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Amnesty: major new report denounces Europe's "ever-expanding national security state"
18.1.17
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A major new report from Amnesty International examines the expansion of security measures and states of emergency across 14 EU states in the last two years, warning that "the disturbing idea that Europe faces a perpetual emergency is beginning to take hold," because: "Powers intended to be exceptional are appearing more and more as permanent features of national law."

This includes:

  • Fast-tracked legislation adopted without adequate debate or consultation;
  • Derogation from human rights commitments in law and/or practice;
  • Consolidation of power with the executive, state agencies and security and intelligence bodies with little judicial oversight;
  • Ineffective or non-existent oversight mechanisms for counter-terrorism operations;
  • Imprecise and over-broad legal definitions of "terrorism";
  • Reduced standards of proof in criminal justice proceedings from the traditional "reasonable suspicion" and "in some states no formal requirement of suspicion at all";
  • Tenuous or no links between "so-called preparatory acts or inchoate offences and the actual criminal offence";
  • Use of administrative control measures to restrict people's activities in place of criminal sanctions;
  • Criminalisation of forms of expressions that do not meet the threshold for incitement to violence;
  • The use of secret evidence by states and other limitations on the ability to challenge state practices;
  • The invocation of national security concerns and terrorism to "arbitrarily target migrants and refugees, human rights defenders, activists, political opponents, journalists, minority groups, and people lawfully exercising their rights";
  • Lack of attention to particular groups' needs, for example women and children.

See: Amnesty International, Europe: Dangerously disproportionate: The ever-expanding national security state in Europe, 17 January 2017, an overview of the report with interactive map and: EU: Orwellian counter-terrorism laws stripping rights under guise of defending them (AI, links)

The report warns that the greatest threat to human rights and democratic values in Europe does not come from terrorists, migrants, refugees or other bogeymen invoked to legitimate new security laws and policies, but from our own governments and societies (emphasis added):

"There are many countries in Europe, particularly those with little history of terrorism, in which hard-line governments of whatever political persuasion will be tempted and increasingly able to impose states of emergency in response to the first serious terrorist attack they face. These governments will enjoy a range of sweeping powers whose use is unlikely to be restricted to those involved in the commission of terrorist acts. This has already proven to be case in France, where the extension – by a mainstream political party - of emergency powers well beyond the period of uncertainty that followed the Paris attacks has contributed significantly to the normalizing of the notion that a general threat of terrorist attacks threatens the very life of the nation.

Ultimately, however, the threat to the life of a nation – to social cohesion, to the functioning of democratic institutions, to respect for human rights and the rule of law – does not come from the isolated acts of a violent criminal fringe, however much they may wish to destroy these institutions and undermine these principles - but from governments and societies that are prepared to abandon their own values in confronting them.

Amnesty International is calling on all states, including EU member states, to renew their commitment in law and in practice to upholding their international human rights obligations in the context of countering terrorism. The steady regression in many aspects of rights protection in the EU must end."

Press coverage

EU counter-terrorism laws "stripping rights", says Amnesty, EUobserver, 17 January 2017

'Draconian' EU security laws target Muslims - Amnesty International, Reuters, 17 January 2017

Amnesty: Europe's 'Orwellian' Security Laws Expanding to Cover 'Thought Crime', Newsweek, 17 January 2017

European counter-terrorism legislation 'dangerously disproportionate,' Amnesty reports, Deutsche Welle, 17 January 2017

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