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Statewatch: News Digest: Round-up of news stories from across the EU

Please see also Statewatch Observatory on: EU MED crisis - a humanitarian emergency: Updated daily
January 2016

News Digest (5.2.16)

BIOMETRICS: 4F allows the use of smartphone finger photos as a contactless fingerprint identification system to match with legacy databases (Biometric Update, link): "Developing an efficient and effective fingerprint biometric system has never been more essential. Preliminary findings demonstrate the capability of a new, proprietary fingerprint biometric system, 4FingerID (4FTM), to produce high quality matches against prints acquired using flatbed fingerprint scanners. The 4F technology requires only a smartphone’s rear-facing camera and its flash to capture multiple fingerprints simultaneously and, as such, opens the door to portable, cost-effective matching against existing legacy databases held, for example, by government bodies."

ESTONIA: One of Estonia’s most powerful agencies embroiled in scandals (BBN, link): "There is reason to be worried about SMIT, the information technology and development centre of Interior Ministry that is one of the most powerful and secretive government agencies and controls all national security IT systems, investigative TV programme Pealtnägija (Eyewitness) reported yesterday."

Fifth workshop on Data Protection in International Organisations (ICRC, link): "On 5 February 2016, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the ICRC will host the fifth workshop on data protection as part of good governance in international organisations at the ICRC Humanitarium, in Geneva."

France, Belgium step up security cooperation (EUobserver, link): "France and Belgium pledged on Monday (1 February) to reinforce their cooperation against Islamic terrorism and called for a "European security pact".

Meeting in Brussels, Belgian and French prime ministers Charles Michel and Manuel Valls also tried to diffuse tension between the two countries. Belgium was criticised after it emerged the authors of the November Paris attacks came from Brussels."

German police arrest suspected terrorists (EUobserver, link): "German police arrested a man in Berlin and a woman and a man near Cologne on Thursday (4 February) for what they believe may have been preparation for a terror attack in the German capital.

Police raids were also operated in Hannover. Two other men are still being hunted by security forces, which are expected to publish photos on Friday."

Germany and Netherlands sign defence agreement (EUobserver, link): "German soldiers will be able to use a Dutch warship under a cooperation agreement signed Thursday by the two countries' defence ministers. Under the agreement, still to be ratified, German commando units will be able to use the supply ship Karel Doorman, equipped to carry Leopard 2 tanks."

SWEDEN: Russian menace pushes Sweden towards Nato (BBC News, link): "In the middle of the Baltic Sea, a chilly east wind blows across a former Cold War frontier.

After more than 20 years of strategic irrelevance, and thanks to increasingly unpredictable Russian behaviour, Gotland is back in the spotlight.

It is the latest chapter in the island's long military history, and one returning soldier is thrilled."

UK: Early day motion in the House of Commons: MILITARY INTERVENTION IN LIBYA (Parliament, link): "That this House notes with concern the reports that the UK is preparing to provide weapons and support to tackle Daesh extremists in Libya; condemns reports that a team of RAF and intelligence personnel met recently in Tobruk to draw up potential targets for airstrikes in Libya; calls on the Secretary of State for Defence to make an urgent statement to the House on plans for military intervention in Libya; and urges the Government not to undertake any military action without the approval of the House."

May wants police commissioners to set up free schools for 'troubled children' (The Guardian, link): "Elected police and crime commissioners should be given the power to set up their own free schools to support “troubled children”, Theresa May has announced.

The move will be part of a major expansion of the powers of police and crime commissioners into the areas of youth justice, probation and court services to be proposed after their second set of elections take place in May."

UK: Modern slavery? The UK visa system and the exploitation of migrant domestic workers (LSE, link): "It might be hard to believe that a domestic worker – or anyone – is currently forced to sleep on a bathroom floor or is locked up in a house. Yet such experiences are very real for those who come to the UK on an overseas domestic worker visa, writes Virginia Mantouvalou. She explains how the current system – which provides a six-month, non-renewable right to stay – does not allow such workers to change employers. Those who run away due to appalling experiences are thus unable to find a new job and become undocumented. She writes that changing the visa system is the only way forward, if the UK is to treat everyone as human."

UK: Sarah Reed wrote to family 'she had been sexually assaulted' in hospital (The Guardian, link): "The prisoner on remand who died in her cell last month wrote to her family to say she had been sexually assaulted while receiving treatment at a secure mental health unit.

The Guardian has learned that Sarah Reed, 32, was charged with grievous bodily harm with intent over the incident in October after striking back at her alleged abuser. But rather than being released back into a secure hospital, she was held on remand at Holloway prison, north London, where she was found dead on 11 January.

UK: Six reasons you can't take the Litvinenko report seriously (The Guardian, link): "An inquiry into the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the heart of London in 2006 has concluded that he was “probably” murdered on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin. This is a troubling accusation."

UK-ECHR: Is the European Court of Human Rights buckling under Westminister pressure? (UK Human Rights Blog, link): "In the last four years there were some 80 judgments where the UK was the respondent and in about 40 of those cases one or more violations were found. This does not seem to be particularly (statistically) out of step with previous periods. However do the key cases suggest the widening of the margin of appreciation for the UK?"

News Digest (1.2.16)

ECHR: Romania: Convict’s tooth torment spurs human rights complaint (Human Rights Europe, link): "A Romanian convict says he lost most of his teeth because prison authorities failed to respond adequately to his severe dental problems.

Adrian Dragan, currently detained in Giurgiu Prison, brought the complaint again Romania in protest at his jail conditions. The European Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgement on the case tomorrow (2 February)."

EU: The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: a tool to enhance and protect the rule of law? (FREE Group, link): "Fifteen years after the proclamation in Nice of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and six years after its transformation in a text of EU primary law, it could be now the right time to evaluate its impact assessment on the European legal order (covering both the EU institutions and the Member States when acting under the EU Treaties) in order to asses where critical tensions emerge or where still are unfulfilled opportunities."

IRELAND: Fine Gael blocked abortion debate at ard fheis (Irish Independent, link): "Fine Gael blocked members from engaging in any debate on abortion at the party's final ard fheis before the General Election, the Sunday Independent can reveal."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Stakeknife: David Ford says UK government should pay for investigation (BBC News, link): "A police investigation into the Army's alleged top agent in the IRA must be funded centrally by the government, Stormont's justice minister has said.

Up to 50 murders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland have been linked to the Army agent, codenamed Stakeknife.

In 2003, the media named Stakeknife as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, but he denies being a British agent.

Justice Minister David Ford has told Irish broadcaster RTÉ the inquiry must be funded centrally, not by Stormont."

NORWAY: Government cracks down on suspected terror travellers (The Foreigner, link): " Authorities may be granted powers allowing them to deny passports more easily.

The proposal, which has been sent to hearing, applies in cases “where there is reason to believe that a person is planning to become a foreign fighter,” says Anders Anundsen, Minister of Justice for the Progress Party (FrP).

If passed, it would mean that passports could either be refused or recalled.

The legislation could be invoked if there were suspicions that the journey out of Norway was due to: participation in acts of terror and/or terror-related acts, or illegal participation in military operations abroad."

POLAND: Polish senate approves Internet surveillance law (Yahoo! News, link): "Poland's senate on Friday approved a controversial amendment making it easier for the secret service and police to access Internet data, stoking concerns about the state of democracy in the EU member.

The new measure will notably give the police direct permanent access to a whole host of metadata regarding the online activity of Poles. The police will no longer have to ask Internet service providers for access each time."

Trusting Big Data Research (SSRN, link): "Although it might puzzle or even infuriate data scientists, suspicion about big data is understandable. The concept doesn’t seem promising to most people. It seems scary. This is partly because big data research is shrouded in mystery. People are unsure about organizations’ motives and methods. What do companies think they know about us? Are they keeping their insights safe from hackers? Are they selling their insights to unscrupulous parties? Most importantly, do organizations use our personal information against us? Big data research will only overcome its suspicious reputation when people can trust it."

UK: Deepcut inquest will not consider 'culture of sexual abuse' claims (The Guardian, link): "An inquest into the death from a gunshot wound of a young female soldier at Deepcut 20 years ago will not consider whether there was a “culture of sexual abuse” at the army barracks, a coroner has ruled.

Opening a fresh inquest into the death of Pte Cheryl James, 18, discovered with a single gunshot wound to her head at the Surrey barracks in 1995, coroner Brian Barker QC said: “This is not a public inquiry into the culture at Deepcut in the mid-1990s.”"

UK: MPs send Tony Blair list of questions over IRA and Gaddafi (The Guardian, link): "Tony Blair has been challenged by a Commons select committee to explain why he allegedly failed to ask for compensation from Muammar Gaddafi for the victims of Libyan-supplied IRA weapons."

UK: Parting shot: Prison inspector steps down with last blast at Grayling (politics.co.uk, link): " The prison system is declining in safety and conditions with more threats on the horizon, the outgoing prisons inspector has warned.

Nick Hardwick, who is stepping down later this year, issued a parting shot to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and, in particular, former justice secretary Chris Grayling in a series of media interviews over the weekend.

Speaking to the influential blog Prison UK, Hardwick pinned the blame for overcrowded and deteriorating prisons directly on the MoJ.

"My time as chief inspector has coincided with a deterioration in safety and conditions in prison," he said."

UK: Prisons inspector Nick Hardwick: ‘You shouldn’t do this job for long because you get used to things you shouldn’t’ (The Guardian, link): "The outgoing chief inspector of prisons is explaining why he is so keen to get out of the job. It’s not the budget fights Nick Hardwick had with the Ministry of Justice, nor the fact that he wasn’t actively encouraged to apply for another five-year stint. It’s not even the fact that the previous secretary of state for justice, Lord Grayling, “robustly” tried to influence him – as Hardwick revealed to a select committee last week.

No, he simply feared that he was becoming desensitised; that he was getting prison-horror fatigue. “You shouldn’t do this job for too long because you get used to things you shouldn’t get used to,” he says. “I’ll give you an example of something that is objectively shocking, but how do you keep the outrage going? Take the level of self-harm and suicide. On one level, one bit of your brain is thinking, ‘Oh well, they’ve only had two suicides since we were last here, good.’ On another level, that is appalling.”"

UK: Stripped of UK citizenship by Theresa May in 2012, former Briton Mahdi Hashi now jailed by New York judge for al Shabaab terror charges (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, link): "Former British citizen Mahdi Hashi was yesterday sentenced to nine years in prison at a New York court for supporting the terrorist organisation al Shabaab, three years after being secretly taken to the US from a Djibouti jail.

Hashi, 26, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2012 by Theresa May, has spent the past three years in solitary confinement in a New York prison. He had pleaded guilty in May last year to conspiring to provide material support to al Shabaab in Somalia several years earlier."

UK-EU: UK referendum: Prime Minister Cameron visits European Parliament (European Parliament, link): "Welcoming UK Prime Minister David Cameron to Brussels today 29 January, President Martin Schulz noted that, as co-legislator, the European Parliament will have a key role to play in the success of any initiatives for EU reforms resulting from negotiations. Their meeting revolved around UK demands for changes to its relationship with Europe ahead of a referendum on the country's membership of the EU. The British vote will also be on the agenda of the upcoming EU summit on 18-19 February."

News Digest (29.1.16)

DENMARK: Danish inmates should have more access to mobile phones, says support group (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The prisoner support group Kriminalforsorgsforeningen believes that restricting mobile phone for all inmates is the wrong way to go.

Kriminalforsorgsforeningen chairperson John Hatting was speaking to DR Nyheder following reports that Søren Pind, the justice minister, will start a number of initiatives to counter mobile phones being smuggled into prisoners.

It was revealed yesterday that four inmates serving time for their involvement in last February’s attacks on Krudttønden and a Copenhagen synagogue have had access to seven mobile phones at different times."

DENMARK: Precrime arrests soaring in Denmark (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The number of ‘preventative arrests’ – taking suspects into custody before they commit a crime, which has been permitted since 2004 – has soared in the last three years."

E-voting won't solve the problem of voter apathy (Open Rights Group, link): "As the old English proverb has it “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Such thoughts spring to mind with the launch of the report Secure Voting by campaigning group WebRoots Democracy. WebRoots are volunteers who ‘campaign for the introduction of online voting in Local and General Elections’. We know where they stand on this issue, but how informed is their argument that online voting can be secure?"

EU: Human rights at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 (OpenDemocracy, link): "The Council for Europe's commissioner for human rights warns that Europe’s new security-oriented turn restricts fundamental human rights, a success for terrorists who want us to abandon our lifestyle and live in fear. Short interview."

EU: European External Action Service: Statement by the spokesperson on alleged wrongdoings by EUFOR RCA’s personnel in Central African Republic (EEAS, link): "On 19 January 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights informed the EU about allegations of possible sexual exploitation and abuse by some operation personnel of EUFOR RCA, which closed in March 2015."

EU-USA: Data privacy bill in Congress, trans-Atlantic deal elusive (Reuters, link): "A U.S. Senate panel approved measures on Thursday that were causing concern in Europe among negotiators hammering out a new trans-Atlantic pact on electronic data transfer, an issue for many companies such as Facebook and Microsoft.

In a step toward addressing global concerns about data privacy, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation, headed next to the full Senate for a vote, that would give some Europeans the right to sue in the United States over allegations of electronic data privacy violations.

But amendments were added at the last minute that raised questions from the European Union in Brussels."

FRANCE: Top French court rejects suspending state of emergency (France 24, link): "The Conseil d’État, France’s highest court on administrative justice, on Wednesday rejected an appeal to suspend a state of emergency imposed after the November 13 Paris attacks.

The appeal, filed by the Paris-based Human Rights League (known by its French acronym, LDH)) suggested that if the state of emergency could not be suspended, the Conseil d’État should at the very least suspend some of its measures, such as house searches and the ban on public gatherings."

HUNGARY: Socialists: Fidesz using Communist era style show trials to increase popularity (Politics.hu, link): "The Socialist Party on Thursday said the Fidesz party is organising “show trials” reminiscent of methods used in Hungary’s “darkest dictatorship” to increase its popularity. Gergely Bárándy, the Socialist deputy head of Parliament’s legislative committee,told a press conference that the embezzlement trial of Miklós Hagyó, in which the former Socialist deputy mayor of Budapest was given two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, revealed that charges against Hagyó “were based on lies” and that he never received bribes. Hagyó was accused of running a criminal gang and causing huge damages to municipal public transport company BKV in the years before August 2008. He was acquitted of the main corruption charges but the court ruled that he had instigated embezzlement."

LIBYA: Einsteinian insanity: momentum grows to bomb Libya again (Drone Wars UK, link): "Despite the catastrophic effects of the 2011 military intervention, momentum seems to be growing among western governments for further air strikes in Libya, this time against ISIS."

UK: Drones in four near-misses at major UK airports, air investigators reveal (The Guardian, link): "Drones almost collided with planes near major UK airports in four separate recent incidents, including one near-miss with a passenger jet taking off from London Stansted.

The pilot of a Boeing 737 passenger jet taking off from Stansted in September said a 6ft (2-metre) long remote-controlled plane pass less than 15ft above its path, at 4,000ft, in controlled airspace where any drone flight is illegal."

UK: Fears Over More Powers For Police Volunteers (Sky News, link): "A move to give police volunteers more powers is dangerous, the body which represents rank-and-file officers has warned.

The criticism by the Police Federation is in response to an announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May that police chiefs would get the power to give more responsibility to support staff and unpaid helpers, without becoming a special constable.

It will open the way for members of the public, who are experts in computing or accountancy, to be recruited to help tackle cyber or financial crime." And see: Probationers and specials could be issued with taser (Police Oracle, free account required)

UK: For richer, not for poorer (The Economist, link): "THE Conservative Party promised ahead of its election victory in 2010 that it would bring annual net migration below 100,000 a year. As the economy has grown, sucking in foreign workers, the government has conspicuously failed to meet this goal: net migration in the year to June 2015 was 336,000, a record. However, one small but socially significant subsection has declined and remained low: immigration by Britons’ foreign spouses."

UK: 4 February 2016, London: Free Public Lecture: FREE HER! Women Political Prisoners (Haldane Society, link)

UK: Heterosexual couple lose civil partnership court challenge (BBC News, link): "A heterosexual couple who want to enter into a civil partnership have lost a legal challenge at London's High Court.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, from London, were told in 2014 that they could not enter into a civil partnership because they were a man and a woman.

They brought a legal challenge, saying the law discriminated against them."

UK: Home Office lost its workers' completed security vetting forms (The Register, link): "The Home Office has admitted to The Register that among its data breach incidents last year was one in which security vetting documents disappeared from within secured government premises.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Register has learned that the Home Office – responsible for the UK's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5 – lost documents containing "sensitive personal information relating to security vetting." In a separate incident, at least one birth certificate was lost."

UK-USA: Report: US and UK spied on Israeli drones for years (AP, link): "U.S and British intelligence cracked the codes of Israeli drones operating in the Middle East and monitored their surveillance feeds for almost 20 years, according to documents leaked by an American whistleblower and published in international media on Friday.

Reports by the German daily Der Spiegel and the investigative website The Intercept said the details emerged from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about U.S. government surveillance in 2013."

News Digest (25.1.16)

EU: Hungary foreign minister makes comments at lecture in Bulgaria capital (Focus Information Agency, link): "Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto, spoke Thursday at a lecture delivered at the Central Military Club in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, FOCUS News Agency reported."

EU: Internet and public safety (European Commission, link): "During the Internet Governance week at the end of January 2016, key stakeholders from all over Europe and beyond will gather in Brussels for an intense round of events, meetings and debates.

On Thursday 28 January, the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs will host a meeting of the recently created Public Safety Working Group of the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN. This whole-day meeting will bring together law enforcement and public safety organisations as well as private sector representatives to advance cooperation on the ICANN's policies that have an impact on public safety."

French police foiled another Paris terror attack, says minister (The Guardian, link): "Islamic terrorists planned to attack another concert in Paris and carry out a mass killing in the city streets, the French interior minister has said as he defended the government’s decision to continue the state of emergency imposed after the November attacks."

ITALY: Moroccan 'foreign fighter' nabbed in Calabria (ANSAmed, link): "talian police on Monday arrested a Moroccan 'foreign fighter' near the Calabrian town of Cosenza.

Hamil Mehdi, a 25-year-old street vendor, denied being a member of ISIS and said he had recently visited Turkey "only to pray".

Cosenza police chief Luigi Liguori said anti-terrorism DIGOS law enforcement agents had been trailing Mehdi since last July, after Turkish authorities blocked him at the Istanbul airport and sent him back to Italy."

Poland: Audit finds secret police unit monitoring journalists (index, link): "A recent audit by the bureau of internal affairs (BSW) has uncovered two informal press surveillance units of the Polish police that were set up to monitor journalists in connection with the “tape scandal” for one year between 2014-15."

UK: FOI should apply to prisons and parking tickets, even if contractors hold the information, says Campaign (Campaign for Freedom of Information, link): "Information about prison attacks, penalty fares on London Overground, whistleblowing policies in the NHS and parking tickets has all been withheld under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act because this information was held by public authority contractors and not by the authorities themselves."

UK: Forthcoming reforms to human rights law must not weaken protection (Council of Europe, link): "“The repeatedly delayed launch of the consultation process for repeal of the Human Rights Act has created much speculation and an atmosphere of anxiety and concern in civil society and in some parts of the devolved administrations. There is a real fear of regression in terms of rights’ protection in the United Kingdom” said today Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, at the end of his six day visit to the country, which focused on the government’s forthcoming plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and create a revised Bill of Rights, as well as the implementation of the few remaining judgments from the European Court of Human Rights."

UK: Heathrow climate protesters found guilty of aggravated trespass (The Guardian, link): "Thirteen protesters who chained themselves to railings at the UK’s largest airport have been told it is almost inevitable they will be jailed for their actions.

Members of the Plane Stupid campaign group cut a hole in a fence and made their way on to the north runway at Heathrow in July last year. They were found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome."

UK: Jail kingpins 'test' new legal highs on vulnerable prisoners known as ''spice pigs'' (Mirror, link): " Jail drug lords are testing new legal highs on vulnerable inmates they mockingly call “spice pigs”.

A report reveals dealers give a substance to lags who are weak or in their debt to see how strong or dangerous it is before distributing it – and some desperate addicts are happy to test them as freebies."

UK: Training course: Facing a hostile environment: the impact of the Immigration Act 2014 and the Immigration Bill 2015-2016 - 2 Mar 16 (PM) (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, link): "This course will offer an overview and update of the changes brought by the Immigration Act 2014 and planned by the Immigration Bill 2015-2016, and an opportunity for discussion amongst practitioners and third sector workers offering advice to migrants."

UN: Mind the gap: A review of the right to privacy at the UN in 2015 (Privacy International, link): "In 2015 the United Nations' human rights mechanisms significantly increased their capacity to monitor and assess states' compliance with their obligations around the right to privacy. Notably, the Human Rights Council established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, filling a significant gap in the international human rights protection system. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Committee put surveillance laws and practices in a range of countries under close scrutiny, making key recommendations to remedy violations of the right to privacy, particularly in the context of communications surveillance.

These positive developments are in sharp contrast to the legislative expansion of surveillance powers that are contrary to human rights standards. At the same time that the UN has increased its attention on the right to privacy, some governments have been adopting laws which, in many cases, seek to legalise post facto the privacy invasive practices of their security services. A spate of new laws that expand digital surveillance powers and reduce safeguards below the standards of international human rights law have been adopted, or are in advanced stages of drafting, in countries such as Australia, China, Denmark, France, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, to name only a few."

News Digest (22.1.16)

EU: Davos elites fear weakened European Union (Reuters, link): "Fear of a severe weakening of the European Union is the hot topic in the corridors and executive suites of Davos this year with business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum alarmed at closing borders and the risk of a British exit."

EU: Safe European Home – by Sarah Kay (Euro Rights Blog, link): "Two specific areas of EU coordination could prove crucial in the future, and need no part in the race to enact further legislation and respond to the terrorism threat: the already existing role of Europol, and the Schengen Information System (SIS), currently shaken by immediate decisions to curb travel within the EU. Both offer strong solutions that teeter on the edge of human rights violations, specifically in the right to privacy and freedom of movement. They however offer opportunities that need no derogation and can be subjected to judicial review by EU courts."

FINLAND: 'Soldiers of Odin' street patrol harass expats in Helsinki (Helsinki Times, link): "A group of three expat engineers were harassed by a Finnish man identifying himself as a member of the self proclaimed vigilante group, Soldiers of Odin near Helsinki last weekend. The immigrants, who do not want their names to be published in fear of reprisal, explain their ordeal:"

How trade deals threaten democracy and climate (EUobserver, link): "If there was any doubt that international trade agreements threatened both democracy and the climate, then thank the TransCanada Corporation for making it abundantly clear.

Less than a week into the new year, and less than a month after the international climate talks in Paris, the Keystone XL pipeline developers are demonstrating exactly who the real beneficiaries of international trade deals are – corporations."

Italian man faces charges for fabricating foiled Isis attack (The Local, link): " An Italian man is facing charges for claiming that the hactivist group, Anonymous, had foiled a New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in Italy.

The 29-year-old from Aosta took to Twitter on December 28th to announce that the group, a loosely connected international network of hactivists, had foiled the attack by Isis extremists."

UK to permanently station 1,000 military personnel in Poland from 2017 (The Guardian, link): "Britain will permanently station 1,000 military personnel in Poland from next year, Poland’s defence minister has said late, in an apparent contradiction of an announcement by Britain about plans for temporary exercises on Polish soil."

UK: Abuse survivors ‘re-victimised’ through family court process (Law Gazette, link): "Victims of domestic abuse should not endure the trauma of being cross-examined by their abusers in court, a national charity has recommended in a study on child deaths."

UK: David Cameron calls for action on 'spurious claims' against Iraq veterans (The Guardian, link): "David Cameron has ordered ministers to take action to clamp down on lawyers pursuing claims against veterans of the Iraq war.

Ministers on the national security council have been given the task of drawing up options to end “spurious claims”, including measures to curb the use of “no win, no fee” arrangements and the requirement that legal aid claimants must have lived in the UK for 12 months."

UK: Society demands clarity on legal aid contracting (Law Gazette, link): "The Law Society has issued a plea for clarity on criminal legal aid contracting amid speculation that the government is on the brink of abandoning the troubled tender process."

UK-RUSSIA: Key findings: who killed Alexander Litvinenko, how and why (The Guardian, link): "Sir Robert Owen’s report into Alexander Litvinenko’s death runs to 338 pages. Written in clear prose, with the odd moment of dry wit, it is a damning indictment of the Russian president and his state, and of the two, sometimes hapless, poisoners - Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi - who followed its secret orders."

News Digest 18.1.16

Danish police allowed to scan thousands of licence plates (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The Danish Ministry of Justice has approved a controversial bill that allows police to survey up to 600,000 vehicle registration plates a day, reports IT-magazine Version 2."

DENMARK: Closed doors at hearing for teenager arrested for terrorism (The Copenhagen Post, link): "Both the prosecutor and defence lawyer involved in the case of a 15-year-old girl arrested in Kundby in northeast Zealand have agreed that the girl should be charged behind closed doors.

No information is coming out of the court room in Holbæk. The police arrested the girl at a home in Kundby yesterday. According to reports, she was found with explosives and may have been supporting terrorism."

DENMARK: Marked increase in youth radicalisation in Denmark (The Copenhagen Post, link): "The Danish security and intelligence service PET has revealed that increasing numbers of young Danes are becoming radicalised, reports DR.

Crime-prevention centres (SSPs) that focus on children and adolescents have recorded a higher number of radicalised youth cases, and more Danes have been using VINK, the anti-radicalisation hotline operated by Copenhagen Municipality."

ECHR: Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2015 (Strasbourg Observers, link): "Following an annual and cherished tradition, we are hereby launching our poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2015!

As usual, preselecting a limited number of contenders was both fun and hard. There is always room for debate. Always other judgments that deserve a shot at the title. Other judgments to cheer at. And other judgments to boo (somewhat). But we hope you find your champ among our contenders. If not, you can always support an underdog by selecting ‘Other’.

The winners and losers will be announced in about a month."

EU: CONFERENCE: 10 YEARS OF DATA PROTECTION DAY: REVIEW AND PROSPECTS (AEDH, link): "The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH) is celebrating the 10th anniversary Data Protection Day. It will be the opportunity to take testimony from the many stakeholders who have, in their own way, moved forward the principles inherent to this fundamental right. This will also be the opportunity to look to the future and highlight the possible ways of facing the challenges ahead while respecting fundamental rights."

EU: Macedonians Holding Bulgarian Passports Face Fines for Voting in 2014 EU Elections (Novinite, link): "Many Macedonians in possession of Bulgarian passports are facing fines for having voted in the 2014 European Parliament elections.

The Macedonians holding dual citizenship voted in Bulgarian diplomatic missions in Macedonia, including at the Bulgarian embassy in Skopje, without being eligible to do so.

They did not fulfill the criteria for residence which stipulates that in order to be eligible to vote in European Parliament elections they should have lived in Bulgaria or other EU member state for at least three months prior to the date of the elections."

EU: Press seminar: Terrorism: the EU's response (European Parliament, link): "The European Parliament's Press Service is holding a seminar to provide members of the media and institutional representatives the opportunity to look at the EU's response to terrorism. Parliament is starting to discuss new proposals to criminalise travel for terrorist purposes and terrorist financing, to ban certain weapons and restrict the sale of firearms on the black market."

EU: Viviane Reding on TiSA negotiations: “The right to regulate has to be preserved” (European Parliament, link): "The EU and 22 countries, representing 70% of world trade in services, are currently negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). It can’t enter into force with the approval of the Parliament. MEPs are closely following negotiations and have demanded more transparency. The international trade committee votes on a report with recommendations on 14 January. We asked report author Viviane Reding, a Luxembourg member of the EPP group, what will determine Parliament's approval of any deal."

EU-BULGARIA: Deputy PM: Romania to Receive More Positive EU CVM Report than Bulgaria (Novinite, link): "Romania will be assessed more positively than Bulgaria in a EU Commission report on justice and internal affairs, Bulgarian Deputy PM Ekaterina Zaharieva has said.

In an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio, she has admitted Bucharest has performed far better than Bulgaria over the past year with regard to court cases of public interest, high-level corruption, the fight against organized crime."

FRANCE: Almost a third of French 'weary' after a year marked by terrorism (France 24, link): "“Weary”, “morose” and “mistrustful” are the three words French people say best describe their state of mind, according to a new poll, following a year in which a series of terrorist attacks targeted the country."

GERMANY: Police arrest 40 immigrant men in Düsseldorf raid (Deutsche Welle, link): "Düsseldorf authorities have arrested 40 men in a raid on the city's so-called "Maghreb" neighborhood. German officials say men from North Africa have drawn their attention with involvement in criminal activities."

NETHERLANDS: Former Dutch soldier may face charges for killing IS jihadis (Dutch News, link): "A former Dutch commando who has been fighting alongside an armed Kurdish group against IS in Syria has been arrested in the Netherlands.

Jitse A was picked up in Arnhem and is being investigated for his role in killing Islamic State jihadis while fighting with YPG forces, the public prosecution department said in a statement."

NETHERLANDS: KNVB investigates racist chanting at ADO Den Haag match (Dutch News, link): "Official Dutch football association policy on dealing with racist chants may be changed to allow referees or players to leave the pitch without punishment, a KNVB spokesman said on Monday.

Gijs de Jong, who heads the KNVB’s operational affairs department, was speaking after ADO Den Haag fans made monkey noises when Ajax player Riechedly Bazoer had the ball during this weekend’s premier division tie.

‘If the referee or, in this case, Riechedly Bazoer, no long want to play, the match should be halted,’ De Jong told broadcaster Nos."

SPAIN: New Catalan premier admits he lacks backing to declare independence (El País, link): "“Do we have enough strength to proclaim independence with the current parliamentary makeup? Not yet,” said the man who was mayor of Girona until last week, when his name suddenly came up as a replacement for acting premier Artur Mas at the helm of the Catalan government. His last-minute nomination narrowly averted new elections in the region following more than three months of feuding between separatist forces over who should be the next premier."

UK: David Cameron calls on Muslim women to learn English to combat radicalisation (Independent, link): "Much more needs to be done to help Muslim women learn English and integrate more as a key part of the fight against Islamist extremism, David Cameron will say.

Investigations into the 700, mainly young, Muslims who have left the UK to join Isis reveal that in most cases parents had little idea of their children’s radicalisation."

UK: David Cameron says migrant families could be broken up and mothers deported if they fail new English test (The Independent, link): "Families could be broken up and mothers deported after years of living in Britain if they fail a new mandatory English language test, David Cameron has confirmed.

The Prime Minister today outlined plans to language-test all spouses who immigrate join their partner living in Britain two and a half years after they arrive here.

Failing the language test could lead to the new arrival’s right to stay in the UK being revoked and them being sent back to their country of origin, he said."

UK: Landlord checks: “looking for footprints in the dirt” (Migrants' Rights Network, link): "Private landlords are due to start checking the immigration status of prospective tenants from 1 February. Is this the start of a system where we all become unpaid Border Guards in the government's pursuit of tougher immigration controls?"

UK: Police use new tactic to fight terror threat in City of London (Financial Times, link): "Waiting to meet City of London police officials on Blackfriars Bridge to hear about a new crime-fighting technique, the FT stops to jot down a few notes.

Soon enough a police officer, sporting an assault rifle, appears to ask why exactly this reporter is taking notes.

This, it turns out, was an unwitting example of Project Servator at work — a new tactic to make life difficult for terrorists doing their homework, or “hostile reconnaissance” as the police describe it.

It involves using undercover officers trained in behavioural analysis to spot people who might be scoping out sites for a potential terrorist attack. Their expertise is in noticing the subtle, sometimes unconscious ways in which people behave differently when they are stressed or anxious. They are stationed in a certain area just before the appearance of other officers in hi-vis uniforms and sometimes those on horses, with dogs or heavily armed."

UK: ‘We deserve a justice system that is open and transparent’ (The Justice Gap, link): "Campaigners, university criminal appeals units and innocence projects, and lawyers are calling on the government to stop systematically destroying court transcripts after five years preventing victims of miscarriages of justice appealing their convictions."


News Digest 15.1.16

Belgium charges top ‘jihadist expert’ over false affidavit for detainee (Al Arabiya, link): "Belgian prosecutors said Monday they have arrested a high-profile expert on extremist fighters and charged him with providing a suspected extremist with a false affidavit that he was on a de-radicalization course.

Montasser AlDe’emeh runs a centre in Brussels’ gritty Molenbeek district - where several of those who carried out November’s Paris attacks lived - that aims to prevent young Belgians from going to fight in Syria and also help reintegrate those who do so on their return."

Dutch to push intelligence sharing after missed signals in Paris (Al Arabiya, link): "The Netherlands will push for greater sharing of intelligence data, including lists of suspected foreign fighters, at a gathering of global counter-terrorism officials on Monday.

The Dutch, who hold the rotating European Union presidency, circulated a draft outlining the objective to roughly 250 delegates of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) and Anti-ISIS Coalition meeting in The Hague, an official said."

EU: First-ever EU-wide cyber-security rules
backed by Internal Market Committee
(EP press release, pdf): "Firms supplying essential services, e.g. for energy, transport, banking and health, or digital ones, such as search engines and cloud computing, will have to take action to improve their ability to withstand cyber-attacks under new rules approved by Internal Market MEPs on Thursday. These rules, informally agreed by MEPs and Council negotiators on 7 December, were approved by 34 votes to 2. They now need to be endorsed by the Council and the full Parliament."

EU: Top 5 Tech – All you need to know about the Dutch EU Presidency (vieuws, link): "In this special briefing, leading journalist Jennifer Baker picks out the Top 5 Tech priorities that will be discussed by the European institutions under the Dutch EU presidency:" Covers: encryption, smart borders, safe harbour, the digital single market and spectrum reform.

Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing attacks on Kurds (The Guardian, link): "Turkey has been accused of violating academic freedom by rounding up university teachers who signed a petition denouncing military operations against Kurds in the southeast of the country.

Police have detained at least 12 academics over alleged “terror propaganda” after they signed a petition together with more than 1,400 others calling for an end to Turkey’s “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people”."

UK: Film Screening, 18 February 2016: Leave to Remain with QA from Director Bruce Goodison (Queen Mary University of London, link): "Leave to Remain is a provocative coming of age story about a young Afghan boy who’s arrival sets off a chain of events that jeopardises the future of those closest to him. Unwittingly he plays an unimaginable game of chance where winning and getting Leave to Remain to stay in the UK is not always what it seems, and all hope hinges on just how good a story he can tell."

UK: Phone Hackers: Britain's Secret Surveillance (Vice News, link): "IMSI catchers are portable surveillance tools used for spying on thousands of phones in a targeted area, tracking their location and even intercepting calls, messages, and data. They are supposed to help identify serious criminals, but cannot operate without monitoring innocent people too.

UK police have IMSI catchers, but they refuse to tell the public how and when they are used. This has privacy campaigners worried. And, even if the state is using them sparingly, what if criminals also have access to the technology?

VICE News searches London for IMSI catchers, then goes shopping at a state security fair, and finally finds a shady technology company who'll sell us the spy gear."

Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016 (OpenDemocracy, link): "Commentary misses the point: the legitimacy of Trump or Le Pen comes not from the sudden appeal of a new brand of right-wing populism, but their legitimisation by mainstream politics."


News Digest 13.1.16

EU: TAXE: GUE/NGL member sues European Commission over document access (Fabio de Masi press release, link): "A legal study commissioned by GUE/NGL finds that the European Commission violated EU law when not disclosing documents, such as its minutes of the European Council's Codeof Conduct Group on business taxation, and by imposing restrictions on MEPs' access to documents."

FRANCE: Council of Europe sees French state of emergency risks (Yahoo! News, link): "Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - France's decision to install a state of emergency following the deadly November 13 attacks in Paris could constitute a "threat" to democracy, a European Council human rights observer said Tuesday." And: Etat d'urgence : le Conseil de l'Europe évoque un risque de "dérives" (Europe 1, link)

UK: Ministers accused of trying to ‘steamroll’ surveillance laws (Politics Home, link): "The Government has been accused of attempting to “steamroll” new surveillance laws through parliament without granting MPs sufficient time to scrutinise the proposals."

UK: NUJ criticises Daily Telegraph for monitoring journalists' desk time (The Guardian, link): "The Daily Telegraph has been criticised by the National Union of Journalists for carrying out “surveillance” on its journalists by installing devices that monitor whether they are at their desks.

Journalists at the newspaper’s London HQ arrived on Monday morning to find the boxes, which track whether someone is at their desk using heat and motion sensors, BuzzFeed reported. Telegraph management emailed staff at lunchtime, saying the monitors would be in place for four weeks to help plan measures to improve energy efficiency."

UK: Ofsted speaks to G4S Medway young offenders centre inmates over abuse claims (BBC News, link): "A team from Ofsted have spoken to inmates at a Kent young offenders centre following allegations staff assaulted young people there.

Officials visited the Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) in Rochester, managed by security firm G4S on Monday."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Solidarity demo: Friday 15 January 2016, 1pm, High Court, London (Police Spies Out of Lives, link). For detail see: Undercover policing: women say “enough is enough, release the names and open the files” (link): "On Friday 15th January 2016 a legal case over undercover police relationships will return to the High Court, in a renewed battle to force the police to follow normal court procedure and issue disclosure documents in the case."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: The Met Police must suspend domestic extremism unit now (Undercover Research Group): "The shocking story of deliberate destruction of police surveillance on Baroness Jenny Jones throws into stark relief what we all feared – the Metropolitan Police are going to obstruct the public inquiry into undercover policing."


News Digest 11.1.16

EU: Poland invites German ambassador for talks on politicians' 'anti-Polish remarks' (Deutsche Welle, link): "Warsaw has requested the German ambassador come to the foreign ministry for a meeting on Monday. The move comes after Poland's justice minister dismissed EU backlash over what critics call a crackdown on press freedom. "

EU: Let there be light (New Europe, link): "We return to a dossier of an organization that received EU funding and was audited. Somehow, the audit disappeared (well, was closed by the European Commission). Nevertheless the audit paperwork, did not disappear. For today, we spare you the details of the case.

We bring forward to you two pages of the audit report that we received from the Commission following a request through Regulation 1049/2001. The document we were provided with, appears to the right. This is the first of the two pages, both of which were equally black."

EU-SLOVENIA: Interior minister says systematic border control tough task (STA, link): "Maribor, 9 January - Interior Minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar has told the daily Vecer that a potential introduction of systematic control on the external borders of the Schengen zone, with EU citizens also being under stricter scrutiny, would represent a tough logistic task for the Slovenian police."

Fiction: Breaking Unbreakable Encryption (Monday Note, link): "As discussed in a recent Monday Note titled Let’s Outlaw Math, electronic messages that are encoded with modern encryption techniques are truly indecipherable by interlopers, it doesn’t matter whether they’re criminals or governments. The latter have attempted to legislate backdoors that only they can use (to protect us, of course), but there’s a danger: These “golden keys” could fall into the wrong hands. In any case, a backdoor only works where it’s been installed; unbreakable public domain encryption is available to everyone, terrorists and traffickers included.

So… Case closed, good guys and bad guys alike can “safely” use unbreakable codes?

Not so fast."

FRANCE: Paris assailant had seven identities but is yet unknown (New Europe, link): "The lone assailant who attacked a police station in Paris with a butcher’s knife in Barbès neighborhood on Thursday, January 7th had a criminal record. He had arrests for drug dealing, assault, firearm possession, and sexual harassment. But, his identity is yet to be established with confidence."

GERMANY: Papers criticized for ‘racist’ Cologne covers (The Local, link): " Two of Germany’s leading news publications have been heavily criticized for using imagery described as ‘disgustingly sexist and racist' to portray the Cologne sexual assaults."

GERMANY: Racist attacks ratchet up tension in Cologne (The Local, link): " A mob of men attacked a group of Pakistanis in the Cologne city centre on Sunday evening. A few minutes later a Syrian was also attacked in what appear to be racially motivated attacks.

The group of around 20 men assaulted six Pakistanis in the early evening. Two of the Pakistanis sustained serious injuries and had to be brought to hospital, police report."

Happy All the Time (Lapham's Quarterly, link): "As biometric tracking takes over the modern workplace, the old game of labor surveillance is finding new forms."

IRELAND: Suspects who claim legal aid face having their assets seized (Herald.ie, link): "The Legal Aid Board is to be given CAB-style powers that could see suspects forced to repay legal aid bills footed by the taxpayer.

Radical new proposals by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will also apply to criminals who are planning future appeals against their convictions.

The State spends around €50m a year providing free legal aid, which goes towards the cost of hiring solicitors and barristers, witness expenses and technical and medical reports."

SPAIN: 70,000 people march in Bilbao in support of Basque prisoners [70.000 personas en la marcha de apoyo a presos en Bilbao] (Digaonal Periodico, link): 70,000 people took to the Streets of Bilbao to call for the end of the policy of dispersion and respect for human rights for some 400 Basque prisoners in 70 prisons across all of the Spanish state, France and Portugal, reports Diagonal Periodico.

UK drone and air strikes in 2015 – a look at the data (Drone Wars UK, link): "Analysing updates published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of RAF operations in Iraq and Syria give something of an insight into the use of drones and aircraft for strikes by British forces in 2015. The updates do not give a complete picture as some strikes are omitted (for example the targeted killing of Reyaad Khan) and the number of strikes recorded in the reports do not match officially published figures. Nevertheless they do give a broad indication of British air operations against ISIS."

UK: Iraq abuse inquiry firm referred to SDT (Law Gazette, link): "One of two firms investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for its role in allegations of British army abuses in Iraq revealed today that it had been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. London personal injury and clinical negligence firm Leigh Day said that it 'strongly denies' allegations made by the SRA."

UK: Nearly 300 British veterans face investigation over alleged Iraq war crimes (The Guardian, link): "Nearly 300 British personnel who served in Iraq have been contacted by investigators looking into allegations of war crimes, with some of them facing interrogation on their doorsteps, officials have said."

UK: Taimour Lay on Do It Yourself fresh asylum and human rights claims: video (Free Movement, link): "A DIY approach is difficult in immigration law. Hardly a year goes by without the higher courts complaining about “a degree of complexity which even the Byzantine emperors would have envied” [as lamented by Jackson LJ in 2013]. This is even more of a problem as legal aid is removed from the jurisdiction for everything but international protection and judicial review – and the “Residence Test” may well put paid to the latter."

USA: Eye in the sky computes your emotions (USA Today, link): "Bill Hedgcock knows it sounds a little creepy.

Tucked into the white ceiling tiles, the ceiling camera he had installed at the Pappajohn Business Building at the University of Iowa scans the faces of all who pass under it and instantly calculates their moods — collecting readings for joy, frustration, confusion, fear, anger and sadness."

USA: The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score’ (The Washington Post, link): "While officers raced to a recent 911 call about a man threatening his ex-girlfriend, a police operator in headquarters consulted software that scored the suspect’s potential for violence the way a bank might run a credit report.

The program scoured billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social- media postings. It calculated his threat level as the highest of three color-coded scores: a bright red warning."

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