as an indication of the partys desire to appeal to a broader range of voters. It drew a similar, if rather odd, conclusion about the partys modified logo: the organizations traditional flames had been put inside a partially closed circle to signal a new openness.
A more skeptical eye might have discerned a rather closed kind of openness here, while a more informed one may have noted that the traditional flames were originally the emblem of the Movimento Sociale Italiano, a neofascist organization of die-hard Mussolini loyalists."
The EU is funding dystopian Artificial Intelligence projects (EurActiv, link):
"Discussions on the negative impact of Artificial Intelligence in society include horror stories plucked from either Chinas high-tech surveillance state and its use of the controversial social credit system, or from the US and its use of recidivism algorithms and predictive policing.
Typically, Europe is excluded from these stories, due to the perception that EU citizens are protected from such AI-fueled nightmares through the legal protection offered by the GDPR, or because there is simply no horror-inducing AI deployed across the continent.
In contrast to this perception, journalists and NGOs have shown that imperfect and ethically questionable AI systems such as facial recognition, fraud detection and smart (a.k.a surveillance) cities, are also in use across Europe."
ITALY: Emilia-Romagna: Hard right fails to seize leftist stronghold (Al Jazeera, link):
"Italy's hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini has failed to overturn decades of left-wing rule in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna in an election that brought relief to the embattled centre-left.
With 98 percent of the ballots counted, incumbent Democratic Party (PD) Governor Stefano Bonaccini had won 51.4 percent of the vote from Sunday's poll, compared with 43.7 percent for Lucia Borgonzoni, the candidate backed by the League and its allies, interior ministry data showed."
UK: Priti Patels plan to tackle radicalised youth is so flawed its mad, says study (The Guardian, link):
"A Home Office-funded study into tackling radicalisation among young people has concluded that the approach being pushed through by the home secretary, Priti Patel, is so flawed that it is madness.
Instead the research, which will be unveiled on Wednesday and is described as one of the biggest scientific surveys of its type in Europe, found that the most effective strategy was precisely the opposite approach pursued by Patel. Generating positive psychology among young people was found to be significantly more effective than punitive policies when challenging violent youth radicalisation, defined as gang crime through to the development of extreme ideologies.
Its conclusions contradict Patels hardline approach, typified by measures announced last week that emphasised longer jail terms for violent and terrorist offenders, lie-detector tests and increased monitoring."
Background: Tougher sentencing and monitoring in government overhaul of terrorism response (Home Office, link)
Germany: Over 500 right-wing extremists suspected in Bundeswehr (DW, link):
"Germany's Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) has said it was investigating 550 Bundeswehr soldiers suspected of right-wing extremism, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday.
Numerous cases of extremism in the German military and among other security forces have been brought to light in recent years, as the government struggles to contain right-wing extremist threats and violence.
An additional 360 cases of suspected right-wing extremism were registered in 2019, Christof Gramm, the head of MAD, told Welt am Sonntag."
See: Statewatch Analysis: Germany: Shadow army or isolated cases? Right-wing structures in the security authorities (pdf)
BREXIT: The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act: what does it do? (Lexology, link):
"In short, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 ("WAA"):
- provides for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement on the UK side and paves the way for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January 2020, once the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified by the EU (and signed by the parties); and
- gives effect to the transition period, which (unless extended) is due to expire on 31 December 2020. During this time, the UK will remain part of the EU Customs Union and Single Market and the vast majority of EU laws and judgments will continue to apply, despite the UK ceasing to be an EU Member post 31 January 2020.
But the WAA does not mean that Brexit is "done", as the UK still needs to negotiate the terms of its future relationship with the EU."
See: European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (pdf) and: Political Declaration setting out the
framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom (19 October 2019, pdf)
ITALY: Giving names to victims deaths in Italian deportation centres (AYS Daily Digest 20/01/20, link)
"Twentynine people died in Italian deportation centres from 1998 until 2020.
The last death occurred on Saturday 18th January 2020 in the CPR of Gradisca dIsonzo, when Vakhtang Enukidze lost his life, as he was surrounded by 8 policemen in riot gears and beaten heavily, causing him fatal injuries.
Therefore, todays digest will, in a way, try to pay respect to those invisible deaths occurred by the hand of the Italian state, those deaths that are not investigated properly because the victims are unwanted in the country, guilty of being alone in a hostile land."
SCOTLAND: Far-right activist sent to Scotland to infiltrate army as veterans targeted by race hate groups (Daily Record, link):
"Since the Iraq War, the British military in Scotland has made huge progress in becoming an inclusive and diverse organisation but &SHY;accusations of endemic racism within its ranks have surfaced.
We can reveal that far-right extremist group For Britain has deployed an activist in Scotland to try to develop links among serving and retired forces personnel.
Our probe also revealed soldiers with links to Nazi thugs group Combat 18."
UK: Tougher sentencing and monitoring in government overhaul of terrorism response (Home Office, link):
"Confirmed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC, the new Counter-Terrorism Bill, to be introduced in the first 100 days of this government, will force dangerous terrorist offenders who receive extended determinate sentences to serve the whole time behind bars and ensure those convicted of serious offences such as preparing acts of terrorism or directing a terrorist organisation spend a mandatory minimum of 14 years in prison.
It will also overhaul the terrorist licensing regime, doubling the number of specialist counter-terrorism probation officers and introducing measures such as polygraph testing. It will increase the number of places available in probation hostels so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after they are released from prison."
USA: Were Banning Facial Recognition. Were Missing the Point. (The New York Times, link) by Bruce Schneier:
"... facial recognition bans are the wrong way to fight against modern surveillance. Focusing on one particular identification method misconstrues the nature of the surveillance society were in the process of building. Ubiquitous mass surveillance is increasingly the norm. In countries like China, a surveillance infrastructure is being built by the government for social control. In countries like the United States, its being built by corporations in order to influence our buying behavior, and is incidentally used by the government.
In all cases, modern mass surveillance has three broad components: identification, correlation and discrimination. Lets take them in turn."
POLAND: 1460 Days Later: Rule of Law in Poland R.I.P. (Part I) (Verfassungsblog, link):
"On 13 January 2016, exactly four years ago today, the Commission activated its rule of law framework for the very first time with respect to Poland (for our previous 2-part post assessing the situation as of 13 January 2019 see here).
During this time, Poland has become the first EU Member State:
- to be threatened with the payment of a penalty payment of at least 100,000 per day should it continue to ignore an interim order adopted by the ECJ in July 2017;
- to be subject to the exceptional procedure laid down in Article 7(1) TEU in December 2017;
- to have seen its newly redesigned National Council of the Judiciary suspended from the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary for its lack of independence in August 2018;
- to have seen its self-described judicial reforms provisionally suspended by the Court of Justice via two interim orders in October and December 2018;
- to have been found by the Court of Justice to have failed to fulfil its Treaty obligations under the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU not once but twice in June and November 2019;
- to have been referred to the Court of Justice by the Commission for making it possible to subject ordinary court judges to disciplinary investigations, procedures and sanctions on the basis of the content of their judicial decisions, including the exercise of their right under Article 267 TFEU to request preliminary rulings from the Court of Justice.
As if to outdo itself when it comes to annihilating judicial independence, Polands ruling party has rushed an unprecedented piece of legislation last month."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-20.1.20) including:
- Danish asylum centre slammed in anti-torture report
- Greece: Migrants face increasingly harsh conditions
- Dozens of German cities petition to take in more refugees
UK: Corin Redgrave Memorial Lecture 2020: Justice In A Broken World by Professor David Andress - Saturday 14 March 2020, London (pdf):
"Human Rights are one of the most powerful expressions of a commitment to justice in the world. Yet they have been from their origins compromised even by those who declared them. This lecture will consider whether alternative ways of framing the goals of a rights driven order might offer different routes to achieving more of such goals in the future."
EU mulls five-year ban on facial recognition tech in public areas (Reuters, link):
"The European Union is considering banning facial recognition technology in public areas for up to five years, to give it time to work out how to prevent abuses, according to proposals seen by Reuters.
The plan by the EUs executive - set out in an 18-page white paper - comes amid a global debate about the systems driven by artificial intelligence and widely used by law enforcement agencies.
The EU Commission said new tough rules may have to be introduced to bolster existing regulations protecting Europeans privacy and data rights."
See the document: Structure for the White Paper on artifical intelligence - a European approach (pdf) which notes that rather than a ban "it would be preferable to focus at this stage on full implementation of the provisions in the General Data Protection Regulation."
UK: Greenpeace included with neo-Nazis on UK counter-terror list (The Guardian, link):
"A counter-terrorism police document distributed to medical staff and teachers as part of anti-extremism briefings included Greenpeace, Peta and other non-violent groups as well as neo-Nazis, the Guardian has learned.
The guide, produced by Counter Terrorism Policing, is used across England as part of training for Prevent, the anti-radicalisation scheme designed to catch those at risk of committing terrorist violence.
...the list of groups viewed as a potential concern contained in the new 24-page document includes Extinction Rebellion. It also includes Greenpeace among whose supporters are Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Joanna Lumley and the ocean pollution campaigners Sea Shepherd, whose supporters include Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. Also included is Stop the Badger Cull, which is backed by Sir Brian May, the Queen guitarist."
See: The document produced by Counter Terrorism Policing (pdf) and: Non-violent protesters are not terrorists and its time the police accepted that (The Guardian, link)
Europeans seek lawful ways of intercepting 5G communications (EurActiv, link):
"The European Commission is working alongside Europol and EU member states to identify appropriate ways of preserving lawful interception capabilities in 5G networks, said Ylva Johansson, the EUs Home Affairs Commissioner.
...improved standards in mobile communications may, in turn, allow for a users identity and location to be protected, therefore undermining police authorities ability to conduct lawful interception in other words, wiretapping or eavesdropping.
In Europe, fears among politicians and police authorities in this regard are starting to provoke ideas about how these higher levels of encryption may be bypassed.
The Commission, Europol and Member States law enforcement authorities are working together to identify appropriate ways of preserving lawful interception capabilities in 5G networks, a written statement from Commissioner Johansson said on Monday (13 January)."
See: Statewatch Analysis: A world without wiretapping? Official documents highlight concern over effects 5G technology will have on "lawful interception" (pdf)
UK: Police leaders to start bidding for more tasers from today (Home Office, link):
"Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales can start bidding today to equip more of their officers with tasers as part of a Home Office drive to give police more powers and tools to tackle crime.
This follows the Home Secretarys commitment to put more officers carrying tasers on our streets through a £10 million ring fenced fund, allowing them to better protect themselves and others from harm.
Bidding will open on a new online platform launched by the Home Office, where forces will decide how much funding they apply for based on the threat and risk in their local area."
UK: The Queens Speech: setting the public against its enemies (IRR, link) by Frances Webber:
"What will be the ramifications of the Conservative governments policies, as set out in the December Queens Speech, for BAME communities and all those fighting for racial justice, both domestically and internationally?
In the field of criminal justice, the proposed new offence of criminal trespass on land dramatically intensifies the war on Gypsies and Travellers communities under siege from local authorities and central government...
Other tough on crime proposed legislation will stipulate longer sentences for those convicted of serious violence, sexual or terrorism offences, with a 14-year minimum proposed for the most serious terrorism offences, and restrictions on early release...
In the field of immigration and asylum, the deletion of the May governments pledge to retain the right of stranded child refugees to join family members in the UK following Brexit has angered those working with child refugees in Calais and elsewhere in Europe...
In a blow against those wishing to show international solidarity, public bodies such as local authorities and universities are to be banned from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, divestment or sanctions [BDS] campaigns..."
See: The Conservative government programme: The Queen's Speech 2019 (pdf)
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.12.19-13.1.20) including:
- How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is Linked to E.U.-Funded Projects
- Libya militias rake in millions in European migration funds: AP
- Complaint filed with UN body over Italys role in privatised push-backs to Libya resulting in migrant abuse
- Migrant arrivals from Turkey to Europe nearly double in 2019
UK: History repeats itself with calls to introduce mandatory SIM registration
An official review of police action against 'county lines' drugs gangs has said that the possibility for people to purchase and use mobile phone SIM cards anonymously "enables criminality" and that the Home Office "should commission a review of the criminal abuse of mobile telecommunications services" by the end of 2020.
IRELAND: Concerns 'spying powers' still being used despite ruling Irish legislation breached EU law (Irish Examiner, link):
"The use of a controversial spying power by law enforcement agencies has fallen sharply since a landmark ruling that Irish legislation breached EU law.
However, one legal authority expressed concern that the powers are still being used to a significant extent despite the ruling.
TJ McIntyre, associate professor of law at UCD, said the exercise of the powers is in breach of both the High Court judgement of December 2018 and previous European court rulings.
The High Court ruled that 2011 legislation allowing State agencies to access peoples private communication data provided for an indiscriminate data-retention regime and breached privacy rights under EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights."
UK: Priti Patel defends inclusion of Extinction Rebellion on UK terror list (The Guardian, link):
"The home secretary, Priti Patel, has defended anti-terror police for putting the Extinction Rebellion environmental protest group on a list of extremist ideologies, saying it was important to look at a range of security risks.
While accepting that XR was not a terrorist organisation, Patel told LBC radio that such assessment had to be based in terms of risk to the public, security risks, security threats."
See: Terrorism police list Extinction Rebellion as extremist ideology (The Guardian, link) and: UK: Files on politicians, journalists and peace protestors held by police in "domestic extremist" database (Statewatch News, November 2013)
Europol Study: Disclosure of electronic evidence often fails due to incompetence of authorities (Matthias Monroy, link):
"The planned EU e-Evidence regulation is intended to force Internet service providers to cooperate more with police and judicial authorities. However, a survey shows that the companies already comply with their requests voluntarily. But they are often incorrect and thus rejected."
See: Europol: SIRIUS EU Digital Evidence Situation Report 2019: Cross-border access to electronic evidence (pdf)
UK: Undercover Inequality: Help challenge sexism in the justice system (CrowdJustice, link):
"When does lying in a sexual relationship undermine consent?
The criminal justice system currently imprisons young women found guilty of impersonating men in a sexual relationship. But, when male undercover police have sex with women in order to gather intelligence on social justice and environmental movements, they have committed no crime.
Help us challenge this sexism and clarify the criminal law."
The Hope Project Charity Auction London, 617 January 2020
Christies is proud to present a charity auction to benefit The Hope Project, which is founded on the principles of dignity, compassion and safety for all.
The Hope Project Arts is a safe place for refugees to express themselves through art, theatre, poetry, music, dance and so much more, while teaching others new skills and promoting a sense of community and understanding.
The Hope Projects overriding focus is the mental health of refugees on Lesvos. The artworks exhibited here were all created by refugees in The Hope Project art studio, many of whom are still living on the island.
The sale will take place in London on 13 January 2020 at 7:15 pm Christies, King Street, St. James's, London SW1Y 6QT
Viewing: 6 17 January, 8:30 6:30pm St Jamess Piccadilly Church and 9, 10 & 13 January, 8:30 6:30pm Christies, King Street
SCOTLAND: SCVO warns against extension of Scottish Freedom of Information Act (ThirdSector, link):
"Extending the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act to charities that deliver public sector services would create a "disproportionate burden" on voluntary sector organisations, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has warned the Scottish government.
In its response last month to a consultation by the Scottish government about extending FOI legislation, the SCVO says it has concerns about the "potential financial and operational implications" for the voluntary sector and the lack of engagement with the sector to date, particularly during the consultation period.
The consultation, which closed last month, suggested extending the FOI Act in Scotland to cover organisations that deliver public services."
MALTA: UNHCR concerned about fire at reception centre, calls for urgent action on detention conditions (UNHCR, link):
"UNHCR is deeply concerned about the fire that broke out at the Initial Reception Centre in Marsa on Wednesday 8th January 2020.
It is a relief that there were no serious injuries. We thank the staff of the government Agency for the Welfare of Asylum-Seekers (AWAS) and emergency services for acting swiftly to make sure everyone was safe. There are currently around 450 asylum-seekers residing at the centre, including around 180 children.
While condemning all forms of violence and vandalism, we reiterate that detaining people, including children, for prolonged periods has a detrimental effect on mental and physical wellbeing. The substandard conditions in the centres contribute to the feeling of frustration among asylum-seekers, many of whom arrived in Malta after having experienced inhumane treatment when fleeing their country and on their journey. Detention of asylum-seekers in a manner that is not within strict legal basis needs to be addressed as a matter of priority."
See: 20 arrests after large fire at Marsa migrants centre (Times of Malta, link): "Hundreds of people were evacuated from an initial reception centre in Marsa on Wednesday after a large fire broke out inside one of its dormitories. "
UK: MPs reject Labour's call to reinstate child refugee pledge (BBC News, link):
"The Commons has rejected an attempt by Labour to reinstate child refugee protection rights in the Brexit bill.
MPs voted 348 to 252 against the amendment, which would have guaranteed the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK after Brexit.
The pledge was included in a previous version of the Brexit bill, but was removed after the Tories' election win.
The government said it had "a proud record of helping vulnerable children.""
SPAIN-MOROCCO: Statement on the hot returns from the Chafarinas on 3 January: "a serious violation of human rights"
Yesterday morning, on 3 January 2020, a group of 42 migrant people, including 26 women and two children aged three and four, reached Congress Island in the Chafarinas archipelago. That same evening, the Guardia Civil enacted the summary return of the 42 migrants. On this occasion, the Spanish government allowed the hot return of vulnerable minors and women.
GERMANY: New analysis: Shadow army or isolated cases? Right-wing structures in the security authorities
Over two years after the case of Franco A came to light, public attention and official sensitivity to the problem of right-wing attitudes and structures in the military and police have decreased significantly. Nevertheless, individual revelations about right-wing structures and incidents in the Bundeswehr (Germany army) and the police continue to raise questions.
EU: Migration-related deaths: open access book provides "first interdisciplinary overview" of causes, dynamics and consequences
A new book that is freely-available online claims to offer the "first interdisciplinary overview" of the causes, dynamics and consequences of migration-related deaths, with eight chapters examining issues such as the collection and use of data; the process of mourning missing migrants; and the causes of border deaths.
MALTA: MV Lifeline captain conviction overturned on appeal (Malta Independent, link):
"MV Lifeline captain Claus Peter Reisch is a free man, after the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned his conviction for ship registration irregularities.
In May last year, Captain Claus Peter Reisch had been found guilty of not having his ships registration in order and was fined 10,000, with the court refusing the prosecutions request to confiscate the vessel.
Reisch had been in charge of the vessel when it rescued 234 stranded migrants at sea in 2018. The rescue had caused an international dispute, with the Lifeline eventually being allowed to dock in Valletta, after which the rescued migrants were distributed amongst a number of EU countries.
Reisch had been charged with entering Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration or licence."
UK: DNA supplied by public to trace their ancestry should be available to police, according to majority of Britons (The Telegraph, link):
"DNA that the public supply to private firms to trace their ancestry should be available to police investigating crimes, says a majority of Britons.
Some 55 per cent of people believe that the police should be able to access the DNA records of people held in private databases, according to a YouGov poll of 1,621 adults.
About one in 20 (five per cent) of Britons, equivalent to around 2.5 million people, told researchers they had used a DNA test kit, with a further eight per cent, saying they planned to do so in the future."
Libya militias rake in millions in European migration funds: AP (Al Jazeera, link):
"When the European Union started funnelling millions of euros into Libya to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the money came with EU promises to improve detention centres notorious for abuse and fight human trafficking.
That has not happened. Instead, the misery of migrants in Libya has spawned a thriving and highly lucrative web of businesses funded in part by the EU and enabled by the United Nations, an Associated Press investigation has found."
Italy Faces Complaint at UN Over Abusive Libya Asylum Returns (The Globe Post, link):
"Campaigners filed a complaint with the United Nations on Wednesday against Italy over a teenage migrant who was sent back to Libya in 2018 along with other migrants, where he was shot, beaten, and subjected to forced labor.
The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) lodged the case with the U.N. Human Rights Committee aiming to challenge the practice of E.U. coastal states like Italy engaging commercial ships to return vulnerable people to unsafe locations.
The NGO says it is the first case of its kind to target so-called privatized push-backs."
See: CASE: PRIVATISED MIGRANT ABUSE (Global Legal Action Network, link) and: Privatised Push-Back of the Nivin (Forensic Architecture, link)
50 countries ranked by how theyre collecting biometric data and what theyre doing with it (Comparitech, link):
"From passport photos to accessing bank accounts with fingerprints, the use of biometrics is growing at an exponential rate. And while using your fingerprint may be easier than typing in a password, just how far is too far when it comes to biometric use, and whats happening to your biometric data once its collected, especially where governments are concerned?
Here at Comparitech, weve analyzed 50 different countries to find out where biometrics are being taken, what theyre being taken for, and how theyre being stored. While there is huge scope for biometric data collection, we have taken 5 key areas that apply to most countries (so as to offer a fair country-by-country comparison and to ensure the data is available). Each country has been scored out of 25, with high scores indicating extensive and invasive use of biometrics and/or surveillance and a low score demonstrating better restrictions and regulations regarding biometric use and surveillance."
Pole and Hungarian brothers be EU member states fuel the rise of pro-government propaganda with taxpayers money (Atlatszo, link):
"With almost 500 media titles owned by one pro-government foundation and hundreds of millions of euros of state advertising yearly to fuel it, the right-wing Hungarian government built the largest propaganda machinery in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Poland follows suit with a growing stream of taxpayers money transferred to media openly supporting the governing party. In return, both governments can count on propaganda broadcasts and no difficult questions from journalists."
UK: More police, more prosecutions, more punishment (CCJS, link):
"To 1945, 1979 and 1997 might be added 2019: a pivotal General Election with the potential to reshape policy and politics in the UK for a generation.
In the case of criminal justice, we should expect a resumption of the kind of criminal justice growth and expansion last seen under the Labour governments between 1997 and 2010, an expansion that, temporarily at least, the coalition and Conservative governments between 2010 and 2019 successfully halted... After a decade of no prison growth, the new government looks set to pick up where the Major, Blair and Brown governments left off."
Facial recognition fails on race, government study says (BBC News, link):
"A US government study suggests facial recognition algorithms are far less accurate at identifying African-American and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces.
African-American females were even more likely to be misidentified, it indicated.
It throws fresh doubt on whether such technology should be used by law enforcement agencies."
See: NIST Study Evaluates Effects of Race, Age, Sex on Face Recognition Software (NIST, link)
UK: MI5 policy allowing informants to commit serious crimes ruled lawful (The Guardian, link):
"MI5s partially secret policy allowing agents and informants to participate in serious crimes is lawful, judges have ruled by a three-to-two majority.
In a 56-page judgment, the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which hears legal complaints about the intelligence agencies, declared that the guidelines do not breach human rights or grant absolute immunity to those who commit offences such as murder or torture.
It is the first time the IPT has published dissenting judgments, both of which in this case are highly critical of the statutory framework surrounding the handling of agents. Many of the key arguments turned on the exploitation of informants within the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries during Northern Irelands Troubles."
Judgment: Privacy International & others v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs & others ( UKIPTrib IPT_17_186_CH, pdf) and: Press summary (pdf)
The ever-rising securitisation of mixed migration (Mixed Migration Centre, link):
"Over the last decade there has been a surge in the securitisation of different aspects of migration, especially in relation to mixed flows, including refugees, using irregular pathways. This essay outlines what securitised and criminalised mixed migration looks like and how security concerns are used to justify and normalise what were previously exceptional policies and practices around the world. It will also explore how these trends might change in the future."
UK: Decade of dissent: how protest is shaking the UK and why its likely to continue (The Conversation, link):
"This is the age of dissent and the last decade saw a large rise in protest events across the UK. The relative social peace of the 1990s and 2000s has given way to a period of economic crisis and social conflict, sparked by the global economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath.
Many viewed 2011 as the high point of this wave of protest with occupations of public spaces taking place across the globe, not least during the Arab Spring. But the trend has, in fact, continued to proliferate throughout the decade. While austerity was the initial driver of protest in the UK, a wide range of issues are now leading to dissent.
...In 2019 there were over 280 reported protest events, compared with 154 in 2010 and only 83 in 2007, the year before the global economic crisis hit."
UK Police Snowden Probe Declared "Inactive" (Ryan Gallagher, link):
"In 2013, London's Metropolitan Police began a criminal investigation focusing on journalists who reported stories from a trove of secret documents leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Now, after six years and no arrests or prosecutions, the Met has confirmed that the investigation has been shelved.
The Met told me in response to a recent Freedom of Information request that the investigation is "inactive pending further information being received." Since 2014, I've had several updates from the Met regarding the investigation, and this marks the first time that its status has changed from "ongoing." In November 2017, the Met stated that it was a "complex investigation and enquiries continue."
The investigation, which was given the code-name Operation Curable, had been led by the Met's Counter-Terrorism Command, under the direction of assistant commissioner Mark Rowley. In March 2018, Rowley retired from the Met -- and with his departure, it seems the Curable investigation went cold."
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