01 May 2016
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News Digest (23.5.16)
Austria election: far-right candidate and rival tied at 50% in exit poll (The Guardian, link): "Austria’s political future is on a knife-edge, with the candidate bidding to be the European Union’s first far-right president holding a wafer-thin lead over his rival.
According to the public broadcaster ORF, Norbert Hofer of the rightwing populist Freedom party (FPÖ) was neck and neck on 50% with his rival Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader who is running as an independent.
Postal ballots, accounting for 14% of eligible voters and expected to favour the left-leaning candidate, are being tallied on Monday, and a full result is not expected until Monday afternoon. Fifty per cent and one vote would suffice to hand the presidency to one of the two candidates. Data from Austria’s interior ministry, which does not take into account the projected postal vote, put Hofer on 51.9% and Van der Bellen on 48.1%."
See: Far-right candidate narrowly defeated in Austrian presidential election (The Guardian, link)
CYPRUS: Cyprus right-centre DISY wins elections, Golden Dawn affiliate enters parliament (New Europe, link): "The Cypriot ruling right-centre Democratic Rally (DISY) won the parliamentary elections in Cyprus, gathering 30.69 percent of the popular vote.
The win of the DISY was expected but the two most striking news after Sunday’s elections was the entering of the National Popular Front (ELAM) in the parliament and the high level of abstention.
ELAM is considered the affiliate party of the Greek Golden Dawn in Cyprus, and it managed to enter the parliament, gathering 3.71 percent of the vote. ELAM disagrees with the unification of Cyprus and it wants to increase the power of the Cypriot military. “For the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament,” Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos told Greece’s parliament minutes after the first exit poll results were released.
Political analyst, Huber Faustmann told Reuters about ELAM that “It’s sort of a kindergarten version of Golden Dawn,” and he stressed that the elections results show that “all the big parties lost.”"
FRANCE: Paris attacks suspect refuses to speak at hearing (Al Jazeera, link): "The last known survivor of the team that carried out last November's Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, refused to talk during questioning by judges amid frustration at 24-hour video surveillance of his cell, his lawyer said.
The hearing ended abruptly on Friday, dashing French authorities' hopes that Abdeslam would provide more details about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group's strategies and individuals behind the November 13 attacks.
Abdeslam's lawyer, Frank Berton, said his client invoked his right to silence. While Abdeslam did not give a direct reason, Berton said he was "disturbed" by 24-hour video surveillance in his maximum-security cell in the Fleury-Merogis prison outside Paris."
UK trains soldiers for majority of regimes on its own human rights abuse watchlist (The Independent, link): "Britain is providing military training and support to the majority of the countries named on its own human rights abusers watchlist, The Independent can reveal.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) designated 30 nations as “human rights priority” countries last year, warning of their conduct on a range of issues from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflict.
But information released by ministers shows that British armed forces trained “either security or armed forces personnel” in 16 of the listed countries since 2014."
UK: Equal before the law? Government proposes huge court fees increase (Right to Remain, link): "The UK government has proposed increasing the fees that need to be paid to appeal an asylum or immigration decision in the First-tier and Upper Tribunal in England and Wales"
UK: Thousands of court cases adjourned due to failures in interpreting services (The Guardian, link): "More than 2,600 court cases have been adjourned over the past five years because of failures in the interpreting service, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice.
The extent of the problem was confirmed as doubts emerged about the viability of the troubled contract for interpreting services after the outsourcing firm Capita declined to bid for its renewal in October."
News Digest (16.5.16)
BELGIUM: Intelligence service monitoring 60 soldiers (Flanders News, link): "The military intelligence service is keeping a close eye on 60 soldiers. They allegedly displayed a kind of behaviour - in one way or another - that could suggest extremist ideas. The Defence department said that they will no longer be deployed in armed missions, but they will not be dismissed."
BELGIUM: Prisoners start new court action against Belgian state (Flanders News, link): "3 inmates staying in Vorst prison have initiated court action against the Belgian state. They argue that their basic rights are being ignored due to the continuing strike in Brussels and Walloon prisons. The latest complaints are just 3 more in a whole series. Other prisoners have won similar cases recently."
EU: Europe's Rule-of-Law Crisis (Social Europe, link) by Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE MEP: "Governments are created and fall apart, and politicians come and go; but democratic institutions should be spared from political interference. The sad reality is that, were they to apply for EU membership today, neither Hungary nor Poland would be admitted. Their people should weigh carefully what that means. Their current leaders claim to be defending national interests. But is it really in their countries’ interest to be sidelined by the US, NATO, and the rest of Europe?"
EU-UK: ‘Brexit’ Vote Worries European Up-and-Comers Lured to Britain (New York Times, link): "Silvia Luis, from Portugal, is thinking of attending university in Scotland. Sandra Martinsone, a Latvian, said she might apply for citizenship or buy property. Julie Miquerol, from France, has sped up her plans to open a start-up company in Spain.
They, like some 1.3 million citizens from other European Union countries between the ages of 18 and 35 who live in Britain, are hedging their bets and pondering strategies just in case Britain votes to leave the European Union on June 23."
NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam to give €10m to Jewish community for WWII local tax scandal (Dutch News, link): "Amsterdam city council plans to donate €10m to the city’s Jewish community to compensate for the way survivors of the Nazi death camps were forced to pay missed taxes on their return.
The money will go to community projects and be spent according to Jewish groups’ wishes, mayor Eberhard van der Laan said at the opening of the city’s new National Holocaust Museum on Sunday."
Powers gather to discuss IS in Libya, as foreign military ops increase (Middle East Eye, link): "Major powers were gathering in the Austrian capital on Monday to discuss the expanding presence of the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, as reports spread of international covert military operations in the war-torn country.
The conference in Austria is being co-chaired by the United States and Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler which has faced a major influx of migrants and asylum seekers from the North African nation braving a perilous sea voyage.
It will "discuss international support for the new Government of National Accord, with a focus on security," said John Kirby, spokesman for US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will chair the conference with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni."
Snowden interview: Why the media isn’t doing its job (Columbia Journalism Review, link): "The Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Emily Bell spoke to Edward Snowden over a secure channel about his experiences working with journalists and his perspective on the shifting media world. This is an excerpt of that conversation, conducted in December 2015. It will appear in a forthcoming book: Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State, which will be released by Columbia University Press in 2016."
UK judges to rule on death penalties for 'intellectually disabled' (The Guardian, link): "The fate of two Trinidadian prisoners, both of whom have been condemned to death despite having extremely low IQs, will be decided by British judges this week.
The two-day hearing at the judicial committee of the privy council (JCPC) in London may set an international precedent that could prevent the execution of people on death row who have been diagnosed as “intellectually disabled”.
The JCPC, based in Westminster, acts as an ultimate court of appeal for smaller Commonwealth countries, including many in the Caribbean that retain capital punishment. Justices from the UK’s supreme court hear its cases."
UK: Construction bosses ‘tried to hide evidence of their blacklist’ (The Guardian, link): "Victims of blacklisting by the construction industry, who were awarded a £75m out-of-court settlement, are to demand a police investigation into their claims that key executives tried to pervert the course of justice.
On Wednesday major companies, including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, issued an “unreserved and sincere” apology in the high court to hundreds of workers for putting them on an illegal blacklist and denying them work over two decades.
The companies agreed to pay sums ranging from £25,000 to £200,000 to 771 people under out-of-court settlements to avoid a trial, while accepting that “their secret vetting operation should never have happened”. However, evidence disclosed before the settlement has led many of the victims to claim that there was an illegal attempt by executives at Sir Robert McAlpine to destroy evidence and cover up the involvement of key individuals when the blacklisting was discovered in 2009."
UK: Iain Duncan Smith's plan to place Job Advisers in food banks quietly dropped (Daily Mirror, link): "A plan to place job advisers in food banks has been quietly dropped by the Government, despite Welfare Secretary Stephen Crabb praising the plan just last week.
Iain Duncan Smith floated the scheme in October , suggesting a Job Centre advisor should be posted in food banks, to give people seeking emergency food parcels advice on how to find work.
The pilot scheme was criticised at the time, with Labour saying it "highlights the grim reality that people depending on emergency food is increasingly a central part of Iain Duncan Smith's vision for our social security system.""
UK: New move to impeach Tony Blair over Iraq War gains cross-party support (The Independent, link): "A cross-party group of MPs, including former SNP leader Alex Salmond, may renew their attempts to impeach Tony Blair following the publication of the Chilcot report later this year.
According to reports, Mr Salmond has begun rallying support for an attempted prosecution, pending the findings of the report, which will be released in July."
UK: Publisher's Facebook page deleted after posting criticism of Turkish government (The Guardian, link): "Facebook has denied involvement in the deletion of the page of a London-based academic publisher who had published articles that criticised the Turkish government and discussed the outlawed (in Turkey) Kurdistan Workers party.
The deletion sparked accusations of censorship against the social network, which has often been accused of siding with the Turkish government in battles over free speech. But Facebook says it did not delete the page, and Zed Books has accepted the claim. Both companies say they are trying to discover how the page was removed from the site, and who by."
UK: Report reveals frequent violence at youth prison near Rugby (Rugby & Lutterworth Observer, link): "A YOUTH prison near Rugby has been told it still ‘requires improvement’ after an Ofsted report revealed frequent cases of violence between young people and assaults on staff.
The report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, was part of an annual inspection of Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre.
Ofsted found overall levels of violence between inmates remained too high, and it also highlighted how assaults on staff, the number of restraints and the use of force had increased since the previous inspection in February 2015."
UK: The Immigration Bill – behind the headlines (Refugee Council, link): "As the latest Immigration Bill becomes law, our Parliamentary Manager Jon Featonby takes a look at what is, and what isn't, in it."
USA: Needed: More Snowdens - Ex-intel analyst (USA Today, link): "I was an active duty Marine working in signals intelligence in 2013 when Edward Snowden exposed the mass surveillance programs of the National Security Agency. Snowden’s alleged espionage had a lasting effect both on my work and on my attitude toward it.
As a cryptologic linguist and intelligence analyst, my day-to-day activities were directly compromised when I was suddenly unable to use certain methods and tools due to the leak. Not only that, Snowden’s action created a moral dilemma for me as a member of the intelligence community. I began questioning the morality of my work. If the public was outraged by what Snowden leaked, will they be outraged by how the U.S. is fighting terrorism?"
USA: Senate report on CIA torture is one step closer to disappearing (Yahoo! News, link): "The CIA inspector general’s office — the spy agency’s internal watchdog — has acknowledged it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture report at the same time lawyers for the Justice Department were assuring a federal judge that copies of the document were being preserved, Yahoo News has learned.
Although other copies of the report exist, the erasure of the controversial document by the CIA office charged with policing agency conduct has alarmed the U.S. senator who oversaw the torture investigation and reignited a behind-the-scenes battle over whether the full unabridged report should ever be released, according to multiple intelligence community sources familiar with the incident."
News Digest (13.5.16)
BULGARIA: Ombudsman: Burqas Ban Should Be about Discrimination, Not National Security (Novinite, link): "Bulgaria's National Ombudsman Maya Manolova has warned that restrictions to wearing full-face veils, introduced on some cities, should not be justified with national security as they are unlikely to address the issue.
The right to covering most of one's face and body, however, clashes with non-discrimination and gender equality principles despite the fact that religious garments are part of the European Convention on Human Rights."
CROATIA: Croatian Journalists Protest for Freedom of the Press (Liberties.eu, link): "Around 200 journalists protested in front of the Croatian Ministry of Culture because of violations of the freedom of the press. They demanded the resignation of Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic and laid their pencils in front of a banner with the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the article of the Constitution about the freedom of the media. It was a symbolic act to point out that the government buried these rights. The Croatian Journalists' Association warned that, after the last change of government, the level of media freedom is the lowest in the last 25 years."
EU: Slovakian Presidency of the Council: Slovakia to fight EU 'fragmentation' (EUobserver, link): "Slovakia's main objective when it takes the EU Council presidency in July will be to avoid "fragmentation" and combat the perception of an East-West divide, its Europe minister has said.
"Buzzword number one is to tackle fragmentation," Ivan Korcok told journalists in Brussels on Thursday (12 May).
He said there were "many good reasons to spread defeatism across Europe", but he did not share the view of an East-West divide and insisted Slovakia regarded its role "from a positive angle"."
Germany to quash historical convictions of gay men (The Guardian, link): "Germany is to annul the convictions of tens of thousands of gay men who were criminalised under a 19th-century law.
More than 50,000 men were convicted and sentenced to sometimes lengthy jail terms between 1946 and 1969 under the infamous Paragraph 175, which deemed homosexuality to be a punishable crime.
While homosexuality was decriminalised in 1969, the law was not abolished until 1994 and the sentences were never lifted."
GERMANY: Munich police brace for rival protests at anti-refugee party's meeting (The Guardian, link): "Rival demonstrations are expected to take place on Friday night outside one of Munich’s best-known beer halls, where Adolf Hitler gave his first political speech and where the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is hosting a meeting.
Police in the southern German city said they were ready to respond and were “fully determined” to prevent a repeat of violent clashes that saw more than 400 demonstrators arrested outside the rightwing party’s first full conference in Stuttgart last month.
“We hope everything will go peacefully but if it doesn’t, we’re ready,” a spokesman said."
Italy approves gay civil unions after long parliamentary battle (Reuters, link): "Italy's parliament approved same-sex civil unions and gave some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples on Wednesday after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote to force the bill into law.
Italy is the last major Western country to legally recognize gay couples and an original draft law had to be heavily diluted due to divisions in Renzi's ruling majority.
The bill had faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups who said it went too far, while gay activists said it was too timid."
NORTHERN IRELAND: Attorney General orders fresh inquest into shooting of escaped internee Hugh Coney (The Irish News, link): "ATTORNEY General John Larkin has ordered a fresh inquest into the death of a Co Tyrone man shot dead while trying to escape from Long Kesh internment camp more than 40 years ago.
Hugh Gerard Coney was shot in the back by a British soldier as he and other internees tried to escape in November 1974.
From Annaghmore, near Coalisland, Mr Coney was detained without charge in June 1973.
An inquest held in 1975 delivered an open verdict and his family has been campaigning to have the case re-examined."
UK, Bulgaria PMs Talk Migration, Corruption, Energy Security (Novinite, link): "The migration crisis in Europe, protection of borders, fight against corruption, and energy security have been discussed in a meeting between Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his British counterpart David Cameron in London.
"We talked about the processes that unfold between the [European] Commission, [European] Parliament and Turkey, the state of our border," Borisov said after the meeting, according to a news release from the government press office in Sofia."
UK: Hillsborough victims honoured with freedom of Liverpool (The Guardian, link): "The 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 are to be posthumously awarded the freedom of the city of Liverpool, the local council has announced.
Kenny Dalglish, the manager of Liverpool FC at the time, and his wife, Marina, are also to be awarded the freedom of the city, along with the former bishop of Liverpool James Jones and Prof Phil Scraton, a campaigner for the bereaved families’ cause."
UK: Still fighting the complacency at the heart of our justice system (The Justice Gap, link): "REVIEW: Miscarriages of justice used to be big news, and investigating them commanded big media budgets. In the 1980s, both Granada and Yorkshire television invested heavily in the issue, making films with high production values and months of research devoted to the cases they chose to examine."
News Digest (12.5.16)
EU: US hails 'important step' as missile defences go live in Romania (The Guardian, link): "A US missile defence system in Romania becomes operational on Thursday in a move welcomed by US officials as an “important step” but also one likely to infuriate Moscow.
The missile interceptor station in Deveselu, southern Romania, will help defend Nato members against the threat of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles – particularly from the Middle East, said US assistant secretary of state Frank Rose in Bucharest on Wednesday.
Russia has taken a dim view of the project, seeing it as a security threat on its doorstep. Rose said: “Both the US and Nato have made it clear the system is not designed for, or capable of, undermining Russia’s strategic deterrence capability.”"
UK: Construction firms apologise in court over blacklist (The Guardian, link): "Leading construction firms have formally apologised to hundreds of trade unionists for putting them on an illegal blacklist and denying them work.
The firms issued the “unreserved and sincere” apology in the high court to bring to an end a long-running legal action by workers who had sought to uncover the truth behind the secret blacklist.
The firms have agreed to pay sums understood to total about £75m to 771 blacklisted workers, under out-of-court settlements to avoid a trial that was due to open this week. Payouts to individuals range from £25,000 to £200,000."
UK: DRONES: Cross-Government Working Group includes police, Border Force and Surveillance Commissioner: Unmanned Air Vehicles: Written question - 36083 (www.parliament.uk, link)
UK: Short term migrants largely account for National Insurance data discrepancy (Office of National Statistics, link): "ONS has published the findings of work carried out to explain the differences between the number of long term migrants entering the UK, measured by the International Passenger Survey (IPS), and the numbers of non-UK nationals registering for National Insurance Numbers (NINos).
Using a range of administrative and survey data, we have analysed the reasons why the number of NINos being registered has been higher than the number of people estimated as migrating to the UK, and why in recent periods the gap between the two figures has grown.
The key findings are:
News Digest (11.5.16)
FRANCE: Who becomes a terrorist, and why? (Washington Post, link): "After major terrorist attacks hit Brussels and Paris, Europe is still reeling. These atrocities prompted a heated dispute between two noted French scholars of political Islam, Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy, over why a handful of European Muslims become terrorists.
Their disagreement isn’t just an intellectual squabble. It strikes to the heart of how the West understands violent Islamist extremism — and what the appropriate policy responses might be."
LUXEMBOURG: LuxLeaks prosecutors seek jail term of 18 months for whistleblowers (The Guardian, link): "Prosecutors in Luxembourg have called for two whistleblowers on trial over the so-called LuxLeaks scandal to be jailed for 18 months and for a journalist to be fined.
Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet, French former employees of auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), are accused of leaking thousands of documents to journalist Edouard Perrin.
The documents revealed the huge tax breaks that Luxembourg offered international firms including Apple, Ikea and Pepsi, saving the companies billions of euros in taxes.
A verdict is not expected until mid-June."
UK: Afghan interpreters for UK armed forces lose claim that relocation scheme was unlawful (Free Movement, link): "Former interpreters for UK armed forces in Afghanistan have lost their claim that the Afghn interpreter relocation scheme was unlawful on the basis it was less generous than the Iraqi equivalent. They succeeded on the basis that the public sector equality duty had not been properly complied with but this made no difference overall."
News Digest (9.5.16)
EU-US: TTIP trade deal under threat after Germany claims US not making 'any serious concessions' (The Independent, link): "The controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been thrown into further doubt after a senior German minister claimed the United States was not willing to make "any serious concessions".
Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt is the latest senior European politician to criticise the American approach to the negotiations, which Barack Obama had hoped would be completed this year.
Mr Schmidt told German newspaper Der Spiegel: "So far at least they have hardly made any serious concessions.""
EU: Companies gun-shy on privacy shield (Politico, link): "Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic are rushing to get the so-called privacy shield up and running next month. Businesses, on the other hand, are in no hurry.
Companies have been in legal limbo since October, when the European Court of Justice struck down the international agreement protecting data transfers — from family photos to payroll information. As regulators polish a new pact, companies are gun-shy about signing on because privacy advocates will almost certainly ask for another judicial ruling.
That risk is not worth it for many. They can use clumsy alternatives in the interim. What’s at stake is public confidence. In the age of mass surveillance and increasing police powers, Europeans, in particular, fear what happens to their data when it moves to the U.S.
POLITICO interviewed more than two dozen executives, lawyers and trade groups about the risks and potential of the privacy shield. Companies want an international agreement for cost and convenience and an end to the current piecemeal approach to handling data transfers."
EU: Crunch time for net neutrality rules, says EU digital rights warrior (Ars Technica, link): "The next few months will be a critical time for net neutrality in the EU, according to the chief of Europe's digital rights' lobby group.
Joe McNamee, executive director of EDRi, told Ars that it was crucial to engage people about the issue over the course of the next few months. Draft net neutrality guidelines are due to be presented by the European Commission on June 6, followed by a consultation for 20 working days on those proposed rules.
"The next four months are equivalent to the moment when the big successes were achieved in the US and India," he said."
EU: Joint action to tackle West African human trafficking networks (Europol press release, link): "The third pan-European operation to combat the trafficking of human beings from West Africa was carried out by law enforcement authorities in sixteen European countries on the 28th of April and lasted until early morning of the following day. The operation was aimed at targeting Nigerian criminal networks operating across Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
According to provisional figures, more than 1000 persons, mainly women from West African countries were checked. Over 400 potential victims of trafficking (mostly women from Nigeria) were identified. Via cross-checks at the Europol headquarters, more than 30 persons were found to have links to criminal structures. As a result of the day of action, new investigations have been launched in several participating countries with Europol's support."
EU: Press release: New report details extent of Israel lobby in Brussels’ connections to US Islamophobia industry and illegal settlements (EuroPal Forum, link): "A new report on The Israel lobby and the European Union will be released on 9 May (Brussels) and 13 May (London) 2016. Researched and written by Public Interest Investigations/Spinwatch and published by EuroPal Forum. The report reveals the extent to which noted American funders and proponents of the Islamophobia industry in the United States and Israel’s illegal settlement project in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem are also financing the expanding Israel lobby in Brussels."
EU transparency register inaccurate, say campaigners (The Parliament, link): "76 per cent of the entries at the top of the EU's voluntary lobby register are flawed, according to new research.
The study, by LobbyFacts, a lobby data website, suggests that out of the 51 organisations declaring the highest lobby spend "only 12 are likely to, in fact, be among the biggest lobbyists."
"There is only one reliable-looking entry among the 30 entries declaring the highest lobby spend," says LobbyFacts.
The group produced the list by cross-referencing declared expenditure with the number of meetings held with senior staff at the Commission and the numbers of European Parliament passes held.
It says these are good indicators of an organisation's actual lobby activity."
Israel brings fresh charges against nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu (The Guardian, link): "Israeli prosecutors charged nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu on Sunday with violating the terms of his release, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year jail term.
Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was slapped with a series of restraining orders, some of which he has violated in recent years, the justice ministry said."
SCOTLAND: Sunday Mail spy scandal: Secret emails reveal senior officers targeting Sunday Mail journalists were warned their actions would be illegal (Daily Record, link): "A POLICE chief stands accused of misleading MSPs over his force’s hunt for Sunday Mail sources .
Acting Deputy Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson’s testimony to Holyrood’s Justice Committee is under scrutiny after we obtained internal emails undermining his evidence.
Despite his repeated denials to MSPs, the emails reveal officers were given specific warnings that seizing phone data to find the source of our stories would be illegal but went ahead anyway.
One committee member said: “This is of concern. It must be investigated.”
Secret emails have revealed how senior officers behind the spying operation to find Sunday Mail sources were repeatedly warned they would be acting illegally."
UK: Cyber attacks: Two-thirds of big UK businesses targeted (BBC News, link): "Two-thirds of big UK businesses have been hit by a cyber attack in the past year, according to government research.
Most of the attacks involved viruses, spyware or malware, the Cyber Security Breaches Survey says. A quarter of large firms experiencing a cyber breach did so at least once a month.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said it was "absolutely crucial businesses are secure and can protect data"."
UK: Human rights chief challenged over managing potential conflicts of interest (The Guardian, link): "The City lawyer appointed as the new head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) must “keep an eye” on any potential conflicts of interest, an influential parliamentary committee has said.
David Isaac was appointed as the head of the equality watchdog despite concerns expressed by MPs and peers about his plans to remain an equity partner at his law firm, which is involved in a range of government work."
UK: Inescapable realities that face UK prisons (The Guardian, link): "It is the fact of imprisonment that is the issue, and the nature and culture inside that needs to be changed, otherwise the deaths Michael Jacobson describes will continue irrespective of the issue of overcrowding. Overcrowding exacerbates the problem of self-inflicted deaths but it is not the cause. The shocking statistics to which he refers belie any suggestion that the government is successfully pursuing a reform agenda."
UK: Orgreave inquiry 'a must' after Hillsborough verdict says Vera Baird (Chronicle Live, link): "Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has backed calls for a public inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave following the Hillsborough inquest result.
The violent clash between pickets and South Yorkshire Police in June 1984 resulted in 95 miners, including four from Durham, facing charges including riot.
These were dropped and compensation paid to the accused after the evidence was found to have been fabricated, as it had been by the same force five years later at Hillsborough.
Ms Baird QC, added her voice to those of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, Dave Hopper."
UK: Crowdfunding campaign by the AIRE Centre (link): Stop deportation without fair trial: Judicial Review of Home Office Immigration Enforcement policy (Crowd Justice, link): "We are bringing a Judicial Review to challenge a joint Met Police and Home Office initiative, Operation Nexus, that allows people to be deported from the UK without any convictions.
We believe that everyone has the right to a fair trial. But since the government launched Operation Nexus in 2012, many people living legally in this country have faced arbitrary deportation."
UK: Two prison officers 'seriously injured' in Wormwood Scrubs attack (BBC News, link): "Two prison officers were "seriously injured" and taken to hospital after an attack by an inmate at Wormwood Scrubs in west London.
The Prison Officers' Association (POA) said the officers were attacked while on duty on Sunday morning.
About 50 members of staff walked out for a day on Friday, citing health and safety concerns after recent attacks."
News Digest (6.5.16)
BULGARIA: Clashes at Anti-Roma Rally in Radnevo, Bulgaria (Balkan Insight, link): "Three policemen and four protesters suffered injuries after violent clashes broke out the rally in Radnevo, the Bulgarian interior ministry said on Thursday.
Around 2,000 people joined the protest on Wednesday evening, following an incident in which four men of Roma origin assaulted three Bulgarians in a street row on Monday.
The violence erupted when the crowd, shouting “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians”, “Bulgarians – heroes”, “Bulgaria above all” and various anti-Roma slogans, reached the Roma neighbourhood of Kantona, which was cordoned off by interior ministry special forces.
Some of the protesters tried to break through the barricades and enter the Roma neighbourhood, throwing stones and fireworks at the policemen, who responded by dispersing the crowd with batons."
FRANCE: Disgraced ex-police officer’s corruption trial opens in France (France 24, link): "The trial of Michel Neyret, once one of France’s most respected law enforcement officers, opened in Paris on Monday, where he stands accused of a litany of crimes, including corruption, drug trafficking and embezzlement.
Neyret’s fall from grace has been a spectacular one. Known for his charisma, Neyret headed up an anti-gang unit in the southeastern city of Lyon for 20 years, a job that earned him France’s highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, in 2004 from then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
He quickly rose up the ranks over the next three years and was promoted to deputy chief of police in Lyon in 2007.
Neyret’s career, however, came to a crashing halt with his arrest on September 29, 2011, after an investigation into a major drug trafficking ring led straight to his office."
FRANCE: Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'? (The Local, link): " Police unions have called on officers to take to the streets for their own march to call for an end to "anti-cop hatred" after clashes with protesters left 300 officers injured.
It feels a long time since January 11th 2015, when as millions of marched through the streets of Paris to mourn the victims of the terror attacks, the crowds clapped and cheered as vans of riot police snaked their way through the throng.
The incident made headlines, because it was so rare in France for the public to show such an appreciation, even warmth for the forces of law and order.
Things have deteriorated somewhat since then."
GERMANY: PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann found guilty of inciting hatred (Deutsche Welle, link): "A district court in the eastern German city of Dresden ruled on Tuesday that Lutz Bachmann must pay a penalty of 9,600 euros ($11,044), after being found guilty of inciting hatred.
Prosecutors had called for a seven-month prison sentence for Bachmann, while his defense pleaded for his acquittal.Tuesday's verdict is not yet legally binding, however.
The founder of the Islamic and xenophobic alliance, PEGIDA, was charged with inciting hatred in October 2015. According to the indictment, Bachmann insulted refugees on his Facebook page in September, 2014 when he described asylum seekers as "cattle," "scum," and "trash.""
MACEDONIA: Macedonians Mark Anniversary of Fatal Police Beating (Balkan Insight, link): "Thousands of people gathered on Thursday evening on Skopje's main Macedonia square, where 21-year-old Martin Neskovski was beaten to death on June 6, 2011, when the ruling VMRO DPMNE party was celebrating its election victory.
The protesters covered the square with giant red slogans like "You cannot hide murder, nor wash blood from your hands", "Justice for Martin, Freedom for All" and "Murderers".
They also dyed the water in the square’s fountains red and threw red paint balls at giant pictures of former prime minister and VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski and his former interior minister Gordana Jankuloska."
Russia vows response to NATO plan in Poland and Baltics (Al Jazeera, link): "Russia will take retaliatory measures if NATO deploys more battalions in Poland and the Baltic states and will reinforce its western and southern flanks with new divisions, officials said.
Andrei Kelin, a department head at Russia's Foreign Ministry, said on Wednesday that the proposed NATO deployment spoken of by various officials was a source of concern for Moscow.
Russia has scrambled jets to intercept United States reconnaissance planes in recent weeks and made simulated attack passes near a US warship in the Baltic Sea."
SWEDEN: Q&A: 'Racism is on the rise in Sweden and it is scary' (Al Jazeera, link): "Last week, activist Maria-Teresa "Tess" Asplund, 42, took part in a counter-demonstration during a Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) rally where she stood alone with her fist firmly raised confronting hundreds of neo-Nazi marchers.
The act of defiance lasted for only a couple of seconds, but was enough for photographer David Lagerlof to capture the action.
Asplund was adopted when she was 17 months old by a Swedish couple, who brought her to Sweden.
She describes herself as Afro-Swedish and is a part of the Afrophobia Focus organisation that addresses afrophobia and hostility towards people with a sub-Saharan African background in Sweden."
UK: Prisoner found dead at County Durham young offenders' institute (Chronicle Live, link): "An investigation has been launched after a teenager died in a County Durham young offenders’ institution.
Ryan Gorton, 19, was found unresponsive in his cell at HMYOI Deerbolt on Monday May 2.
Paramedics were called to the jail on the Bank Holiday Monday, however the teenager was pronounced dead."
UK: Wormwood Scrubs prison staff walk out over safety concerns (The Guardian, link): "More than 50 staff at Wormwood Scrubs prison have walked out, saying they do not feel safe there.
The 1,200 inmates of the west London jail have been locked in their cells and all visits have been cancelled as a result of the action by prison officers.
Laura Janes, the legal director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, tweeted: “Cannot get into Wormwood Scrubs to represent young person who does not feel safe as staff have walked out because staff don’t feel safe.”"
News Digest (3.5.16)
EU: Lobbying at EU level: Parliament hosts conference on mandatory transparency register (press release, pdf): "An upgrade of the EU lobbyist register is in the works after the European Commission launched a public consultation on switching from voluntary to mandatory registration for anyone interested in speaking to EU institutions to influence their work."
ITALY: Sino-Italian police patrols launched in Italy (New China, link): "Police officers from China are to collaborate with police officers from Italy in two joint patrols in Rome and Milan in a program based on a Sino-Italian agreement launched here on Monday.
According to the program, police who patrol touristic areas of Rome in central Italy and the business city Milan in northern Italy will include two Chinese officers each, who can speak Italian and English besides Mandarin, for two weeks starting from Monday.
"Today it is an important day because we are strengthening collaboration with China in a very special field," Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told a press conference in Rome in the presence of the two countries' authorities.
Alfano said Chinese uniformed police would work together with Italian uniformed police in Rome and Milan to reinforce the sense of safety for the many Chinese tourists visiting Italy."
LUXEMBOURG: Deltour to give testimony in LuxLeaks trial (Luxemburger Wort, link): "On Tuesday LuxLeaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour is to give his version of events in the Luxembourg Criminal Court.
The former PwC Luxembourg employee is accused of stealing 45,000 pages of secret documents from more than 400 PwC clients.
The Frenchman is expected to say he did not plan to take the documents in advance and when he did, he acted in the general interest.
Deltour has always said he "acted out of conviction" for his ideas, "not to appear in the media.""
Poland’s ruling party calls for new constitution (New Europe, link): "Poland’s ruling Law & Justice party is gearing up to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s modern constitution next year by starting to work on replacing the charter.
As reported by Bloomberg, the party’s co-founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski dug in over the party’s conflict with the Constitutional Tribunal, saying it won’t accept a court that’s putting itself “above the law”.
“We might not find enough support to change the constitution during this term, but it’s time to start the work,” Kaczynski said in Warsaw on May 2. “We can ask Poles if they prefer Poland that we’ve all seen or the one that’s ahead of us.”"
UK: Blacklisted workers win compensation from big construction firms (The Guardian, link): "Hundreds of workers who were blacklisted by large firms in an illegal conspiracy have won compensation following a long-running lawsuit.
Approximately 420 trade unionists have secured damages from major construction firms after launching legal action four years ago.
On Friday, they announced that they had reached out-of-court settlements with the firms. However, another group of approximately 90 workers have yet to settle and are scheduled to have their case heard in the high court on 9 May."
UK: Officers accused of 'hit-and-run' after police car collides with cyclist, crushes bike and drives off (Evening Standard, link): "The police 4x4 hit the cyclist – causing him to stumble backwards and drop his bike – and then crushed a second bike under its wheels before racing off on Friday night.
Witnesses described the incident at the junction of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Millbank as a “hit and run” as they slammed the officers’ actions.
Scotland Yard said police were trying to drive away in their BMW X5 after being “targeted by demonstrators”. They drove over the bike after it had been deliberately left in the road as an obstruction, a spokesman said."
UK: Spycops impresario Lambert referred to as core influence on entryism in Quilliam report (UndercoverInfo, link): "The Government’s flagship ‘counter-extremism’ think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, extensively references the ideas and approach associated with discredited spycops impresario Bob Lambert, according to a document seen by UndercoverInfo. The document, published by Quilliam, refers to ‘Lambertism’ (or entryism into the Muslim community – specifically the ‘non-violent extemist’ element) to describe this approach. A detailed analysis of Lambertism and its application to current counter-extremism strategies is provided in the document. What is astounding, however, is that Quilliam Foundation document mentions nothing about how Lambert is a core player in the spycops scandal, currently under investigation via the Pitchford Inquiry."
News Digest (25.4.16)
AUSTRIA: Women targeted in anti Muslim attacks in Austria (The Local, link): " There were 156 assaults against Muslims in Austria in 2015, with the vast majority of incidents targeting women, according to the first ever anti-Muslim racism report presented yesterday in Vienna.
Around 95 percent of the incidents were aimed at women, according to the report presented by the Documentation Office for Muslims in Austria in partnership with the Islamic Faith Community in Austria (IGGiÖ).
The organisation documented incidents from December 2014 up to the end of 2015 and said they expect the number of assaults to increase in the future."
Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank hackers compromised SWIFT software, warning to be issued (Reuters, link): "The attackers who stole $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank probably hacked into software from the SWIFT financial platform that is at the heart of the global financial system, said security researchers at British defense contractor BAE Systems.
SWIFT, a cooperative owned by 3,000 financial institutions, confirmed to Reuters that it was aware of malware targeting its client software. Its spokeswoman Natasha Deteran said SWIFT would release on Monday a software update to thwart the malware, along with a special warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures."
LUXEMBOURG: Former PwC employees face trial over role in LuxLeaks scandal (The Guardian, link): "Two former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers accused of being behind the biggest ever leak of confidential corporate tax deals face criminal trial in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
Antoine Deltour and a second man, who is expected to be named in court this week, are charged with carrying out the LuxLeaks theft, violating the Grand Duchy’s strict professional secrecy laws and other offences. Their criminal prosecution follows a complaint to Luxembourg’s public prosecutor by PwC."
Saudi Arabia, 9/11, and the secret papers that could ignite a diplomatic war (The Independent, link): "Twenty-eight secret pages of a report locked away in a room in the Capitol in Washington lie in the centre of a crisis between America and Saudi Arabia which threatens to have severe and widespread repercussions.
The US Congress is considering legislation which would enable the families of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, presented by the West as its most valuable ally in the Middle East, over alleged links with al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attacks on New York and Washington."
UK: British spies hacked themselves and family members to get personal information to send birthday cards, new papers reveal (The Independent, link): "British spies have been collecting bulk data on people for years, and abusing it to find out people’s addresses for birthday cards, new releases show.
MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been collecting and relying on huge amounts of data collected on almost every person in the country, according to new documents obtained by Privacy International during a legal hearing.
And spies have even been hacking themselves to find out that personal information so that they can use it for booking holidays and spying on their family members to get personal details, the papers show.
The papers also prove that the collection of bulk data has been happening for much longer than previously known."
UK: Race and racism: exhibition: A Nation's Theatre - Selina Thompson: Race Cards (Arts Admin, link): "Selina Thompson has devised 1000 questions concerning issues of race and identity. You are invited to respond to one of the questions which will feed into her research for this ongoing project."
News Digest (22.4.16)
BELGIUM: Four alleged hackers detained during police raids (Flanders News, link): "The Brussels Federal Judicial Police has detained four suspected member of the hackers’ group Down-Sec. The suspected hackers were detained during a series of raids in Liège. IT material was also confiscated during the raids. Two of those detained are minors."
BULGARIA: Ban on Surveys in Bulgaria's Voting Campaigns Infringes Free Speech - Pollsters (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian Association of Marketing and Opinion Researchers (BAMOR) has lashed out at a recent draft amendment which would make it illegal to announce results of opinion polls while an election campaign is unfolding.
Currently, a ban is in place on the announcement of exit polls for the respective election day until 19:00. However, for years some pollsters have been going around the ban by publishing "fake" poll results containing hidden voter preferences. "
Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front Submits Motion to Ban Wearing Burqas in Public Places (Novinite, link): "Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front proposed to Parliament on Wednesday to ban the wearing in public places of burqas, or head veils hiding the face, citing potential threats to national security.
If approved, the proposed new article in the Penal Code would ban the wearing of any apparel that hides the face of a person entirely or in part.
The Patriotic Front proposes a fine of BGN 200 (EUR 100) for first-time offenders of the ban. Repeated violations of the ban would carry fines of BGN 1,500 each and suspension of social benefits payments for three months if the offender is entitled to receiving them.
Persuading people to wear burqas would carry jail terms of three years and fines of BGN 5,000. Those who persuade a minor to wear a burqa, will be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of BGN 10,000."
Czech Police Accused of Excessive Force Against Protesters (ABC News, link): "Czech center-right opposition parties have condemned what they call an excessive use of police force against citizens protesting China's human rights record during a recent visit of the Chinese president.
For three days of President Xi Jinping's March visit, police dealt with numerous skirmishes between Czech protesters and what appeared to be well-organized groups of Chinese people supporting their leader.
Police say 23 people were detained in total from both camps."
CZECH REPUBLIC: Security Council rebuffs Brussels’ stricter gun control plans (Radio Prague, link): "The National Security Council has rejected plans by the European Commission to introduce tougher gun control laws, following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. The commission wants to make it considerably more difficult for individuals to hold certain firearms, among them some semi-automatic weapons. Czech officials are against the proposal, saying that Czech gun laws are already among the toughest."
CZECH REPUBLIC: School pupils back Muslim classmate targeted over headscarf (Radio Prague, link): "Secondary school students in Teplice have launched a campaign in support of a Muslim classmate under pressure for wearing a headscarf. The school’s principal has received dozens of emails calling for her expulsion for “promoting Islam” but says the teenager is going nowhere."
FINLAND: Police under scrutiny over racial profiling claims (YLE, link): "Police and the Finnish Border Guard have organised a total of four immigration control operations targeting foreigners in central Helsinki. The monitoring exercise allegedly focused on people assumed to be of foreign extraction and involved ID checks.
Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kirsi Pimiä says she has received complaints about checks targeting foreign nationals, many of whom say they feel they have been wrongly profiled based on their appearance.
The office says it will demand a report from the Helsinki Police Department on its surveillance of foreigners."
German spies imply Snowden leaked files for Russia (The Local, link): " NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have been acting under the influence of the Russian government, the heads of Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence agencies said on Friday.
“It's very remarkable that he exclusively published files about the work of the NSA with the BND [Germany's foreign intelligence service] or the British secret service GCHQ,” BND head Gerhard Schindler told Focus magazine.
“Leaking the secret service files is an attempt to drive a wedge between western Europe and the USA – the biggest since the Second World War,” Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz), told Focus in the double interview."
MACEDONIA: EU-Mediated Macedonia Crisis Talks in Vienna Cancelled (Novinite, link): "The EU-mediated meeting of Macedonian political leaders for resolving the country’s political crisis has been cancelled after the main opposition Social Democrats declined to attend, the EU mediators have said.
The meeting, set for Friday in Vienna, was called by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and three members of the European Parliament in a bid to ensure that Macedonian political leaders will continue to implement the provisions of the EU-brokered Przino agreement reached in June-July last year."
UK firm hired African former child soldiers to fight in Iraq (Middle East Eye, link): "A British defence contractor hired mercenaries from Africa for a reported $16 a day to fight in Iraq for the US, with one of the company's former directors saying no checks were made on whether those hired were former child soldiers.
James Ellery, who was a director of Aegis Defence Services between 2005 and 2015, said contractors recruited from countries such as Sierra Leone to reduce costs for the US presence in Iraq. "
News Digest (18.4.16)
EU: New passenger regulation spells end of data privacy (Times of Malta, link): "Where did you travel on your last flight? How did you pay for it? Did you book a hotel through your airline and what did you eat on board? The government wants to know – and under a new measure approved by the European Parliament this week, your airline is obliged to tell them."
France vows crackdown after rolling protest clashes (Reuters, link): "France's interior minister on Friday ordered a crackdown on violent fringe demonstrators after they smashed shopfronts and cars on the edge of a bigger youth protest rally held overnight against labour law reforms.
Police used teargas and pepper gas late on Thursday to disperse mobile groups of mostly hooded youths who targeted cars, an auto showroom and a state job-search agency in central Paris. Violence was also reported in other French cities.
"There will be no let-up in the pursuit of these visionless people inspired solely by violence, no let-up in arresting them and bringing them to justice," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said."
SWEDEN: Most of Swedish citizens unsure about EU Membership (New Europe, link): "The popularity of the EU membership is falling in Sweden, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted by TNS Sifo for the Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
According to the poll results, only 39 percent of Swedes think it’s a “good idea” that Sweden is in the European Union, compared to 59 percent in autumn 2015. However, the percentage of the Swedish people who are definitely against the EU membership, is much lower, as only 21 percent believe that the EU membership was a “bad idea.” According to TNS the researchers asked 1142 people aged between 18 and 79: “What do you think in general about Sweden being a member of the EU?”"
UK legal aid residence test to be challenged in supreme court (The Guardian, link): "The government’s residence test that deprives those who have lived in the UK for less than 12 months of legal aid faces a major challenge at the supreme court.
Seven justices will hear arguments on Monday, in a case brought by the Public Law Project (PLP), insisting no minister has the power to impose such discriminatory regulations and that the yet to be implemented residence test is unlawful.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has argued that only those who have an established link to the UK should be entitled to legal aid, which is a scarce and costly resource that must be rationed."
UK-EU: Finding the facts: The truth behind referendum claims on EU borders and security (ITV, link): "The UK in a Changing Europe provides independent impartial information, from leading academics, on the UK’s relations with the EU. The ITV News series 'Finding the Facts' is based on the initiative’s work, together with fact check organisation Full Fact, around claims made by both the Leave and Remain campaigns in the upcoming EU referendum."
UK: Home Office deports three times more teenagers to war-torn countries than previously admitted (The Independent, link): "The Government has deported three times as many teenagers to countries ravaged by war and poverty than ministers have previously admitted, figures seen by The Independent reveal.
Charities and politicians have warned the “life or death” decisions of whether to deport young people are being mishandled by a “callous” Home Office without a grip on the facts.
Despite spending their formative years in Britain, children granted temporary leave to remain in the UK as asylum seekers are often sent back to a country they have not lived in for years when they turn 18."
UK: Protesters who blockaded London arms trade fair acquitted after judge sees evidence of illegal weapons on sale (The Independent, link): "There is compelling evidence that arms were illegally being sold at the world’s biggest arms fair which takes place in London, a judge has ruled.
Acquitting eight anti-arms trade protesters who tried to disrupt the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) event at Stratford's ExCel Centre last September, District Judge Angus Hamilton accepted the defendants’ argument that they had tried to prevent a greater crimes, such as genocide and torture, from occurring by blocking a road to stop tanks and other armoured vehicles from arriving at the exhibition centre."
UK: The torture timebomb that could see Jack Straw and an MI6 chief in the dock (Daily Mail, link): "Briefly, Belhaj — a known dissident of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi — was living in China in 2004 when he decided to seek asylum in Britain.
While en route here, he was abducted at Bangkok airport in Thailand by U.S. authorities — after a reported tip-off by British intelligence — and flown to Libya to be locked up and tortured.
The police started looking into the case more than four years ago. Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service, must decide whether to prosecute.
If she gives the green light, it will lead to one of the most sensational trials in British political history.
We could see a former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in the dock, charged as a participant or accessory to the Common Law offence of kidnapping, as well as a statutory offence of torture under the Criminal Justice Act 1988. This carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
We could also see a former senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, charged with the same set of offences. It is not inconceivable that Mr Straw and Sir Mark could appear alongside one another as co-defendants."
News Digest (11.4.16)
EU: 26/11 ‘Mumbai bomber’ enters Europe in ISIS plot: Report (The Indian Express, link): "A Pakistani bomb-making expert linked to the 2008 Mumbai attack is among scores of trained terrorists who slipped into the EU posing as refugees to join the Islamic State’s plot to commit atrocities in Europe, a media report said on Sunday.
Muhammad Usman Ghani, who is linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terror groups, is being held in Austria on charges of participating in a terrorist organisation, The Sunday Times said."
EU: New Reports On Terror Attacks Underline Why Crypto Isn't A Serious Problem: It's Hard To Use And Easy To Get Wrong (Techdirt, link): "As Techdirt has reported, politicians (and some journalists) haven't waited for the facts to be established before assuming that encryption is to blame for recent terrorist attacks. But as detailed information starts to appear, it becomes clear once more that the bombings and shootings did not succeed because things had "gone dark," but largely because intelligence agencies in both Europe and the US missed numerous clues and hints about the bigger picture. This emerges most powerfully from a long article in The New York Times, which charts the rise of ISIS over many years, and how the authorities were slow to catch on"
EU-TURKMENISTAN: NGOs call on the European Parliament to postpone approval of EU-Turkmenistan treaty (IPHR, link): "Twenty-nine NGOs from 15 different countries call on the European Parliament to postpone approval of the new EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) until Turkmenistan’s government meets the Parliament’s human rights benchmarks. A letter with this message was sent to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs ahead of its planned consideration of the EU-Turkmenistan PCA on 11 April 2016 (postponed from 4 April 2016). The letter was also sent to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as well as its Sub-Committee on Human Rights.
For nearly 15 years, ratification of the EU-Turkmenistan PCA has been delayed over grave human rights concerns in Turkmenistan."
UK: EXPLAINER: What Is Mass Surveillance And What Does It Have To Do With Human Rights? (RightsInfo, link): "As the Investigatory Powers Bill continues to progress through Parliament, RightsInfo takes a look this week at some of the key human rights issues raised by the Bill – privacy, big data, and mass surveillance. Today we explore the theme of mass surveillance.
From the Snowden leaks in mid-2013 to the interest surrounding a US court’s ruling that Apple de-crypt a terrorist’s iPhone, the words ‘mass surveillance’ are commonly used to describe many kinds of privacy infringement. In this post we ask ourselves the question – what exactly is mass surveillance and how might it interfere with our human rights?"
UK: Jean Charles de Menezes and the limits of human rights (Media Diversified, link): "Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court) handed down its judgment in the case of Armani da Silva v UK. The case was brought by Patricia da Silva, the cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, a young Brazilian electrician living in Tulse Hill who was killed by Metropolitan Police Specialist Firearm Officers at Stockwell tube station on July 22 2005. The killing came in the wake of the 7/7 bombings, in which 52 had people lost their lives, and the attempted 21/7 attacks, in which a number of bombs were discovered on public transport by police, having failed to detonate. Jean Charles de Menezes lived at 17 Scotia Road; Hussain Osman, one of the 21/7 suspects, lived at number 21. Both properties used the same doorway to access the street. In the course of a surveillance and containment operation Jean Charles was mistaken for Hussain Osman – “it would be worth someone else having a look,” said one officer. By the time forces trained in conducting armed stops had arrived, a ‘Code Red’ had been declared, and Jean Charles had taken a bus to Stockwell tube station. Shortly after he entered a train and sat down, officers ‘Charlie 2’ and ‘Charlie 12’ discharged 7 bullets into his head and ended his life. His death was one of the 58 fatal police shootings that have taken place between 1990 and 2015. Not one of the officers responsible has been convicted."
News Digest (8.4.16)
GREECE: Riot police beats dock workers, as Tsipras-COSCO shake hands on Piraeus Privatization (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Riot police batons fell on protesters’ back, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was shaking hands with the CEO of Chinese COSCO Xu Lirong to seal the privatization of the Port Of Piraeus Organization.
Outside the Zappeion mansion where the official ceremony was taking place, port workers had gathered to protest the privatization.
A small protesters’ delegation was supposed to be allowed to reach Zappeion, but more people tried to come through the police cordon.
Police tried to stop them in the usual way: with batons, tear gas and sound flares. The port workers started to shout at police “Traitors!” and “Thugs!”"
UK: British Special Forces ‘have secretly been helping draw up US ‘kill lists’ for drone strikes against Al-Qaeda targets’ which have helped weaken the group – but sparked hatred towards the West (Daily Mail, link): "Britain has secretly been helping the US to carry out drone strikes in Yemen for six years, it was claimed last night.
Special Forces from the UK are said to have systematically co-operated with the Americans to take out Al Qaeda operatives with targeted strikes.
An investigation has claimed that Britain provided vital intelligence to draw up ‘kill lists’ which were routinely used to carry out missions - and failed to tell the public.
Campaign group Reprieve said that it showed ‘beyond dispute’ that the UK was working ‘hand in glove’ with the Americans to kill in secret."
UK: INTERVIEW: Can Universities Fight Extremism While Preserving Free Expression? (RightsInfo, link): "Last week the Henry Jackson Society published its Report on extremist external speakers at London Universities. The Report concluded that many institutions are allowing extreme or intolerant speakers without ensuring adequate challenge from counter-balancing speakers.
Professor Roland Dannreuther is Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Westminster in London. He talks to RightsInfo in his personal capacity about safeguarding student safety and freedom of expression."
News Digest (4.4.16)
EU: Panama Papers: EU's Canete implicated in leak (EUobserver, link): "The wife of EU climate and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete has been named in a huge leak of documents relating to offshore companies called the Panama Papers, which have also led to accusations of shady financial dealings by the leaders of Iceland, Russia and Ukraine.
The findings, published by several media on Monday (4 April), originated in a cache of 11.5 million electronic files belonging to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca that were initially given by an anonymous source to German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung in early 2015. "
The legal struggle for the right to access to a lawyer in the Netherlands (Fair Trials, link): "On 1st April 2014 the Dutch Supreme Court concluded that arrested suspects do not have the right to access to a lawyer during police interrogation. According to the Supreme Court it is the task of the legislator to grant this right in accordance with the Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings. In practice this meant that in certain cases a lawyer was effectively banned from the hearing. Also, courts throughout the Netherlands have systematically denied requests to exclude incriminating statements made in absence of a lawyer as evidence.
Since the Directive was passed, there are no signs that this right will soon be introduced in the Netherlands and certainly not by the implementation deadline on 26 November 2016."
UK Government's housing policy targeting homeless families is 'tantamount to social cleansing’ (The Independent, link): "Charities and politicians are demanding urgent changes to housing policy across Britain and warning that thousands of homeless children's lives may be at risk because they are disappearing from support services after being rehoused.
The calls come after an investigation by The Independent uncovered cases of homeless children dying from neglect and abuse after families were moved out of their local authority boundaries. Other evidence in the report suggested that the transfer of homeless families to other parts of the country could have resulted in suicides and miscarriages."
News Digest (1.4.16)
AUSTRIA: Further Nazi allegations made against Austrian extremist (The Local, link): "An Austrian photographed making an fascist Islamic salute while standing on a concentration camp monument has now been accused of posting a photo of someone making a Nazi salute online.
Abdurrahman A. was first in the news a few weeks ago after a photo emerged online of him making the fascist ‘Grey Wolf’ salute at Mauthausen concentration camp. The two fingered salute is used by members of a Turkish nationalist party to imply that Turkish Islamists will one day control the world.
Abdurrahman A. is a leading member of the Linz-based organisation Avarsya, who are closely related to the right-wing extremist group Grey Wolves from Turkey."
AUSTRIA: Iran cancels after Austria refuses to ban protest (The Local, link): " A trip by the Iranian President to Vienna was cancelled this week after Austria refused to carry out Iran’s request to shut down an anti-regime protest, according to media sources.
The Austrian President had said that Iran had cancelled the trip planned for March 30th and 31st due to security concerns, although the Interior Ministry has since said there were “no signs of a threat”. "
DRONES: Hacker reveals $40 attack that steals police drones from 2km away (The Register, link): "IBM security guy Nils Rodday says thieves can hijack expensive professional drones used widely across the law enforcement, emergency, and private sectors thanks to absent encryption in on-board chips.
Rodday says the €25,000 (US$28,463, £19,816, AU$37,048) quadcopters can be hijacked with less than $40 of hardware, and some basic knowledge of radio communications.
With that in hand attackers can commandeer radio links to the drones from up to two kilometres away, and block operators from reconnecting to the craft."
ITALY: Man linked to terror cell detained at Rome airport (The Local, link): "A Lebanese man was detained by border police at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Thursday after they realized he had been reported as a member of a terrorist cell.
The man, who was carrying €20,000 in cash, was about to board a flight to Dusseldorf when he was detained during a routine check, Ansa reported, citing sources.
Police are working to gather more information about the man’s identity, the report said."
Poland to introduce a register of sexual offenders (Radio Poland, link): "The bill envisions the creation of two separate parts of the register. One of them would comprise detailed data, including a photograph and the current residence of the offenders. It could be accessed solely by the courts, the police, and special forces.
The other part would consist of less detailed data of paedophiles and repeat offenders, and it would be publicly available."
UK: Investigatory Powers Bill: UK terror watchdog to leave post next year (Ars Technica, link): "David Anderson QC has confirmed that he will quit his job as the UK government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation in early 2017—a period of time when the Investigatory Powers Act (if passed) will be in its infancy."
UK: Still the enemy within: the strike that split Britain (OpenDemocracy, link): "We are London-based filmmakers exploring the reasons behind the strike, what happened that year and what we can learn today from the miners. For our film, Still the enemy within, we have interviewed front line pickets, women and men who organised the soup kitchens, and members of support groups to get some insight into the dispute 30 years on."
UK: Underpaid in the UK? The state probably isn’t going to help you (OpenDemocracy, link): "The government spends nine times more investigating benefits claimants than it spends probing employers who pay less than the minimum wage."
UK setting dangerous precedent in refusing basic information about drone use (Drone Wars UK, link): "In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from Drone Wars, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has again refused to detail the number of armed British Reaper drones undertaking operations in Iraq and Syria, the location of their base in the Middle East or whether they have been involved in missions over Libya. The UK is known to have ten armed Reaper drones in service."
News Digest (31.3.16)
BALKANS: Incomplete Analysis Hinders Anti-Extremism in the Balkans (Balkan Insight, link): "Balkan governments need to support efforts to properly measure the scale of radicalisation and violent Islamic extremism and implement comprehensive strategies to tackle the issue, regional experts have warned.
“If we don't have a complete analysis of the phenomenon, how can we adopt an effective strategy, conduct monitoring and coordinate a multi-agency response?” Uros Pena, deputy director of the Bosnian Directorate for the Coordination of Police Bodies said during a conference organised by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, on Wednesday.
In addition to problems with intelligence sharing between Bosnia’s 15 police agencies, Pena also identified gaps in monitoring associates of suspected and known extremists."
EU-TURKEY: Erdogan says European countries enabled terror threat to spread (CNN, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believes many European countries have failed to address the significance of the terror threat and have not done enough to fight it.
In an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Washington, he criticized those countries for allowing ISIS to spread."
EU-UKRAINE: The expected impact of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (TNI, link): "On 6 April 2016, the Dutch electoracte will go to the polls to vote in a referendum on the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine. But what is the referendum about and why is the Transnational Institute campaigning for a No vote? Here we explain why the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will only benefit a number of Ukraine’s elite at a cost to the majority."
NETHERLANDS: Protests at proposals to shut prisons due to lack of criminals (Dutch News, link): "MPs have come out against proposals to shut prisons because of falling crime rates during a debate on Wednesday. Opposition parties and MPs from the ruling VVD and PvdA rejected cabinet plans to close prisons and other penal institutions during this parliamentary period. The government said last week closing prison cells is inevitable, as crime is expected to fall by 0.9% a year, and a third of cells are already empty – at great cost to the country."
NETHERLANDS: Terror suspect’s neighbourhood has problems, but is ‘no Molenbeek’ (Dutch News, link): "The area of Rotterdam where French terrorist suspect Anis B was arrested on Sunday is no Molenbeek, according to the city’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, in reference to the Brussel’s district where many of Belgium’s suicide bombers lived. ‘We are the least segregated city in the Netherlands, and people live together here,’ Aboutaleb said at a meeting with residents from the city’s Nieuw-West district earlier this week."
Romania Jails Former Gulag Boss For 20 Years (Balkan Insight, link): "A Romanian court on Wednesday sentenced former jail commander Ioan Ficior to 20 years in prison for the deaths of 103 political prisoners during the Communist regime.
He has 10 days to appeal.
This was the second trial of a head of a Communist-era lockup in Romania since dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was tried and executed in 1989.
Ficior, 87, was accused of involvement also in beating detainees, depriving them of medical treatment and forcing them to drink dirty water, which caused dysentery."
UK: Doreen Lawrence and John McDonnell to speak at conference on police spies (The Guardian, link): "Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are scheduled to speak at a conference that will examine political policing and state racism.
They are among a number of speakers at the conference that is due to take place on April 16 and 17.
The conference will focus on the role of undercover policing and its impact on those who have been put under surveillance."
UK: London man admits sending tweets encouraging terrorism (The Guardian, link): "An east London man has admitted sending thousands of tweets to encourage terrorism and in support of jihadists fighting with Islamic State.
Mohammed Moshin Ameen, 23, posted thousands of tweets between May and October 2015, using various different accounts.
At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Jessica Hart told the court that the posts “encourage and glorify acts of terrorism, in particular the actions of Isil [another name used for Isis], and invoke support for that group”.
Ameen pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to five counts of encouraging the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism on Twitter.
He admitted a further charge of inviting support for Isis, as a proscribed organisation, between 4 and 6 October 2015."
UK: My arrest – it could happen to you (Islam21C.com, link): "At 6 a.m. on that day, as I lay in bed, I heard the banging of feet and shouting in the corridor outside of the flat I live in, it was all very frantic and slightly surreal. I did not understand what was happening immediately so my neighbour was the first to run out and see what all the fuss was about. “WE WANT LAURA STUART” I heard and went to open the door. Imagine my shock as police in uniform and stab vests started pouring into my home."
UK-ECHR: Does Art 5 entail a right to legal representation when facing prison for contempt of court? (UK Human Rights Blog, link): "The European Court of Human Rights has held that the detention of an individual following his breach of a civil contact order, where he had no legal representation, did not violate his rights under Article 5, ECHR (Right to Liberty and Security of Person). However, the decision not to provide compensation to the individual following a failure to provide him with a lawyer during domestic proceedings resulted in a violation of Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial)."
News Digest (30.3.16)
EU: As Terrorists Cross Borders, Europe Sees Anew That Its Intelligence Does Not (New York Times, link): "By now it is abundantly clear that the terrorists who work for the Islamic State think, cooperate and operate across borders, ignoring national boundaries. The increasingly urgent question for Europe in its struggle against them is, Can it do the same?
The outlook is not promising. On Wednesday there were renewed calls for a pan-European intelligence agency that would effectively share information from different countries. Members of the European Parliament took to the airwaves and print to denounce, again, the lack of coordination.
Yet the hurdles are as basic as national pride and bureaucratic turf protection, with experts pointing out that even within nations, intelligence-gathering agencies — France alone has some 33 of them — have trouble cooperating."
EU-DENMARK: Minister: Denmark’s security opt-out ‘problematic’ after Brussels attacks (EurActiv, link): "Denmark’s Minister for Justice Søren Pind worries that his country will increasingly miss out on important information that could prevent terror attacks, after EU ministers yesterday (24 March) agreed to step up the information sharing between intelligence services.
Since Denmark voted to keep its opt-out on justice and home affairs in December 2015, the country has been negotiating a special deal for a continued Europol cooperation, but this deal is likely to keep the Scandinavian country out of the most essential parts of the anti-terrorism fight."
HUNGARY: Parliamentary committee takes 20 minutes clearing bill enabling PM Orbán free hand on spending (Politics.hu, link): "It took no more than 20 minutes for Parliament’s budget committee last week to approve a proposal that would authorize the prime minister to decide single-handedly on any state spending, reports 444.hu.
The proposal, which is said to be the brainchild of government office chief János Lázár, would exempt the government and Viktor Orbán from needing Parliament’s approval for spending from the state budget. This would mean that the government can issue a decree on a certain spending item and the resources will be automatically accounted for in the state budget. The last time this method was in use was before the change of systems in 1990."
ITALY-ECHR: European Court issues emergency measure to stop Italy from evicting Roma family (European Roma Rights Centre, link): "A disabled Romani woman and her daughter stopped their eviction by getting the European Court of Human Rights to issue an emergency measure moments before closing for the holiday weekend. The women, who have lived with other family members for years in a “temporary” segregated, Roma-only shelter run by the City of Rome, were threatened with eviction last week. Now in a decision made within 24 hours, the European Court of Human Rights told the Italian Government not to evict the family."
Polish government backs EU-wide exchange of air passenger data (Radio Poland, link): "Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak joined his EU counterparts in calling for the adoption of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive by the European Parliament.
An extraordinary meeting of justice and security ministers in Brussels on Thursday came two days after suicide bombers killed over 30 people in the Belgian capital.
The PNR would give security services of each member state access to an extensive database of information on air passengers."
UK: Art and the Law: Obscene Publications (Index on Censorship, link): "Freedom of expression is essential to the arts. But the laws and practices that protect and nurture free expression are often poorly understood both by practitioners and by those enforcing the law. The law itself is often contradictory, and even the rights that underpin the laws are fraught with qualifications that can potentially undermine artistic free expression.
As indicated in these packs, and illustrated by the online case studies – available at indexoncensorship. org/artandoffence – there is scope to develop greater understanding of the ways in which artists and arts organisations can navigate the complexity of the law, and when and how to work with the police. We aim to put into context the constraints implicit in the European Convention on Human Rights and so address unnecessary censorship and self-censorship."
UK: Criminal justice faces perfect storm of cuts and overstretch (Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, link): "Criminal justice agencies across the UK face a perfect storm of growing demand and shrinking budgets by the time of the next General Election, according to new analysis by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.
A rising prison population – set to top 100,000 by 2020 – and inadequate legal aid funding are just two of the threats facing the delivery of justice across the UK, the Centre reports.
Governments in London, Edinburgh and Belfast should pursue a managed downsizing of the key criminal justice agencies to reflect shrinking budgets, the Centre concludes, rather than continuing to squeeze ever greater delivery out of ever diminishing resources."
UK: Stop targeting football fans with ‘draconian laws’, says campaign group (The Guardian, link): "Football supporters are being treated with double standards compared to fans of other sports, according to a campaign group which has revealed there have been 3,033 prosecutions for “draconian” football-only offences since 2010.
The campaign Football Fans Not Criminals (FFNC), launched in conjunction with civil liberties group the Manifesto Club, wants to scrap a series of crimes that only relate to football supporters. These include offences of indecent chanting, encroaching on the pitch and possession of alcohol when entering a ground.
The group, which has the backing of individuals from Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation, also wants to end civil banning orders, “bubble matches” where ticket purchases and travel arrangements are restricted, intrusive body searches, the filming of fans by police, and end the ban on drinking alcohol in stadium spectator areas."
UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Helen Steel Demolishes “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, link): "Last week’s preliminary hearing of the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing was concerned with issues of disclosure and secrecy.
Helen Steel is a lifelong activist and no stranger to the Royal Courts of Justice. She has just finished a four-year legal case against the police after she discovered her former partner John Barker was in fact undercover police officer John Dines. It was a fight characterised by Metropolitan police attempts to use any tactic to obstruct accountability and justice. At the end the Met conceded “these legal proceedings have been painful, distressing and intrusive and added to the damage and distress”.
The same Met lawyers are now wheeling out the same tactics for the Pitchford inquiry, claiming they can’t talk about officers as there is a long-standing policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’. Helen Steel told last week’s hearing there is no such thing. Clear, comprehensive and authoritative, her speech ended with a round of applause from the court."
USA: Mass surveillance silences minority opinions, according to study (The Washington Post, link): "A new study shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. The research offers a sobering look at the oft-touted "democratizing" effect of social media and Internet access that bolsters minority opinion.
The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, studied the effects of subtle reminders of mass surveillance on its subjects. The majority of participants reacted by suppressing opinions that they perceived to be in the minority. This research illustrates the silencing effect of participants’ dissenting opinions in the wake of widespread knowledge of government surveillance, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013."
News Digest (21.3.16)
BELGIUM: Abdeslam's arrest raises terror fears (EUobserver, link): "The arrest of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels on Friday (18 March) has raised new concerns about the extent and readiness to act of jihadist networks in Europe.
Belgium has maintained a level-three alert, the second highest, and France has reinforced checks at its border with Belgium.
"We fear that Abdeslam's arrest activates other terrorists cells," Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon told Bel RTL radio on Monday morning." And background: Terrorism frames EU-Turkey summit on migration (EUobserver, link)
EU: Albrecht: We want digitalization and automation, if privacy is built in by design (Deutsche Welle, link): "No one wants to turn back the clocks of our technological development, says German Greens MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht. But privacy and data protection need to be built into the Internet of Things by design."
EU: Greece and Four Other EU Countries May Lose Visa-free Travel to the US (GTP, link): "The US Department of Homeland Security has given Greece and four other EU countries until the end of the month to act and meet new strict criteria or risk losing visa-free travel rights, Greek daily Kathimerini reported on Monday.
The visa exemption program allows citizens of 38 countries access to the United States for tourism or business without a visa.
The US Department of Homeland Security after an increase in the number of forged and stolen passports, which it says could facilitate the movement of terrorists. The number of illicit documents has doubled in the past six years.
France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Greece were initially given a February 1 deadline to fix “crucial loopholes” or lose access to the U.S. visa waiver program. The deadline was then extended to the end of March."
NETHERLANDS: Leaked papers 'compromise' Wilders' right to fair trial (EUobserver, link): "The second trial against Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders commenced on Friday (18 March) in Amsterdam with a dramatic call for an investigation into leaked documents.
Dutch newspaper AD had announced on Thursday night it would publish excerpts of documents from Wilders' legal team that contained their legal strategy.
“Apparently someone has gained access to these documents,” said Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops. He called the leak an “attack on this trial” and said it was a “breach of the right to a fair trial”. He said his legal team was now unsure if their lawyer-client communication can be conducted confidentially."
UK: Gove pledges action on youth custody safety (Children & Young People Now, link): "Appearing before the justice select committee, Gove said he has been working with Charlie Taylor, who is currently conducting a review of the youth justice system, and Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, to address issues in the youth secure estate.
"[We are] making sure we have the additional investment, specifically in the youth estate in order to deal with some of these problems," Gove said."
UK: My two year stint inside Yarl's Wood (Bedfordshire on Sunday, link): "LAST year Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre burst into headline news after Channel 4 released footage of guards' aggressive behaviour.
Over the last twelve months whispers of life inside the controversial immigration centre have spilled into newspaper stories and human rights reports - but who are the women living at Yarl's Wood?
Over the next few weeks, I will be telling their stories.
Mabel Gawanas first arrived in Yarl's Wood in May 2014. Few immigration detention cases are straightforward but Mabel's file is a mess."
UK: National outcry as NUS Scotland officer detained, scheduled for deportation (The Student Newspaper, link): "A newly-elected National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland officer has been detained, separated from his children, and scheduled for deportation over an apparent procedural issue with his asylum status, the NUS has said, sparking outcry across the country and capturing the attention of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Lord Elias Mensah Apetsi, a Master’s student at Strathclyde University recently elected to NUS Asylum and Refugee Officer, was detained by the Home Office twelve days ago after a technical failure with a routine monthly asylum checkin, according to the NUS.
The detention occurred after a Leave to Remain application was submitted past the deadline, the NUS said, in what the organisation called a “human error, not of Lord’s making”."
UK: Nearly 4,000 people referred to Government's anti-extremism scheme last year (The Independent, link): "Almost 4,000 people have been referred to the UK government’s counter-terrorism scheme last year, including children under nine, new figures have revealed.
The rise in the number of referrals to the flagship Channel programme comes after the Government gave prisons, NHS Trusts and Schools a statutory duty to tackle extremism.
In 2015, 3,955 people were reported to Channel - up from 1,681 in 2014."
UK-USA: Pentagon to open major £200m intelligence centre in Britain (The Independent, link): "The Pentagon will announce a major new £200m intelligence centre in Britain this week, which would act as the headquarters for all US military data in Europe and Africa, according to US media reports.
Known as the Joint Intelligence Analysis Centre, the facility will be located at the RAF Croughton, a US Air Force base near Milton Keynes, which already processes about a third of US military communications in Europe.
The proposed ultra-secure data centre would be the US headquarters for European and African military communications, employing up to 1,250 staff analysing intelligence from more than 50 countries. It is due to be completed next year."
News Digest (18.3.16)
GERMANY: Kindergartens banned from serving pork, German Sharia Law and churches turned into mosques; the 'pack of lies' spread by 'racist' Pegida, says defector (Daily Mail, link): "A Pegida defector claims the far-Right extremists spread ‘a pack of lies’ about migrants coming into the country to suit their ‘racist’ anti-immigration agenda.
Rene Jahn says the anti-immigration neo-Nazis ‘whip up’ Islamophobia by spreading ‘xenophobic’ falsehoods about the million refugees that have flooded into the country.
Whistleblower Jahn says lies like German kindergartens being banned from serving pork, Sharia Law being imposed, migrant sex assaults and stories of refugees breaking into a petting zoo and eating a goat all come from Pegida."
Italy Reveals Military Meeting on Libya…UK Denies Sending Troops (Asharq al-Awsat, link): "Military leaders from 30 countries attended a meeting in Rome on Tuesday to discuss initiatives regarding the situation in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Paulo Gentiloni said.
The purpose of the meeting, held at Rome’s Centocelle military airport, was to prepare for the establishment of a joint force to develop stability in Libya, Italian television said without giving further details. Gentiloni stressed that the development of plans does not mean intervention."
NETHERLANDS: Reflections on Dutch Border Practices (Border Criminologies, link): "Post by Vanessa Barker, Docent and Associate Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University. This post is the final installment of Border Criminologies’ themed series on Decision-making in the Dutch Borderlands organised by Maartje van der Woude."
UK: 29 years on and still no answers on Daniel Morgan murder (South Wales Argus, link): " TODAY [10 March 2016] marks the 29th anniversary of the murder of Cwmbran private detective Daniel Morgan – but the truth of how he met his death still remains a mystery.
The 37-year-old had allegedly been investigating claims of corruption within the Metropolitan Police when his body was found in the car park of a south London pub with an axe lodged in his head on March 10, 1987.
Almost three decades on the crime remains unsolved despite a series of police inquiries and a tireless campaign by the family of the father-of-two to reach the truth. It has been claimed the same alleged corruption Mr Morgan was investigating when he died has prevented his killer from being brought to justice. "
UK: I wish I'd never decided to work in an immigration detention centre (politics.co.uk, link): "Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I knew what it was like to work in an immigration removal centre (IRC) before I accepted the position, would I still have come?
My background is in prisons. That's the same for most of the staff. Prisons are horrible. It's a hundred miles an hour from the minute you report for duty until your shift ends. But in the prison service, we're at least trained to a very high standard in all kinds of things, from control and restraint to restorative justice.
Removal centres are completely different. The main reason? The people we look after aren't criminals."
UK: Police Federation investigated over fraud allegations (BBC News, link): "Detectives have begun an investigation into allegations of fraud involving the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Federation officials said they asked Surrey Police to investigate after identifying what they described as "potential fraudulent activity".
As the news emerged, the federation - which represents most police officers - separately confirmed that its vice-chairman, Will Riches, had resigned.
No reason has been given for Mr Riches' resignation. No one has been arrested. "
UK: Public inquiry ordered into police killing of Anthony Grainger (The Guardian, link): "A public inquiry has been ordered into the death of a man shot by police.
The home secretary, Theresa May, announced that the inquest into the 2012 killing of Anthony Grainger would be converted into a statutory inquiry led by a judge with greater investigative powers.
Grainger, 36, from Bolton, was unarmed when he was shot by a Greater Manchester police marksman during an operation in Culcheth, Cheshire."
USA: A Government Error Just Revealed Snowden Was the Target in the Lavabit Case (Wired, link): "It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets for years: the identity of the person the government was investigating in 2013 when it served the secure email firm Lavabit with a court order demanding help spying on a particular customer."
News Digest (17.3.16)
BELGIUM: Radicalisation in Molenbeek: 'People call me the mother of a terrorist' (The Guardian, link): "As anti-terror police raid a Belgian apartment, families in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek say they are unable to stop their children joining extremist groups such as Isis and that authorities must do more"
EU: DiEM25 and the search for a European demos (Open Democracy, link): "A successful Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) needs to redefine European citizenship by leading and shaping debates on the place of the individual in today’s European society."
IRELAND: Journalists ‘at risk’ after gardai seek photos (The Times, link): "Press photographers’ lives are being endangered by an increasing number of attempts by gardai to use images taken at protests for evidence, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.
Concern about the trend has led the NUJ to call for gardai to rely on their own resources to obtain photographic evidence.
Seamus Dooley, the union’s Irish secretary, said that he was alarmed by the growing tendency of gardai to regard photographers and journalists as “collecting agents”, given that there was established case law set down by the European and Irish courts on the issue."
NETHERLANDS: Rising Islamophobia reported in the Netherlands (New Europe, link): "A third of the mosques in the Netherlands have experienced at least one incident of vandalism, threatening letters, attempted arson, the placement of a pig’s head, or other aggressive actions in the past 10 years, according to research by Ineke van der Valk, an author and researcher at the University of Amsterdam."
NORTHERN IRELAND: Those living near peace lines more likely to have poor mental health (Queen's University Belfast): "People living close to peace lines in Northern Ireland have worse mental health than the rest of the population, according to researchers at Queen's University Belfast.
The study conducted by researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen's, indicates that living in an area in close proximity to a segregation barrier, or peace line, increases a person’s likelihood of being on antidepressant medication by 19 per cent and on anxiolytic medication, which inhibits anxiety, by 39 percent."
UK: No one left behind: partial progress on detention campaigning, but not for all (Right to Remain, link): "Last night, in the Immigration Bill debate in the House of Lords, peers voted by 187 to 170 in favour of Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment on immigration detention.
If the amendment survives the House of Commons (where the Immigration Bill will go to next), it would mean improved judicial oversight for some people in detention, or who may be detained in the future."
UK: Six people arrested after protesters disrupt 'arms fair' in Cardiff (Wales Online, link): "Six people were arrested at a protest outside a defence industry event at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on Wednesday.
A 51-year-old man from Pontypool and two women - a 25-year-old from Cardiff and a 54-year-old from Newport were arrested for public order offences.
A 32-year-old woman from Swansea was arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and criminal damage, a 26-year-old man from Carmarthenshire was arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and a 41-year-old man from Bristol was been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, South Wales Police said."
UK: Southampton University bans “controversial” Israel conference again (Electronic Intifada, link): "Southampton University has for the second year running banned an academic conference expected to include critical views of Israel, organizers say.
In a letter to the university’s lawyers seen by The Electronic Intifada, lawyers acting for Southampton academics Suleiman Sharkh and Oren Ben-Dor told the university of their intent to challenge the latest ban in court."
UK-NATO: Ministry of Defence military exercise will feature 'killer robots' (The Guardian, link): "The Ministry of Defence is organising its first-ever “Robo-Wars” exercise this autumn, using drones, seacraft and a host of other innovations as part of the growing trend towards reducing the role of humans in combat.
The large-scale event off the west coast of Scotland will form part of the regular UK-led Nato Joint Warriors exercise.
The navy, on its website, is billing the robotic part as “Unmanned Warrior 2016”, and says: “Recognising a commitment to innovation, the Royal Navy will host a large-scale demonstration in a tactically representative environment of maritime autonomous systems in the autumn of 2016.”"
USA: ‘Chilling Effect’ of Mass Surveillance Is Silencing Dissent Online, Study Says (Motherboard, link): "Thanks largely to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, most Americans now realize that the intelligence community monitors and archives all sorts of online behaviors of both foreign nationals and US citizens.
But did you know that the very fact that you know this could have subliminally stopped you from speaking out online on issues you care about?
Now research suggests that widespread awareness of such mass surveillance could undermine democracy by making citizens fearful of voicing dissenting opinions in public."
News Digest (14.3.16)
EU: A data dozen to prepare for reform (ICO, link): "Manchester becomes the capital of UK data protection this week, with 800 data protection practitioners heading to our conference in the city. And for the delegates heading to the north-west, top of the agenda will be considering the impending implementation of the data protection reforms agreed last December. The reforms encompass the General Data Protection Regulation, which will have direct effect, and a new Directive on data protection related to law enforcement.
The last pieces of work to finalise the texts continue apace, focused on translation and final legal checks. Once that happens, we’ll see final political agreement, hopefully around July and then a two year transition period to accustom ourselves to the new way of doing things."
EU: Fair Trials to launch new report on defence rights in Europe (Fair Trials, link): "Wonder why defence rights are still an issue for human rights defenders in 2016’s Europe? Discover what is at stake in the latest report of the Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP), Defence Rights in Europe: The Road Ahead.
The publication will be launched at a roundtable hosted by Fair Trials, together with MEP Nathalie Griesbeck at the European Parliament on 16th March. The event will gather MEPs, lawyers, academics and representatives of the European civil society to discuss challenges ahead for the defence of procedural rights across the Union, and build on the progress we’ve made so far."
MEDITERRANEAN: The Meaning of Russia’s Naval Deployments in the Mediterranean (Eurasia Daily Monitor, link): "Russian ships equipped with the advanced sea-launched Kalibr cruise missile will now be perpetually present in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Moscow’s naval operations connected to the mission in Syria. This is according to Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) (RIA Novosti, February 19)."
POLAND: Life not too rosy in Polish jails (Radio Poland, link): "The country’s Prison Service says that 71,633 people are being held in Polish jails, which have a total capacity of 83,491.
"Although the situation has improved considerably in recent years when it comes to the population of penitentiary units, the minimum area of a residential cell in Polish jails is still barely three square metres per prisoner," said Dr. Ewa Dawidziuk of the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights.
That figure, she said, is among the lowest in the European Union."
And see: 2014 statistics for all Council of Europe states in: Prison capital: UK locks up more people than any other EU member state (Statewatch News Online)
UK regulator to scrutinise impact of financial crime rules on access to payment systems (Out-Law.com, link): "The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has said it will monitor ongoing reviews of financial crime regulations to see whether it helps to address its concerns about barriers to the indirect accessing of payment systems."
UK: Bar warns against online ‘lawyerless’ court plan (Law Society Gazette, link): "Proposals to introduce an online court mark a ‘fundamental departure’ from the adversarial system of justice, which could have ‘major implications’ for the judiciary and training at the bar, the Bar Council has warned.
Responding to an interim report from Lord Justice Briggs on the structure of civil courts, the bar said the proposals could lead to the departure of talented advocates to other areas of practice or from the bar altogether."
UK: Immigration Bill Latest: Government suffers two defeats in Lords (Migrants' Rights Network, link): "The government has twice been defeated in the Lords over its Immigration Bill. Peers voted to allow asylum seekers the right to work if their claims have not been processed within six months.
They also voted to allow overseas domestic workers to change employers without risking immediate deportation. This defeat for the government will give domestic workers the right to change their employer once in the UK and to remain in the country for up to two years after doing so."
UK: Ministry of Justice orders an urgent probe into former civil servants helping private firms to win multi-million-pound contracts (Mail Online, link): "The Ministry of Justice has started an urgent inquiry after The Mail on Sunday uncovered evidence that ex-civil servants were boasting of Government connections while working for private firms to secure multi-million-pound contracts in Britain and abroad.
This newspaper found several senior MoJ officials recently left Whitehall to take up jobs with a consultancy.
In the months before they departed, the consultancy’s UK branch had helped secure contracts worth more than £600 million for a controversial US firm to run probation services across swathes of the South East, and a Northamptonshire young offenders’ unit."
UK: The real impact of the legal aid cuts (New Statesman, link): "One morning in January 2014, Gloria Jackson was returning from the supermarket with her groceries when she saw five policemen standing near the door of her home in London. When she tried to pass and go inside, the officers told her that she was under arrest. Jackson, a 57-year-old NHS psychiatric nurse who worked with dementia patients, was searched in the street as her neighbours looked on, locked in the back of a police van and driven away."
USA: How new FBI powers to look through NSA intercepts will exacerbate mass incarceration (ACLU of Massachusetts, link): "The wall separating “foreign” intelligence operations from domestic criminal investigations has finally, fully collapsed. The FBI now plans to act on a rule change initiated by the Bush administration and finally massaged into actionable policy by Obama: Soon, domestic law enforcement agencies like the FBI will be able to search through communications collected under the mysterious authority of executive order 12333. Now, FBI agents can query the NSA’s database of Americans’ international communications, collected without warrants pursuant to Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. That law put congress’ stamp of approval on the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was widely denounced as totalitarian when the New York Times‘ James Risen exposed it to the world in 2005."
USA: The Next Front in the New Crypto Wars: WhatsApp (Electronic Frontier Foundation, link): "In Saturday’s edition of the New York Times, Matt Apuzzo reports that the Department of Justice is locked in a “prolonged standoff” with WhatsApp. The government is frustrated by its lack of real-time access to messages protected by the company’s end-to-end encryption. The story may represent a disturbing preview of the next front in the FBI’s war against encryption."
News Digest (11.3.16)
Belgian watchdog cites intelligence failures ahead of Paris attacks (France 24, link): "Belgium's police watchdog has identified several "deficiencies and weaknesses" in the way authorities handled information on the Paris attackers before they unleashed carnage on the French capital, Belgian media reported Monday.
Some of the Paris attackers and alleged accomplices came from the troubled Brussels' neighbourhood of Molenbeek, and Belgium has rejected French criticism of alleged failings by its intelligence services before the attacks in which 130 people died.
RTBF cited as one "glaring example" of intelligence failings the fact that "even before the Paris attacks, a nom de guerre used by one of the terrorists featured in several (police) databases in Belgium, but not in the central database"."
EU: New EU directive on the rights of minors on trial (New Europe, link): "Minors who are suspected or accused of a crime will have the right to a fair trial, assistance of a lawyer and be accompanied by parent or guardian through the proceedings. This is based on new rules approved by the European Parliament on March 9.
According to a European Parliament press release, the text presents a catalogue of rights and guarantees as a common European model of fair trials for children under the age of 18. Caterina Chinnici (S&D, IT), who steered the legislation through parliament, said the goal is to strike a balance between the need to ascertain responsibility for crime and the need to take due account of minors’ vulnerability and specific needs."
NORTHERN IRELAND: Riot fears as loyalists given go-ahead for huge Easter Monday march in Lurgan (Belfast Telegraph, link): "Fears are growing of major disorder after a massive loyalist parade through Lurgan was given the go-ahead, although with a key restriction imposed.
The Belfast Telegraph understands the Parades Commission has approved an application for an Apprentice Boys of Derry march on Easter Monday.
However, it will not be permitted to go through republican areas close to Shankill Parish Church.
Up to 3,600 participants and 61 bands are expected to pass through the town.
The timing of the parade is particularly sensitive as it falls around the weekend when republicans are set to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising."
Polish Government Preparing to Contest Rights Report (ABC News, link): " Poland will challenge the findings of an international human rights commission which is expected to deliver a scathing assessment of democratic backsliding in the European Union's largest ex-communist member state, the foreign minister said Thursday.
Witold Waszczykowski said the government plans to dispute the findings of the Venice Commission, an arm of the Council of Europe human rights group. The commission is scheduled to deliver its report on Friday in Venice."
SWEDEN: Isolated before trial: Pre-trial detention in Sweden (Fair Trials International, link): "This article, jointly written by Teresa Barrio Traspaderne, our Campaigns and Communications Intern, and Daniel Roos, a Swedish criminal lawyer and a member of Fair Trials’ Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP), explores the practice of pre-trial detention in Sweden, and why it has been subject to harsh criticism from international human rights bodies."
TURKEY: Erdogan, prince of Europe, took my newspaper Zaman (EUobserver, link): "When European Council president Donald Tusk was in Ankara and tweeting how his meetings with president Erdogan and prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu were fruitful, the news that an Istanbul court had taken the decision to confiscate Zaman was already circulating the newsrooms. The violent takeover happened when commissioner Johannes Hahn, responsible for accession talks with Turkey, was still in the country.
It is as if Erdogan wanted to teach a lesson to European leaders. The seizure comes just before the second Turkey-EU summit in four months like a slap in the face of European values."
UK: Reducing prison population only way to reduce ‘shameful’ death rates, urge campaigners (Prison Watch UK, link): "Same mistakes being made across policing and prison system, Inquest director says "
UK: Stop Government plans to snoop on your internet history (38 Degrees, link): "No other Government in the world has these kinds of intrusive powers. And they don’t need them. We need to ask why the British police need to access our web history when police forces around the world don’t do this.
Some people say ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’. But we should all be worried about our sensitive personal information being collected and analysed. Companies like Talk Talk have been hacked before, and the sensitive data that all our ISPs will now be expected to keep about us will be very valuable to cyber-criminals.
The Government have tried to push through new snooping powers before and a public backlash stopped them in their tracks. Now we need to come together again and demand Theresa May removes Internet Connection Records from the Bill."
UK: Theresa May wins right to deport failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan after judges remove court injunction (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, link): "Home Secretary Theresa May today won a significant legal battle to resume deportations of failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan after the Court of Appeal overturned an injunction imposed last year amid concerns the country was too dangerous.
The ruling could now see hundreds of failed asylum seekers, including those who arrived in Britain as unaccompanied children years ago, returned on special charter flights from London."
UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Evidence spycop John Dines worked at heart of Australia’s intelligence-gathering community (UndercoverInfo, link): "A document (see below) shows that for several years UK spycop John Dines worked at the heart of Australia’s intelligence-gathering community (including undercover ops). The man who infiltrated protest groups in the UK and who abused a woman over two years by concealing his true identity has also received an award by the Charles Sturt University in Australia for ‘Professional Excellence’. Dines hoped to escape the London-based inquiry into undercover policing, but last Sunday was spectacularly outed by Helen Steel, an activist with London Greenpeace and the woman whose life he abused, when she confronted him at Sydney airport as he was waiting to greet a contingent of police officers from India, who he is training as part of the course he runs at the University. The university’s executive dean of the faculty of arts, Professor Tracey Green, stated that Dines works only in an ‘administrative capacity’, but another document, referred to below, shows Dines playing a far more active role that merely ‘administrative’… "
UN: China Blasts U.S. 'Rape and Murder' at U.N. Human Rights Council (New York Times, link): "GENEVA — China strongly rejected U.S.-led criticism of its human rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday, saying the United States was hypocritical and guilty of crimes including the rape and murder of civilians.
"The U.S. is notorious for prison abuse at Guantanamo prison, its gun violence is rampant, racism is its deep-rooted malaise," Chinese diplomat Fu Cong told the Council, using unusually blunt language.
"The United States conducts large-scale extra-territorial eavesdropping, uses drones to attack other countries' innocent civilians, its troops on foreign soil commit rape and murder of local people. It conducts kidnapping overseas and uses black prisons.""
USA: Veil of secrecy lifted on Pentagon office planning ‘Avatar’ fighters and drone swarms (Washington Post, link): "High over Alaska last summer, the Pentagon experimented with new, secret prototypes: Micro-drones that can be launched from the flare dispensers of moving F-16s and F/A-18 fighter jets. Canisters containing the tiny aircraft descended from the jets on parachutes before breaking open, allowing wings on each drone to swing out and catch the wind. Inch-wide propellers on the back provided propulsion as they found one another and created a swarm.
The experiment was run by the secretive Strategic Capabilities Office, a Pentagon organization launched in summer 2012 to figure out how to best counter growing strategic threats from China and Russia. The specifics of what the mini-drones can do are classified, but they could be used to confuse enemy forces and carry out surveillance missions using equipment that costs much less than full-sized unmanned aircraft. Video reviewed by The Washington Post shows the tiny aircraft, which weigh about a pound each, moving in packs and gaining situational awareness after sitting inert in the flare canisters."
News Digest (9.3.16)
SCOTLAND: Police Scotland detective accuses deputy chief constable of "misconduct" in spy scandal (Herald Scotland, link): "A top murder detective has accused one of his deputy chief constables of "misconduct" in the scandal of Police Scotland illegally spying on journalists’ sources.
David Moran, who was unlawfully targeted by the single force, has come forward to claim that DCC Neil Richardson may have “made up” some of the “outrageous” evidence he gave to a Holyrood committee."
UK government security fair 'promotes military solution to refugee crisis' (Middle East Eye link): "The UK government is hosting an invite-only international "security" fair that will help arms companies profit from the militarisation of European borders, experts say, as the EU attempts to control hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in the Middle East.
The three-day, Home Office-organised Security and Policing 2016 fair, which started on Monday near a military base in Farnborough, features more than 350 companies including weapons manufacturers BAE, Airbus and Heckler & Koch selling to EU and foreign governments."
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