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January 2018

Rule of law in Poland: Civil Liberties MEPs urge EU member states to act swiftly (EP press release, link):

"MEPs back call for Poland to be declared at risk of breaching EU values

- MEPs’ concerns: separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights

- Treaties give power to EU leaders to act to stop a EU country from breaching EU values"

EU: Jo Leinen – Visegrad Four ‘attack European democracy’ (euractiv, link):

"The recent statement by the Visegrad Four on the future of Europe is “an attack on European democracy”, Jo Leinen, a respected federalist MEP (S&D, Germany), said in a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday (30 January), ahead of a key summit in February focusing on the 2019 European elections.

Leinen reacted on his blog to the statement by the four Central European countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) adopted at a meeting in Budapest last Friday."

See: VIsegard Statement (pdf)

Austria to dissolve neo-Nazi fraternity after songbook scandal (DW, link)

"Austria's chancellor has pledged to ban a controversial student fraternity for promoting neo-Nazi ideas. The group faced widespread criticism after reports revealed it had printed songbooks celebrating the Holocaust."

UK: Court of Appeal rules Government surveillance regime IS unlawful (Liberty, link):

"The Government is breaking the law by collecting the nation's internet activity and phone records and letting public bodies grant themselves access to these personal details with no suspicion of serious crime and no independent sign-off – meaning significant parts of its latest Snoopers’ Charter are effectively unlawful.

Judges at the Court of Appeal have today backed a challenge by MP Tom Watson, represented by Liberty, to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) – a previous law covering state surveillance.

DRIPA expired at the end of 2016 – but the Government replicated and vastly expanded the same powers in the Investigatory Powers Act, which started to come into force in 2017. Liberty is challenging this latest law in a major separate case, to be heard in the High Court later this year."

See the appeal judgment: Watson and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (30 January 2018, pdf)

UK: INVESTIGATORY POWERS ACT: Liberty’s response to the Government’s consultation on the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union on 21 December 2016 regarding the retention of communications data (proposed amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 and Communications Data Code of Practice) (link to pdf)

"In the interests of protecting fundamental rights in the UK and upholding the adequacy of the UK’s data laws to meet EU standards, the Government should implement serious reforms to the current data retention and acquisition framework in full compliance with the letter of the CJEU’s judgment, and the important individual privacy rights that underlie that judgment."

IRELAND: Soros group accused Sipo of mischaracterising Amnesty grant (The Irish Times, link):

"The George Soros-funded organisation behind a controversial €137,000 donation to Amnesty International Ireland has accused the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) of mischaracterising its communications over the grant.

The donation from the Open Society Foundations, the human rights campaigning group funded by the Hungarian-American billionaire, is at the centre of a standoff between Amnesty and the Government’s ethics watchdog.

Sipo has told Amnesty to return the money to OSF arguing it has contravened the 1997 Electoral Act.

The legislation prohibits foreign donations from third-party organisations for “political purposes.”

Amnesty maintains that the grant, which Sipo had no issue with in 2016, was not for “political purposes” but for “a human rights purpose” saying that it was used to fund its “My Body My Rights” campaign for women’s rights and seeking support to repeal the Eighth Amendment that bans abortion in Ireland. "

EU: MEPs want criminal records database for non-EU nationals (The Parliament, link):

"The legislation was approved on Thursday by Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee.

It will establish a database of third country nationals whose criminal record details are held by an EU country.

At present legal authorities across the EU exchange information via the European criminal records information service (ECRIS), but if, for instance, Belgium were to arrest and prosecute an individual from outside the bloc, they currently have no way of knowing if they might have a criminal record in Greece.

The new database will close the loophole by providing details of where such information is held and identification details such as fingerprints and facial images.

The new centralised data base will complement ECRIS, which EU countries already use to exchange information on previous convictions of EU citizens."

See: European Data Protection Supervisor Opinion on the proposal for a Regulation on ECRIS-TCN (pdf)

BREXIT: EU withdrawal bill needs major rewrites, Lords committee says (The Guardian, link):

"The EU withdrawal bill is fundamentally flawed and needs to be rewritten in several ways, peers have said, as the House of Lords prepares to debate the legislation this week.

The Lords constitution committee said that the bill as it currently stands risked “undermining legal certainty” and should be substantially changed, even though it has already been voted through the House of Commons.

The bill will be subject to fierce debate when it reaches the Lords on Tuesday and Wednesday, with remain-supporting peers expected to vote for a motion of regret that the public is not getting another say over Brexit."

See the report: House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (pdf)

Council of Europe: Commissioner for Human Rights: Annual Activity Report 2017 (pdf):

"In the introduction to last year’s annual report, I claimed that 2016 would be remembered as a turning point for human rights protection in Europe. In a positive scenario, 2016 would be remembered as the year we hit bottom and began to bounce back. In a darker scenario, it would mark the beginning of the end of the post-war human rights system. Needless to say, there were few signs of an upturn in 2017.

What more can be done to arrest the negative trend? How can we turn the tide? In circumstances of serious backsliding in certain countries and issue areas, the Council of Europe needs to reinforce its core “business” - rule of law and human rights monitoring and the provision of advice. It needs to demonstrate to member states the benefits and the added value of this work. While navigating an extremely challenging environment in the short and medium-term, we also need to think strategically. In my view, one key strategic priority should be children and youth. Otherwise, Europe in the near future may lack a critical mass of people with a willingness and ability to defend Europe’s acquis of human rights, tolerance, and transnational co-operation.

My concern stems from the fact that children and youth were among the hardest hit by the economic crisis in many countries. Child poverty and youth unemployment were among the most widespread side effects of austerity policies. If we do not address these ills more effectively, what can we expect of many in this generation in the future? What will Europe mean to them, if anything? Why should they care about European integration, solidarity, even democracy? We cannot continue to leave so many young people behind." (emphasis added)

And see: Transcript of oral presentation of the report: Annual activity report 2017 by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (pdf)

UK: Sara Khan is not the issue, it is how the state treats radicalisation (Middle East Eye, link):

"The appointment of Sara Khan as chair of the UK's Commission for Countering Extremism headed by the Home Office has raised eyebrows.

There are many within the Muslim community who argue that the appointment sends a chilling signal that the status quo will remain and that the existing dominance of the pro-"Prevent", pro-assimilation and indeed, the delegitimisation of Muslim resistant politics will become the norm.

Others say that a champion of human rights, community engagement and a challenging voice who is both Muslim and British can only be a good thing in a climate where there is a real lack of coherence as to what the problems or the solutions might be.

The fact of the matter is that it is too early to tell exactly how things will pan out; however, recent history has suggested that things may not go well at all."

See: New counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan faces calls to quit (BBC News, link)

EU’s move into military research divides European Parliament (Science|Business, link):

"A European Parliament meeting of MEPs and defence industry representatives on Monday descended into a heated exchange over money allocated to the EU’s first ever defence research programme.

At the heart of the clash was the question of whether the defence industry should get money from Brussels to perform research. The debate pitted MEPs from different parties against aerospace representatives and EU member states, revealing fissures over the EU’s historical move towards deeper defence integration.

Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer condemned the plan to fund, develop and deploy new high-end defence technologies. The defence industry is “a customer in a bar asking for more beer, and just dishing out money is not what we should be doing,” he said. "

German federal police use Trojan virus to evade phone encryption (Deutsche Welle, link):

"Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is using a Trojan virus as a tool to access data of suspected individuals on their smartphones before the information becomes encrypted by apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp, according to a report by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters WDR and NDR.

The BKA uses the controversial software, which it refers to as "source telecommunication surveillance," to take advantage of security gaps that exist unbeknownst to the public."

UK: British government’s new ‘anti-fake news’ unit has been tried before – and it got out of hand
(The Conversation, link):

"The decision to set up a new National Security Communications Unit to counter the growth of “fake news” is not the first time the UK government has devoted resources to exploit the defensive and offensive capabilities of information. A similar thing was tried in the Cold War era, with mixed results.


Details of the new anti-fake news unit are vague, but may mark a return to Britain’s Cold War past and the work of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD), which was set up in 1948 to counter Soviet propaganda.... The history of IRD’s work is important to future debates on government strategy in countering “fake news”. The unit’s effectiveness is certainly open to debate. In many cases, IRD’s work reinforced the anti-Soviet views of some, while doing little, if anything, to influence general opinion.

In 1976, one Foreign Office official even admitted that IRD’s work could do “more harm than good to institutionalise our opposition” and was “very expensive in manpower and is practically impossible to evaluate in cost effectiveness” – a point worth considering today.

IRD’s rapid expansion from anti-communist unit to protecting Britain’s interests across the globe also shows that it’s hard to manage information campaigns. What may start out as a unit to counter “fake news” could easily spiral out of control, especially given the rapidly expanding online battlefield."

See: UK: Downing Street announces new unit to tackle 'fake news' (The Telegraph, link)

Poland moves to make phrase 'Polish death camps' a criminal offence (The Independent, link):

"Polish politicians have given the green light to a bill to criminalise statements which suggest Poland bears responsibility for crimes committed by Nazi Germany.

Phrases such as “Polish death camps” would be made a criminal offence, punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine.

The bill will also make it illegal to deny the murder of around 100,000 Poles by units in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during the Second World War."

Anti-fraud office investigates EU asylum agency director (Politico, link):

"The executive director of the EU asylum agency is under investigation by the bloc’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, a document obtained by POLITICO shows.

It states that José Carreira is being investigated for alleged misconduct in procurement procedures, irregularities in management of human resources and possible breaches of data protection at the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

The two-page document was drafted by an investigator at OLAF. According to the text, the probe concerns “suspicions of misconduct by the executive director of EASO.” The investigation takes place “at least — but not exclusively — in the framework of the EU support in response to the refugee crisis in Greece.”

A spokesperson for EASO confirmed that the fraud office’s investigators had visited the agency on October 9 and again last week."

UK: Austria’s far-right fraternities brace for protests at annual ball (The Guardian, link):

"Students who want to be accepted into Austria’s secretive student fraternities have to prove their bravery by facing down the razor-sharp blade of an opponent’s sabre in a fencing duel.

But in a week in which Austria’s burschenschaften have come under assault from newspaper exposés and feminist pranksters, some of the country’s steadfast frat boys have started to flinch.

Austria’s vice-chancellor and Freedom party (FPÖ) leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, is expected to don the pill-box cap of his Vandalia fraternity on Friday night for an annual ball at Vienna’s imperial Hofburg Palace that will gather members of rightwing student societies from across Austria.

Yet days earlier, Strache had to insist “fraternities have nothing to do with the FPÖ”, after prosecutors started to investigate the songbook of one of his party colleague’s fraternities for containing lyrics mocking the Holocaust."

UK: From government to the arms and security industry: The Revolving Door (CAAT, link):

"- Every year ministers, civil servants and military chiefs pass through the “revolving door” between government and the arms and security industries.
- The allure of lucrative future jobs represents a serious conflict of interest for our public servants."

UK: DECLASSIFIED (Mark Curtis, link):

"This is an expanding collection of declassified documents on UK foreign policy. It includes: original government documents and transcripts from the National Archives in London; articles by Mark that analyse these declassified files; and media articles that cover such files.

The aim is to eventually build a fully comprehensive and searchable collection of declassified British documents and articles – to make these much more accessible to the public than currently. The aim is also to document material gained from Freedom of Information answers by the government and eventually to systematically submit FOI requests. In addition, the project seeks to encourage and support researchers to undertake research at the National Archives to publish more documents."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23-28.1.18)

NSA Deletes “Honesty” and “Openness” From Core Values (The Intercept, link):

"The National Security Agency maintains a page on its website that outlines its mission statement. But earlier this month, the agency made a discreet change: It removed “honesty” as its top priority.

Since at least May 2016, the surveillance agency had featured honesty as the first of four “core values” listed on NSA.gov, alongside “respect for the law,” “integrity,” and “transparency.” The agency vowed on the site to “be truthful with each other.”

On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page – which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive – and replaced it with a new version. Now, the parts about honesty and the pledge to be truthful have been deleted. The agency’s new top value is “commitment to service,” which it says means “excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.”

EU: Consumer advocates outraged after top court rejects class action lawsuit against Facebook (euractiv, llink):

"Consumer advocates have urged the European Commission to propose legislation allowing for collective EU lawsuits after the bloc’s top court rejected a class action against Facebook on Thursday (25 January).

The US tech giant celebrated a partial victory after the European Court of Justice ruled that Austrian privacy lawyer Max Schrems could not represent 25,000 consumers in a lawsuit against the company."

See: CJEU: Press release (pdf)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Minister Informal Meeting, Sofia, Bulgaria - 25-26 January 2018:

Media Advisory (pdf)

"The informal meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs ministers will be held on 25-26 January 2018 in Sofia. The meeting will start on 25 January with the home affairs working sessions, dedicated to migration and asylum, and to borders and security. On 26 January the meeting will continue with the justice working sessions, dedicated to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and to the Brussels IIa Regulation (Recast)."

EU court: Asylum seekers must not be forced to take 'gay tests' (BBC news, link):

"Asylum seekers must not be subjected to psychological tests to determine whether they are homosexual, EU's top court has ruled. "

UK: Brexit: Home Affairs Committee: Oral evidence: Home Office delivery of Brexit: policing and security co-operation

The Home Affairs Select Committee is carrying out an Inquiry into the effect of Brexit on Justice and Home Affairs issues. The last Oral evidence session (pdf) was on 23 January 2018. The Committee Chair asked Mr NIck Hurd (Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, Home Office):

"Q117 Chair: Can you confirm it is still the Government’s intention to stay in all of the existing information databases?

Mr Nick Hurd: Correct."

Eugenics, free speech, double standards (IRR News, link): by Sophia Siddiqui:

"Discredited racial theories are discussed in secret academic forums, while Muslim and BAME students face extreme surveillance on campus. So why the double standard?"

GERMANY: Secret mobile phone surveillance by German authorities on the rise: report (The Local.de, link):

" German security authorities are increasingly using mobile phones to secretly locate suspects, according to a media report published on Tuesday.

More and more, in order to determine the location of suspects, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) are using mobile phones to send out hidden text messages, according to a report in Handelsblatt.

In the second half of 2017 alone, the BfV sent out around 180,000 such messages. In the same period the previous year, the BfV did this about 144,000 times.

By using this technique, security authorities can find out exactly where mobile phones are and create profiles of a suspect’s movements. Though the phone can confirm receipt of the message, the messages go undetected in that they are not displayed on the receiver's screen."

SPAIN-EU: Spain to cross-reference passenger flight information with police databases (El País, link):

"The Passenger Name Record (PNR) – one of the most controversial tools used by governments against Jihadist terrorism – is ready to take effect in Spain. Every day, the list will cross-reference three million passenger data with police databases from the Intelligence Center for Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime, the future home of the National Office for Passenger Information (ONIP). This center will store and transfer the personal traveler information sent by the airline companies. The Data Protection Agency will audit the system."

EU: Security Union: Commission follows up on terrorist radicalisation (press releae, pdf):

"Today, the European Commission reports on progress made towards an effective and genuine Security Union, including priorities like countering radicalisation, enhancing cybersecurity and protecting public spaces.

As security is identified as a key priority in the Joint Declaration on the EU's legislative priorities for 2018-19, the Commission is also setting out a number of measures to be taken over the coming months to strengthen support to Member States and speed up EU work. The Commission will continue to drive progress ahead of the September informal leaders' meeting on security, announced in the Leaders' Agenda."

And see: European Commission: Thirteenth progress report towards an effective and genuine Security Union (COM(2018) 46 final, pdf)

Peace expert: EU’s soft power is most effecive when it is least used (EurActiv, link):

"Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize five years ago, the EU is no longer “a great actor of peace”. It should not rush into creating its own army unless the US decides to pull back its troops, Dan Smith told EURACTIV.com in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Dan Smith is the director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He spoke to EURACTIV.com’s Editor-in-Chief Daniela Vincenti."

And see: MEPs support first ever EU programme on defence industry (Foreign Affairs Committee press release, pdf): "Member states efforts to cooperate more on defence and develop European products should get the EU support, provided it ends the overlaps in defence industry, said committee MEPs on Tuesday."

The lead committee for the file (Industry, Research and Energy, ITRE) has yet to adopt its position.

UK: Downing Street announces new unit to tackle 'fake news' (The Telegraph, link):

"Theresa May is creating a new national security unit to counter "fake news" and disinformation spread by Russia and other foreign powers, Downing Street has announced.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the new national security communications unit would build on existing capabilities and would be tasked with "combating disinformation by state actors and others".

It comes after the Prime Minister accused Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake news in an attempt to "weaponise information" and sow discord in the West.

Her spokesman said: "We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives. The government will respond with more and better use of national security communications to tackle these interconnected, complex challenges.""

UK-INDIA: Immigration minister signs data sharing agreements with India on criminal records and returns (Home Office press release, pdf):

"Two documents, known as memorandums of understanding (MOUs), were initialled by Minister of Immigration Caroline Nokes and Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Thursday (January 11).

The new two-way deals reflect increased co-operation between the 2 countries which already enjoy a close relationship.

The MOU on criminal records exchange will lead to British and Indian law enforcement bodies sharing criminal records information, fingerprints and intelligence. This will assist the police in protecting the public from known criminals, including sex offenders. It will also allow the courts in both countries to access more information to support tougher sentencing decisions.

Meanwhile the agreement on returns paves the way for a quicker and more efficient process for documenting and returning Indian nationals who have no right to be in the UK to India. This has proven difficult in the past due to some Indians not having the required paperwork or travel documentation for them to be accepted back in their home country."

EU: Europol's FOIA on data retention with Carrier Grade NAT (Hermes, link)

"Most telecommunication operators doing CGNAT (Carrier Grade Network Address Translation), in order to comply with data retention regulation, end-up logging each and all of our internet activity.

On 13th October 2017, Europol and the Presidency of Council of European Union, organized a workshop with 35 policy-makers e Law Enforcement officials from all around europe, in order to discuss about the “increasing problem of non-crime attribution associated with the widespread use of Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGN) technologies by companies that provide access to the internet”.

In Italy we’ve appealed to the Data Protection Authority asking for inspection across all telecommunication operators in order to verify in great details which are the exact information elements logged to comply with data retention laws.

Below we publish in full the Europol answer including all the attachment obtained as a way to foster public debate, research and investigation on the topic by the data protection community."

Background: More "going dark" problems: Europol wants data retention to ease identification of individual internet users (Statewatch News Online, 20 January 2017)

UK: Ethan Stables trial: Neo-Nazi 'planned Pride event machete attack' (BBC News, link):

"A neo-Nazi's plan to attack people with a machete at a gay pride event was foiled after he told people about it on Facebook, a court heard.

Police were tipped off about Ethan Stables' plan to attack the New Empire pub in Barrow, Leeds Crown Court heard.

The 20-year-old from Barrow denies preparing an act of terrorism and threats to kill.

Prosecutors said the "white supremacist" had a "deep-seated hatred" of minorities, especially gay people."

Croatia and USA Agree on Stronger Justice and Home Affairs Cooperation (Total Croatia News, link):

"Croatia's Minister of the Interior Davor Božinovic met with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke during his visit to Washington on Friday.


Also discussed was the inclusion of Croatia in the Visa Waiver Program, and it was pointed out that the strengthening of cooperation, which was agreed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was an important contribution to achieving this goal. The US emphasised the importance of information exchange, notably on air passengers.


The Croatian Ministry of Interior and the US Department of Homeland Security signed an implementing agreement on enhancing cooperation in preventing and combating serious crime."

MEDITERRANEAN: Human smugglers operate as ‘independent traders’, study finds (University of Cambridge, link):

"First study to model the organisation behind trade in illegal border crossings shows no “Mafia-like” monopoly of routes from Africa into Europe via Mediterranean. Instead, myriad independent smugglers compete in open markets that have emerged at every stage of the journey.


Dr Paolo Campana from Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology conducted the research using evidence from the 18-month investigation by Italian prosecutors that followed the Lampedusa shipwreck, in which 366 people lost their lives.

The work included data from wiretapped telephone conversations between smugglers at all stages, testimonies collected from migrants, interviews with police task force members, and background information on offenders.

“The smuggling ring moving migrants from the Horn of Africa to Northern Europe via Libya does not appear to have the thread of any single organisation running through it,” said Campana, whose findings are published today in the European Journal of Criminology."

UK: Ex-spy centre chief warns tech companies to change or face tough new laws (Belfast Telegraph, link):

"Big technology companies face a crackdown over extremist content unless they take action to police themselves better by the end of the year, the former head of GCHQ has indicated.

Robert Hannigan, who was director of Britain’s electronic surveillance agency between 2014-2017, said that international information platforms were behaving more responsibly than in the past, but are only beginning to get the message."

UK: Drones and the law: The Distant Drone of the Future (CrimeLine, link):

"Given the paucity of drone-specific legislation, prosecutors seeking to convict individuals for misuse of these devices will have to rely on the general criminal law. Fortunately, the breadth of certain offences means that such an approach is workable. The alleged offence in the South Yorkshire helicopter case, misconduct in public office, is notoriously difficult to prove and clearly inapplicable to the private use of drones. However, other offences are better suited to the task. In particular, harassment legislation provides useful tools for police and prosecutors. These offences are applicable to almost any factual situation and focus on what the defendant ought to have known about the consequences of their actions. Any physical contact between a drone and a complainant could equally be dealt with as a common assault (there being no requirement for direct physical contact between the defendant and another individual).

In short, the general criminal law seems well equipped to deal with potential drone-related offences, even if the ANO is not. The basic problem with the ANO’s drone provision is their focus. These regulations are the main legislation secondary governing mechanised flight in UK airspace and, quite rightly, focus on safety. Doubtless, the relevant law makers were more concerned with mid-air collisions than aerial voyeurism. It is a testament to the flexibility of English law that even new technologies can be accommodated within the existing framework without the necessity for legislative change. It is to be"

UK: Met officer faces no charges over death of Rashan Charles (The Guardian, link):

"A police officer will not face charges over the death of Rashan Charles, a young black man who died after a police pursuit in London, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.

A common assault charge had been considered against the Metropolitan police officer in connection with the 20-year-old’s death on 22 July 2017 after he was apprehended by police in Dalston, east London."

And see: Update on the investigation into the death of Rashan Charles (Office for Police Conduct, link): "The ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Rashan Charles in Hackney in July 2017 has identified conflicting available advice given to police nationally about searching people suspected of placing drugs or other packages in their mouths... That investigation remains ongoing but there have been two significant developments.

Firstly, we referred a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last month (December 2017) to consider whether the officer involved in Mr Charles’ restraint may have committed common assault by continuing to restrain Mr Charles after he became unwell. The CPS confirmed last week that no further action will be taken against the officer on that matter due to insufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction."

UK: Benjamin Zephaniah on how Colin Roach’s death inside Stoke Newington Police Station sparked a movement 35 years ago (Hackney Gazette, link):

"The death of Rashan Charles, and its aftermath, has tragic echoes of the case of Colin Roach. The 21-year-old was shot inside Stoke Newington police station 35 years ago, with the community convinced cops had a hand. Poet Benjamin Zephaniah was at the first protest after his death, he tells the Gazette."

USA: Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Trump signs bill renewing NSA's internet surveillance program (Reuters, link):

"U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he signed into law a bill renewing the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program, sealing a defeat for digital privacy advocates.


The law renews for six years and with minimal changes the National Security Agency (NSA) program, which gathers information from foreigners overseas but incidentally collects an unknown amount of communications belonging to Americans.

The measure easily passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week despite mixed signals posted on Twitter by Trump and narrowly avoided a filibuster in the Senate earlier this week that split party lines. The measure had drawn opposition from a coalition of privacy-minded Democrats and libertarian Republicans."

And see: NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve (Politico, link): "The National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and apparently never took some of the steps it told a federal court it had taken to make sure the information wasn’t destroyed, according to recent court filings."

UK: Biometrics: MPs concerned over huge police mugshot database that still has "no real rules"

"Ministers face a parliamentary inquiry over the storing by police of 20 million mugshots – including of many people not convicted of any crime – after a senior MP warned the practice raises “fundamental civil liberty issues”.

A Commons committee is poised to launch the probe after running out of patience with the Government, which has failed to act on the controversy almost six years after it was ruled unlawful by the High Court.

The court warned of the “risk of stigmatisation of those entitled to the presumption of innocence”, adding that it would be particularly harmful in the cases of children."

UK-FRANCE: 'Sandhurst Treaty' on border control cooperation: full-text, plus other documents agreed at UK-France summit

""French President Emmanuel Macron met Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, during a French-UK Summit at Sandhurst on 18 January 2018, where they signed a new protocol on migration control.

The “Sandhurst Treaty” is an addition to the Touquet Agreement, which is a bilateral treaty dating back to 2003 and signed between France and the UK that has allowed for juxtaposed border controls. The agreement has been criticized as imbalanced in making France responsible for all asylum seekers refused entry into the UK."

UK: Lincolnshire Police spend £250k on taser upgrades (The Lincolnite, link):

"Some £250,000 has been spent on new tasers to help protect frontline officers and the public in Lincolnshire.

From this week 212 new TaserX2 devices will be rolled out across the force to replace the current model.

The new Home Office-approved device has a number of features that will aim to improve safety and accountability in the county:

Officers authorised to use tasers must undergo rigorous training with an initial course of four days, covering the law around how tasers can be used, decision making, human rights and the considerations required for any use of taser."

EU: Council of the European Union: latest text of the proposed e-Privacy Regulation

"While covering a complex subject matter, this proposal is one that the Presidency recognises as important for the completion of the Digital Single Market and is therefore committed to put considerable efforts towards seeking compromise solutions in order to strike the delicate balance between an adequate level of privacy protection and sufficient incentives for innovation."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18-22.1.18)

EU: Council of the European Union: Data protection and EU institutions, bodies and agencies

Proposal for a Regulation on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 and Decision No 1247/2002/EC [First reading] - Progress report (15861-17, 373 pages, pdf) Includes 4-column positions of the Commission, Council, European Parliament and "compromise":

"In these meetings, many issues were agreed upon, subject to the condition that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. However, it proved not possible to reach an overall agreement on the Regulation by the end of this year, mainly due to the differing positions of the co-legislators regarding the scope of the draft instrument.

With this note, the Presidency informs delegations about the state of play in the negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament on the Regulation on data protection by Union institutions and bodies."

EU: Commissioner to face awkward questions from MEPs over EU home affairs and migration spending

On the morning of Tuesday 23 January European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, responsible for home affairs and migration, is to appear before the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control to answer: Written Questions on the 2016 Discharge to the Commission (pdf). They pose a number of awkward questions.

EU: Council of the European Union: International Protection: latest version of the proposed Dublin Regulation, chapters I-III

DUBLIN: Proposal for a Regulation establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) (LIMITE doc no: 15991-17, pdf) and see COR 1 (pdf)

"Delegations will find below the revised texts of chapters I to III of the Dublin Regulation. The suggested modifications are based on the outcome of multilateral and bilateral discussions held under the Slovak, Maltese and Estonian Presidencies, and on the on oral and written comments made by Member States in the Asylum Working Party during the first examination (...)

It is understood that all delegations have general scrutiny reservations on the whole proposal. The following delegations have indicated previously that they also have parliamentary scrutiny reservations: CZ, ES, HR, HU, LT, LV, PL, SI, UK."

Finding Your Voice: Forget About Siri and Alexa — When It Comes to Voice Identification, the “NSA Reigns Supreme” (The Intercept, link):

"These and other classified documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA has developed technology not just to record and transcribe private conversations but to automatically identify the speakers.

Americans most regularly encounter this technology, known as speaker recognition, or speaker identification, when they wake up Amazon’s Alexa or call their bank. But a decade before voice commands like “Hello Siri” and “OK Google” became common household phrases, the NSA was using speaker recognition to monitor terrorists, politicians, drug lords, spies, and even agency employees.

The technology works by analyzing the physical and behavioral features that make each person’s voice distinctive, such as the pitch, shape of the mouth, and length of the larynx. An algorithm then creates a dynamic computer model of the individual’s vocal characteristics. This is what’s popularly referred to as a “voiceprint.” The entire process — capturing a few spoken words, turning those words into a voiceprint, and comparing that representation to other “voiceprints” already stored in the database — can happen almost instantaneously."


"The table immediately below sets out details of the Special Demonstration Squad officers whose cover names have been confirmed by the Inquiry. It will be updated as further details can be published.

The details given of groups/areas of deployment are provisional, and are provided to enable members of the public to identify whether they may have known officers who were deployed undercover and to prevent cases of mistaken identity. They are not intended to be a comprehensive list of groups with which the officer may have interacted, and do not constitute a factual finding by the Chairman that any group was or was not targeted. These are matters which remain under investigation.

As the former Chairman said in his opening remarks, all those with relevant evidence to give about the deployment of any of these officers are encouraged to contact the Inquiry in confidence. If you had contact with any of the following undercover police officers whilst they were using the cover names set out below then we would like to hear from you. Please see the contacts page for ways to get in touch with the Inquiry in confidence.:"

UK: Findings from investigation into the death of Karl Brunner published following inquest (policeconduct.gov.uk, link):

"We have found no evidence that would justify disciplinary proceedings for any officer involved in the restraint of Karl Brunner prior to his death in Bedford in May 2016.

Early in the investigation we recommended that Bedfordshire Police ensure that its officers are aware of their obligation to treat anyone who may have swallowed drugs as a medical emergency and to ensure they are taken directly to hospital.

On the day of his death Bedfordshire police carried out a pre-planned stop on Mr Brunner based on intelligence that he was in possession of drugs. He was stopped near the bus station in Midland Road at about 12.30pm".(...)

And see: No officers to be disciplined over Karl Brunner's death (ITV News, link)

LGBT in Britain - Trans Report (link):

"Based on the experiences of more than 800 trans and non-binary people who took part in our research with YouGov.

- One in eight trans employees (12 per cent) have been physically attacked by a colleague or customer in the last year

- Half of trans people (51 per cent) have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination

- A quarter of trans people (25 per cent) have experienced homelessness."

Download Report (pdf link).

UK: Officers cleared over Emma Caldwell murder leaks inquiry (stv.tv/news, link):

"Seven police officers investigated over their handling of an inquiry into leaks in the Emma Caldwell murder case have been cleared.

The officers obtained communications data without permission in an attempt to identify a Sunday Mail reporter's anonymous source.

However, an investigation has now ruled that there was no misconduct and the officers have returned to regular duties."

Civil society under threat, Fundamental Rights Agency finds (link):

"“A thriving democracy needs a healthy civil society. Unfortunately, the EU’s own civil society is facing a pattern of threats and pressures in many parts of the EU. Addressing this unacceptable situation should be a high priority for policy makers at EU and national levels,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty."

See: Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU (pdf)

Italy approves military mission in Niger, more troops to North Africa (Reuters, link):

"Italy’s parliament approved on Wednesday an increased military presence in Libya and the deployment of up to 470 troops in Niger to combat migration and the trafficking of people toward Europe (...)

Military intelligence for Europol (link):

"The EU plans to strengthen the linkages between its internal and external security structures. In future, military information will increasingly be used in combating terrorism and organised crime. Cooperation is being tested first in the field of migration.

The European Union is planning the establishment of "Crime Information Cells“ (CIC) for the exchange of data between the police, military and secret services. The intention of the players involved is to reinforce the “external dimension of internal security”.

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-17.1.18) including: camps: protest in Bamberg, Germany; Greek conditions "horrific", Macron says never again to camps in Calais

UN: "Facts and evidence", not "panic and fearmongering", required in online radicalisation debate

A global review of recent research on the "online violent radicalisation" of young people has found that there is a "scarcity" of empirical enquiries and the issue "has yet to attract a critical mass of studies for the research to be credible in its conclusions and recommendations."

This underlines the need for "policy that is constructed on the basis of facts and evidence, and not founded on hunches – or driven by panic and fearmongering," says the report's authors.

EU: Speech on interoperability proposals given to LIBE committee by Security Commissioner Julian King, 15 January 2017 (pdf):

"National authorities should have the information they need, when and where they need it, with all the safeguards offered by our fundamental rights framework. And our information systems should provide them with data that is timely, complete, accurate and reliable.

By closing down the gaps terrorists and criminals can exploit, we can cut down on identity fraud, strengthening our external border and internal security.

The question now is how to turn this general consensus on the objectives into practical action: to agree swiftly, and then implement, a legislative text that can make a real and significant operational difference for those on the ground."

GERMANY: Bamberg refugees 15.1.2018 Press release: For immediate release: Statement: Against inhumanity! Stop the camp system! We´re refugees, not prisoners! (pdf) and Deutsch (pdf):

"The AEO camp in Bamberg is worse than a prison. Currently 1400 refugees are housed here, the total capacity is 3400. We, refugees living in the camp, will not take anymore the constant harrassment and inhuman treatment. Our demand is for a life in dignity. On Wednesday 17th January 2018 we are going out and taking our demands on the streets. We are calling for all inhabitants of the AEO Bamberg, as well as groups and individuals to join us in solidarity for this peaceful demonstration through the town of Bamberg."

Welcome to new era of global digital censorship (Politico, link):

"It’s dangerous to ask tech companies to decide what’s legitimate free speech.


Freedom of speech advocates warn of an Orwellian digital dystopia where government apparatchiks dictate what we can read and write on the web. For those worried about online safety, the new rules will force tech companies to finally take responsibility for what is posted on their platforms, which have more users, collectively, than countries have citizens.

Whatever side you’re on, these developments offer a glimpse at the future of the internet: one in which more online messages, videos and posts will be deleted because of legislative decrees or, more likely, preemptive censorship by tech companies that fear regulatory reprisal."

Can an EU Country Forbid You from Being with Your Spouse? (HRW, link): "What Happens When a Government Does Not Recognize Your Same-Sex Marriage."

BREXIT: May faces tougher transition stance from EU amid Norway pressure (Guardian, link): "Exclusive: Norwegian officials tell Brussels they may seek radical rethink of their terms if UK has access to single market for key sectors."

And see: EU leaders say UK can reverse Brexit decision if it wants to (Guardian, link): "Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker say door to EU remains open if Britain changes its mind on Brexit."

EU: MEPs to vote on stricter EU export controls on cyber-surveillance tools (theparliamentmagazine.eu, link):

"Next week in Strasbourg, MEPs will vote on proposals to impose much stricter rules on the exports of surveillance technology.

The move is seen as vital in order to prevent authoritarian regimes from spying on their own citizens.

The relevant technology could include devices to intercept mobile phones, hack into computers, circumvent passwords or identify internet users.

The fear is that such technology could possibly be used for human rights violations.

The vote in Parliament is on the recast of the control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items."

UK: Campaigners criticise "political" decision to reject undercover policing legal aid bid (The Herald, link):

"CAMPAIGNERS have accused the Scottish Legal Aid Board of making a “political” decision by rejecting a legal aid application on an inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland.

Tilly Gifford, who exposed an attempt by police to infiltrate her environmental group, last year won the right to challenge the failure of the Scottish and UK Governments to launch a probe into the so-called “spy cop” scandal.

However, the Scottish Legal Aid Board has declined to support her funding bid on the grounds it would be “unreasonable”. This is in spite of legal aid being granted to pursue a similar case in Northern Ireland."

See: Public Interest Law Unit press release: Legal Challenge in respect of undercover policing operations in Scotland (pdf)

UK-EU: Brexit doesn't mean Brexit for migration control initiatives: UK to stay on Khartoum Process steering committee

Despite the UK's foreseen departure from the EU in March 2019 it plans to remain on the steering committee of the Khartoum Process, an EU-funded migration control initiative that involves partnerships with dictatorships such as Egypt, Eritrea and Sudan.

EU: Resisting Ill Democracies in Europe: new study provides "practices and strategies for civil society"

"From emerging democracies in transition, illiberal governments have rapidly transformed Hungary and Poland into ill democracies, have attempted to do so in Croatia, and are slowly and carefully entertaining an illiberal platform in Serbia, according to the new case study Resisting Ill Democracies in Europe.

The findings, published in English, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian by a group of human rights organisations, are based on their study of ill democracy in Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and Serbia."

UK: "Hostile environment" faces criticism from parliamentary committee as new migration checks on bank accounts come into force

"The government needs to end its reliance on its error-hit “hostile environment” policy towards illegal migrants because it is not only deeply distressing to those involved but also undermines the credibility of immigration enforcement, MPs have said.

The Commons home affairs select committee says the longstanding lack of any official analysis of the scale and nature of illegal immigration has allowed anxiety over the issue to grow unchecked, and it calls for the publication of an annual estimate based on exit check data."

EU: Public consultation on EU funds in the area of security (European Commission, link):

"In 2018, the Commission will make comprehensive proposals for the next generation of financial programmes for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, which is the EU's long–term budget. The Commission's proposals will be designed to make it possible for the EU to deliver on the things that matter most, in areas where it can achieve more than Member States acting alone. This requires a careful assessment both of what has worked well in the past and what could be improved in the future. This consultation is an integral part of the process and its objective is to collect the views of all interested parties on how to make the most of every euro of the EU budget."

See: Market Forces: the development of the EU security-industrial complex

SPAIN: Prison Time for Church Protest Against Abortion Reform (Liberties, link):

"The Spanish Supreme Court has confirmed the one-year prison sentence against five young people who interrupted a church mass in February 2014 to protest against reforms to Spain's abortion law. They were found guilty of violating religious freedom. According to the court, the aim of the defendants was to "clearly prevent the religious act", and the exercise of the right to freely express their opinions cannot suppress the right of others to participate freely in their religious ceremonies, when they are carried out in places specifically designated for worship."

NETHERLANDS: PNR: Dutch prepare to bring in new EU rules on airline passenger information (Dutch News, link):

"Justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus has submitted a draft law to parliament which will require airlines to hand over all their information about passengers to the military police.

The information will go to a new police unit for analysis with the aim of tracking down terrorists and major criminals, the minister said. The new law stems from the European Passenger Name Record directive, which is now being incorporated into Dutch law.

Grapperhaus expects the legislation to complete its passage through parliament before the summer.

Information about passengers – including details about baggage, payments and addresses – will be kept for five years. It can also be shared with other countries, Europol and the regular Dutch police force."

FRANCE: Video emerges of man in flames after being tasered by French police (The Local, link):

"A video showing a man engulfed in flames after being tasered by French police in Paris has gone viral in France after being published on social media this week.

The video (see below) dates back to July 2013 but was only posted online this week.

The shocking images, filmed through a body camera worn by a policeman, show the arrest of a man in Place de la Nation, south east Paris.

Details around the arrest remain unclear, but it appears the man was already injured from a preceding incident.

USA: TASERS: The neurocognitive effects of a conducted electrical weapon compared to high intensity interval training and alcohol intoxication - implications for Miranda and consent (Forensic and Legal Medicine, link):

"In our current study, we compared the neurocognitive effects of an exposure to a CEW to another exertion regimen, as well as to alcohol intoxication given the latter has significant established case law with regard to the Miranda waiver and consent. Such a comparison may offer more insight into the clinical/legal significance of any measured changes. As with the prior studies, the neurocognitive performance decrements of the CEW and exertion regimens, found only in one measure in this study (of three), were transient, and here, non-significant. Only alcohol intoxication resulted in statistically significant performance declines across all measures and these were persistent over the study period. Given that the neurocognitive changes associated with the CEW were non-significant, but were significant for alcohol intoxication, and given that current case law does not use intoxication as a per se or bright line barrier to Miranda and consent, our results do not suggest that a CEW exposure should preclude waiving of Miranda rights or obtaining consent."

HUNGARY: Hungary to hold election on April 8, PM Orban's Fidesz ahead in polls (Reuters, link):

"Hungary will hold a parliamentary election on April 8, President Janos Ader announced on Thursday, a contest likely to give Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party a third successive term in power.

Orban has used the past eight years in office to rewrite the constitution and centralize power, filling posts at the central bank, the State Audit Office and the prosecution with party loyalists."

And see: “Observer”: An action befitting a dictatorship (Hungarian Spectrum, link): "Let me cynically sum up: a party soldier at the head of ÁSZ [State Audit Committee] acts beyond his authority, attempting to cripple financially the opposition parties and annihilate the biggest one, charges all of them with the same alleged offense — a situation that has existed for years and has previously passed muster with ÁSZ, while providing no detailed justification of its findings and how the fines were arrived at. This assault on the opposition just before the elections happens to benefit the ruling “illiberal” regime, which has a long record of actions against the democratic institutions, and which in this case amended legislation to facilitate the collection of precisely such fines."

HUNGARY: Private security guards told to protect government offices from journalists (Atlatszo, link):

"Security guards working at government offices need to watch out for journalist and if any members of the media turn up nearby the buildings that they are protecting, they have to notify the department responsible for building staffing, maintenance and operations."

UK: Britain increases arms exports to world’s most repressive regimes by nearly a third since Brexit vote (i, link):

"Britain has dramatically increased the value of weaponry and defence equipment it sells to the world’s most repressive regimes since vows by senior ministers to expand arms exports after the Brexit vote.

Figures seen by i show that the Government cleared export licences worth £2.9bn in the 12 months after June 2016 to 35 countries considered “not free” by Freedom House, a respected international think-tank. The figure represents a 28 per cent increase on the 12 months before the Brexit vote."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11-14.1.18)

March for Justice: Bloody Sunday Programme 2018 Context 2018 (link):

"Bloody Sunday was a local event. All of the 28 dead and wounded came from the general Bogside/Creggan quarter of Derry, population around 35,000. There was no one in the area who didn’t know the family of at least one of the victims. The massacre was experienced as a communal wound, the pain of which still throbs and won’t ease until all of the families can feel that truth has been told and justice done.

It is this which, 46 years later, drives the annual commemoration."

See: Calendar of Events (link)

Brexit bill leaves a hole in UK human rights (The Observer, link):

"British civil rights groups sound a warning in the Observer over effects of EU withdrawal legislation. A human rights deficit will be created by the government’s EU withdrawal bill, leaving many different groups in society without adequate protection, leading civil rights bodies warn in a letter published in the Observer.(...)

Among others, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Amnesty International, Liberty, the Fawcett Society and National Aids Trust warn that the bill, which is returning to the House of Commons on 16 January, “will not protect people’s rights in the UK as the government promised”. They say: “This is in large part because the bill removes the EU charter of fundamental rights from our law.”

What is the Spanish migration control industry, and why does it matter? (ODI, link):

""In the last decade, €896 million of public funding was channeled through 1,000 contracts to 350 companies involved in the Spanish migration control industry. These companies both run the machinery, and profit from it. How these companies use and exploit the industry will have long-term effects on any sensible, global migration policy."

UPDATED: UK planning to consolidate biometric databases, consider expanding Surveillance Camera Code application (Biometric Update, link):

"The UK’s Home Office is planning to consolidate its IDENT 1 and IABS biometric databases into one central platform for fingerprint, DNA, and facial image data by spring of 2019, UKAuthority reports.

The contracts for IDENT 1 and the Asylum Biometric System (IABS) expire in March and April of next year, and rather than renew them, they will be combined as part of the Home Office Biometric (HOB) Programme. A previously posted information notice suggests the new contract could run from six to ten years, and cost £198 million to £308 million, and UKAuthority reports the Home Office has begun testing the market for single service management capability. (...)

The government’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Tony Porter, has called on the government to bring major surveillance camera deployments such as the one used by Transport for London to be included in the Surveillance Camera Code, which is currently only required for local government systems, in his fourth annual report."

See: Surveillance Camera Commissioner: Annual Report 2016/17 (pdf):

"The future capabilities of surveillance camera systems is a key theme within this report. The advent of integrated surveillance technologies (cameras, sensors, analytics, biometrics, smart systems) means that the ability of the State and indeed the commercial sector to physically and intrusively track the citizen in public spaces is well and truly upon us."

UK: Biometric database advances raise major issues of control and accountability

The total number of DNA profiles held by the police in the UK at 31 December 2016 was:6,530,647.and

Number of fingerprints held on IDENT 1 for all forces as at 30 September 2016: Arrest Records: 23,836,130 and Subject Ten-Print Fingerprints: 7,962,091.

"big data’ will change the relationship between the citizen and the state in a country that has sometimes thought of freedom as having a civil realm over which the state has minimal knowledge or control; that privacy and liberty are conjoined. As in the specific case of facial images discussed above, these developments have been the subject of little public or Parliamentary scrutiny and it is unclear under what governance arrangements they will operate.." (...)

some of the emerging biometrics will be more complicated to assure. Some commercially available biometric software now uses machine learning or neural networks to improve analytic ability but, by doing so, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to understand how that software is determining possible matches. This is often referred to as the ‘Black Box Problem’ because it runs the danger of black box modelling, unchecked by human intervention, becoming the basis for decision making. This scientific problem raises issues for ethics and governance (...)

Last year’s report drew attention to this rapid development in the police’s use of facial images and the need to consider technical quality, management, interpretation and governance. The recent Review proposes leaving all these issues solely in the hands of the police without any independent oversight or assurance to reassure the public, especially those individuals whom the 2012 Court judgment described as “entitled to the presumption of innocence”.It is now almost five years since the Court held that the police retention of facial images was unlawful, yet we still do not have a clear policy in operation to correct that situation." [emphasis added]

See: Biometrics Commmissioner Annual Report 2016 (pdf)

EU: Civil Liberties Committee divided over dual status and inclusion of facial images on new database of third country nationals convicted of a crime in the EU

On Thursday 11 January the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE)discussed its negotiating position on: On a Regulation establishing a centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) to supplement and support the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS-TCN system) (pdf). The Committee was divided on two major issues: inclusion of those with dual status and the inclusion of facial images on the central database.

Italy/Sudan: ASGI and ARCI appeal against mass deportation to Sudan deemed admissible by the ECtHR

At a press conference in Rome's Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI) on 11 January 2018, lawyers of the Associazione Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione (ASGI) and members of ARCI (vice-president Filippo Miraglia and Sara Prestianni, in charge of its observatory on externalization), spoke about the case they brought before the European Court of Human Rights, after it was admitted. Lawyer Salvatore Fachile, who submitted the case, noted that there were numerous violations of the ECHR regarding the expulsion of over forty Sudanese citizens from Italy in August 2016, and that the case was submitted following a mission the following December by ASGI lawyers alongside Sara Prestianni and some MEPs during which they met five of the deportees.

Their interviews did not focus too much on their treatment after their return to Sudan in order to protect the applicants from any possible reprisals, a decision which appeared to be justified after even the delegation were subjected to an "unpleasant" interrogation, Prestianni noted. Hence, it focused on the treatment they received in Italy, which is the key issue in the complaint.

War Resister International: Resisting police militarisation (link):

"Our new police militarisation resource can be used to explore the militarisation of policing by country and by topic (using the themes found underneath the map), with links to articles that examine cross-cutting issues in greater depth. Blue countries have a full profile written on them whereas orange countries have some content but their profiles are not yet complete."

BREXIT: European Parliament Briefing: The (ir-)revocability of the withdrawal notification under Article 50 TEU pdf):

"This in-depth analysis examines the issue of the possible revocation of a withdrawal notification under Article 50 TEU. In light of the ongoing negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the possibility for the UK to revoke its withdrawal notification has become a significant political and legal/institutional issue. The analysis examines the case of the revocation of a withdrawal notification under public international law and under the EU law as well as the various positions expressed so far on the matter."

Tusk warns against ‘Game of Thrones’ in Balkans (euractiv, link):

"EU chief Donald Tusk warned in an emotional speech on Thursday night (11 January) against having a “game of thrones” in the Western Balkans, as Brussels seeks to encourage the region’s efforts to reform, leave behind ethnic hostilities and join the bloc."

And see: UK House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations: The UK and the future of the Western Balkans (pdf)

EU top court told same-sex spouses have residence rights (BBC News, link):

"A senior adviser to the European Union's top court has backed a Romanian gay man's right to have his US husband live with him in Romania.

EU countries should recognise the right of all spouses to residency even if they do not allow gay marriage, according to the advocate general for the European Court of Justice.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Romania. "

New rules to speed up freezing and confiscating criminal assets across the EU (European Parliament, press release, pdf):

" easier for member states to request seizure of criminal assets in other countries
- compensating victims will take priority
- 9% of criminal proceeds in the EU are never confiscated."

When Memory does NOT die (IRR News, link): By Liz Fekete: The legacy of A. Sivanandan, who passed away on 3 January, is being widely noted.

UK-EU: BREXIT: European Parliament Briefing: Jurisdiction upon and after the UK’s withdrawal: The perspective from the UK Constitutional Order (pdf):

"The UK is a dualist state, which gives domestic legal effect to international treaties only to the extent provided for in Acts of Parliament or other secondary legislation. However, UK courts may choose to take account of non-UK courts’ rulings if they choose.

The UK government intends the usual rules of UK law to apply to any CJEU rulings after exit day, but proposes that CJEU rulings adopted before that date will still have some legal effect in domestic law, to ensure legal certainty and continuity.

There will be an Act of Parliament to give effect to the withdrawal agreement, but its impact on the legal effect of CJEU rulings in domestic law remains to be seen."

Commission: 120 minutes to remove illegal online content (euobserver, link):

"The European Commission is demanding social media platforms share illegal content with police amid broader threats of imposing EU-wide legislation to enforce the takedown of such material.

In a closed-door meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (9 January) between several EU commissioners and some 20 firms, the commission also demanded swifter removals.

EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopolous said removals should not take more than two hours."

Luxleaks whistleblower wins appeal (euobserver, link):

"A Luxembourg appeals court has overturned a previous verdict to fine and put on probation Luxleaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour, but upheld a similar one against his former colleague Raphael Halet. The decisions, on Thursday, are subject to further appeals. The two men, who used to work for accountancy firm PwC, were accused of stealing documents from their employer in 2014 to lift the lid on Luxembourg tax deals with multinationals."

Czech Republic: Czech voters to give verdict on president's anti-immigrant populism (Guardian, link)

"Jirí Drahoš, main challenger to incumbent Miloš Zeman, pledges to ensure that country will face the west if he wins poll on Friday.

The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has been accused of promoting a climate of “vulgarity, incompetence and corruption” as the Czech Republic heads into a presidential election widely seen as a referendum on his controversial brand of anti-immigrant populism and the country’s place in the western alliance."

Declaration of 4th Summit of South EU states: "Bringing the EU forward in 2018" (IBNA, link):

"We, the Heads of State and Government of the Republic of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, have convened in Rome for the fourth Summit of the Southern European Union countries.(...)

We are strongly committed to a common European migration policy, to prevent irregular flows as well as to address the root causes of mass migration in dialogue and cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. We are determined to strengthen our partnerships with those countries, particularly in Africa. The full implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, in an Aegean where international law is respected, is needed. Given concrete success achieved in the external dimension of migration in recent months, adequate funding to existing financial instruments should continue, including the EU Trust Fund for Africa and the EU-Turkey facility , also with a view of establishing fully funded financial instruments in the next MFF."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8-10.1.18): news from France, Greece, Mediterranean; new research and reports.

After EU agencies jointly test maritime surveillance drones, Frontex moves on to aerostats

The use of drones and manned aircraft for maritime and border surveillance was a key focus of a recently-concluded pilot project involving Frontex, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA).

The project's final report (see the summary, below) was published in December 2017 and states that "the Host Member States (Spain, Italy and Greece) appreciated the surveillance services delivered," and considers that "the best way forward for cooperation between Agencies might be a new framework contract for aerial surveillance."

EU: Eurodac: Austria dismisses fundamental concerns over coercive fingerprinting of six-year-olds

EU: Common European Asylum System (CEAS): Qualification Regulation trilogue document

Four-column document outlining the institutions' positions and potential compromise text, for discussion in a secret trilogue meeting today (10 January 2017).

See: Qualification Regulation (pdf)

UK: Protecting Abusers from Embarrassment (COPS, link):

"The Undercover Policing Inquiry has announced five new applications by anonymity from former undercover police officers. The police want the real and cover names to be withheld in all five cases, and the Inquiry intends to comply.

The officers’ risk assessments, published in heavily redacted form, cover a number of elements of their deployment.

The controversial use of dead children’s identities for cover names is addressed, and none of the officers say they did it (one says they didn’t even have a cover name). They are all asked if they had relationships with people they spied on, and none of them admit this either."

Calls for Government to limit ‘collateral damage’ caused to families by immigration enforcement (Bristol University, link):

"Political pledges to reduce immigration are splitting up families, according to new research which urges the Government to revise its policies in order to reduce ‘collateral damage’ inflicted on partners and children.

In the first study of its kind, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), researchers at the University of Bristol explored how a precarious immigration status impacts on family life.

Between 2014 and 2017, they followed 30 families consisting of foreign national men at risk of deportation and their British or European partners and children."

Spanish Rock Band Fined for Comments During Concert (Liberties, link):

"A court in Murcia, Spain, has confirmed the fine of €700 for the singer of the band Rokavieja for disturbance of public order. During a concert in 2016, the local police had to evict a person from the venue who had lit a flare. The singer responded by shouting "Let's see if you can hold him" and singing the popular refrain "Too much police, too little fun". According to the judge, these expressions "in a packed public gathering and as a direct response to the intervention of the police in light of an infraction" were not appropriate and could have triggered grave reactions from the audience."

New EU members in the Balkans by 2025?

"The EU is preparing to pledge a 2025 deadline for the next wave of enlargement, but Balkans disputes could hold things back.

"The Western Balkans partners now have a historic window of opportunity. For the first time, their accession perspective has a best-case timeframe," the commission is to say in a strategy paper to be adopted either on 7 or 14 February.

"With strong political will, the delivery of real reforms, and lasting solutions to disputes with neighbours, Montenegro and Serbia should be ready for membership by 2025," the text is to add, according to a draft seen by EUobserver."

Council of the European Union: Return of Ethiopians, Cybercrime, Legal Migration, Money-laundering and Eurojust

Including: READMISSION: Admission procedures for the return of Ethiopians from European Union Member States (LIMIITE doc no: 15762-17, pdf) Note this is not a readmission agreement (to which the European Parliament would have to agree).

UK: Battling for the truth: the rights of bereaved families (The Justice Gap, link):

"Like no one else, the bereaved search for answers. The inquest process hinders them at every turn. Patchy legal rights, funding and coronial guidance prevent families from fully participating in the inquests of their next of kin. Where the death occurred in police or prison custody, shining a light on all the circumstances surrounding the death can be especially difficult."

And see: Report of the Chief Coroner to the Lord Chancellor Fourth Annual Report: 2016-2017 (pdf):

"upward trend in deaths in state detention. There were 574 deaths in state detention (excluding DoLS [Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards]) in 2016. This represents an increase of 26% over 2015. Of the 574, many concerned deaths in prison or police custody under section 7 of the 2009 [Coroners and Justice] Act. Deaths in custody are of particular concern to coroners. Many coroners make reports to prevent future deaths from such cases."

Spain: Covert video surveillance of supermarket workers led to privacy violation (CoE, link):

"Supermarket cashiers suspected of theft had their privacy breached after their employer used hidden video cameras to spy on them. In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of López Ribalda v. Spain (application no. 1874/13."

And see: Judgment (Press release, pdf)

Council of the European Union: EU-Africa, European Investigation Order, Radicalisation and SIRENE-SIS

EU-AFRICA: Fifth African Union - European Union Summit (Abidjan, 29 - 30 November 2017) - Political declaration (LIMITE doc no: 15554-17, pdf). Text of Declaration

EIO: Directive 2014/41/EU of 3 April 2014 regarding the European Investigation Order in criminal matters - Competent authorities and languages = Paper by EJN (15211-REV-1-17, pdf): Detailed report on 18 Member State implementation including the UK: "ENTRY INTO FORCE: 31 July 2017 for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; 22 May 2017 for Gibraltar."

• RADICALISATION:  Interim report of the High Level Commission Expert Group on Radicalisation (HLCEG-R) (LIMITE doc no: 14816-REV-1-17, pdf): "Interim Report (Preliminary Findings and Recommendations)"

SIRENE: Development of the SIRENE Bureaux in the framework of the Schengen Information System - Council conclusions (7 December 2017) (15560-17,

"Delegations will find in the annex the Council conclusions on the development of the SIRENE Bureaux in the framework of the Schengen Information System, as adopted by the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) on 7 December 2017 (...) Welcomes the considerable contribution of the Schengen Information System, including SIRENE cooperation, in protecting the area without internal border checks, especially in the context of the current challenges of migration and terrorism within the Schengen area."

Rising nationalism and the EU's split with the East (DW, link)

"What's wrong with the EU? Poland and Hungary, who only joined the bloc 13 years ago, are increasingly turning to nationalism. DW examines a phenomenon that has been smoldering for some time.(...)

Once upon a time, the European Union was a desirable destination for former Eastern Bloc countries. Twenty-five years ago, to be exact. Today, the European alliance faces major difficulties with some of its most recent additions — and vice versa. Poland and Hungary enjoy the EU as a money machine, but reject any kind of centralism emanating from Brussels. They also view Western Europe's multi-cultural aspects as a threat.

Instead, Warsaw and Budapest have begun to define new old values: the fatherland, the Christian faith, family. Similar political and social ideals have emerged in the Czech Republic and Slovakia: a counter-movement to the relatively open societies of Western Europe.""

PNR for all: UN Security Council mandates worldwide air travel surveillance and profiling, biometric collection, terrorist watchlists

In the name of "preventing, detecting and investigating terrorist offenses and related travel," all UN Member States must develop systems for processing and analysing Passenger Name Record (PNR), Advance Passenger Information (API) and "fingerprints, photographs, facial recognition, and other relevant identifying biometric data", according to a UN Security Council resolution (no. 2396) agreed on 21 December 2017.

SPAIN: Catalonia in deadlock, and why that is a European problem (Verfassungsblog, link):

"Let me say it quite clearly: the Catalan conflict is our problem. Not the Catalan problem, not the Spanish problem, only. It is our common European problem. All European citizens, and particularly the European institutions, should be concerned about it, and should collaborate to find appropriate solutions. The fact that the conflict is “stuck” right now is bad news for everyone in the EU. And yes, finding a solution is the primary responsibility of Catalans and Spaniards. But all Spaniards are European citizens, we are all part of a common political project with the rest of European peoples, a project based on the fundamental values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, peace, and well-being, among others. And we all share the responsibility to promote such values across the Union, and all peoples have a clear duty of solidarity among themselves. Catalans and Spaniards are failing so far to find solutions to the problem. But it is our European common problem and our common responsibility to try to help them. More specifically, EU institutions should be doing much more of what they have done so far. I blame them for their passivity in the last couple of months."

USA: The Man Behind the Mask (Jacobin, link):

A history of the conversion of tear gas from a chemical weapon for use on the battlefield, to its normalisation and commercialisation as a tool available to police forces "to subdue mobs and criminals". "At one time, tear gas was only deployed on the battlefield, not against civilian protesters. Then Amos Fries came along."

UK: Probe into claim that police spy set fire to Debenhams could end by July (The Guardian, link):

"A Scotland Yard investigation into an allegation that an undercover police officer set fire to a high street department store while infiltrating animal rights campaigners could be completed by July.

Since April last year, the Metropolitan police have been investigating a claim that the undercover officer, Bob Lambert, planted an incendiary device in Debenhams in Harrow, London in July 1987, causing £340,000 of damage.

A court has heard that police estimate that their investigation could be concluded by the middle of this year."

SCOTLAND: SNP Government urged to publish undercover policing review after receiving the report two months ago (The Herald, link):

"JUSTICE Secretary Michael Matheson has been urged to publish a review of undercover policing after it emerged the report had been sitting on his desk for over two months.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) submitted the piece of work on November 2nd, but no publication date has been announced by the SNP Government.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Once the report’s findings have been fully considered, arrangements will be made to lay the report in the Scottish Parliament.”"

Civil society to monitor counter-terrorism and anti-extremism measures in the OSCE (Fair Trials, link):

"December 11, 2017 - Last week in Vienna, the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP) – which brings together non-governmental organisations in Europe, Eurasia and the US – issued the Vienna Declaration on Preventing Security Measures from Eclipsing Human Rights.

The Declaration built on a meeting coordinated by Fair Trials (supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs) bringing together NGOs from across the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), officials from the OSCE and representatives of OSCE countries. The aim of the meeting was to better understand the human rights impact of the OSCE’s work on counter-terrorism and anti-extremism. The meeting resulted in civil society recommendations to help the OSCE improve the compatibility of its work in this area with human rights standards."

See: Vienna Declaration: Preventing security measures from eclipsing human rights (pdf)

UK: Blacklisting: the need for a public inquiry (including a Manifesto Against Blacklisting) (IER, link):

A new book by Dave Smith and Alex Just: "In his thoughtful account of the conspiracy, which incorporates the first-hand experiences of blacklisted workers and their families, the author leads readers through the multitude of obstacles faced by the victims. It concludes with a call for a public inquiry that forces those involved to publically account for their actions; and a detailed Manifesto Against Blacklisting"

Mapping a World From Hell: 76 Countries Are Now Involved in Washington’s War on Terror (TomDispatch, link):

"The Costs of War Project has produced not just a map of the war on terror, 2015-2017 (released at TomDispatch with this article), but the first map of its kind ever. It offers an astounding vision of Washington’s counterterror wars across the globe: their spread, the deployment of U.S. forces, the expanding missions to train foreign counterterror forces, the American bases that make them possible, the drone and other air strikes that are essential to them, and the U.S. combat troops helping to fight them. (Terror groups have, of course, morphed and expanded riotously as part and parcel of the same process.)

A glance at the map tells you that the war on terror, an increasingly complex set of intertwined conflicts, is now a remarkably global phenomenon. It stretches from the Philippines (with its own ISIS-branded group that just fought an almost five-month-long campaign that devastated Marawi, a city of 300,000) through South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and deep into West Africa where, only recently, four Green Berets died in an ambush in Niger.

No less stunning are the number of countries Washington’s war on terror has touched in some fashion. Once, of course, there was only one (or, if you want to include the United States, two). Now, the Costs of War Project identifies no less than 76 countries, 39% of those on the planet, as involved in that global conflict."


Home Assistant Adopter Beware: Google, Amazon Digital Assistant Patents Reveal Plans for Mass Snooping (Consumer Watchdog, link):

"Internet giants Amazon and Google are slashing prices and offering supposed deals on their “digital assistants” this holiday season, but a study of patent applications associated with the devices reveals plans for massive surveillance of users’ homes, Consumer Watchdog warned today.

Consumer Watchdog said that a study of patent applications filed by Amazon and Google with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals a vision for an Orwellian future in which digital assistants eavesdrop on everything from confidential conversations to your toilet flushing habits to children’s movements and the books on bedside tables. They would know when you go to sleep and whom you wake up with.

The patents reveal the devices’ possible use as surveillance equipment for massive information collection and intrusive digital advertising."

Who Remains at Guantánamo? (one small window, link):

"Contrary to what is sometimes assumed, Barack Obama did not close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in January 2010, as he had promised. Instead, on the day that he left presidential office in January 2017, there were still 41 prisoners held at the prison he once called a “misguided experiment”.

Under Donald Trump, the experiment continues pretty much as it did under Obama. In spite of Trump’s threat to “load up” Guantánamo with “bad dudes”, the prisoner count has remained consistent. Interest in the issue and the fate of the prisoners has otherwise fallen so far below the radar that it is not surprising that many people believe it is a closed chapter of history.


Only two of the remaining 41 prisoners have been there since early 2002 and none were captured by the US military. Over half were sold to the US by the Pakistani authorities, and the majority were held at CIA black sites – secret torture facilities around the world – before they arrived at Guantánamo."

Taking the EU-Turkey Deal to Court? (Verfassungsblog, link):

"The three orders have been appealed to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). The strict admissibility requirements laid down in the Plaumann ruling place an important constraint on the CJEU. If the case had been brought by the European Parliament, which was entirely sidestepped in the process leading to the deal, instead of dealing with issues of admissibility, the CJEU would be looking at the substance of the matter. This case illustrates how the checks and balances built into the system can be completely bypassed when the EU institutions collude with Member States to act outside the Treaty framework." [emphasis added]

See also: The EU-Turkey Statement or the ‘Refugee Deal’: The Extra-Legal Deal of Extraordinary Times? and: The EU-Turkey Deal in Front of the Court of Justice of the EU: An Unsolicited Amicus Brief (SSRN, links)

Hungary: Release Ahmed H and stop abusing terrorism laws (Amnesty, link):

"Ahmed has been labelled a terrorist and jailed for 10 years after using a megaphone to call for calm during clashes at the Hungarian border.

In August 2015, Ahmed left his family home in Cyprus to go and help his elderly parents and six other family members flee Syria and find safety in Europe. One month later, they found themselves among hundreds of refugees stranded at the Hungarian border after police fenced off the crossing with Serbia.

Clashes broke out as some refugees attempted to get through. Hungary’s police responded with tear gas and water cannon, injuring dozens. Some people threw stones, including Ahmed. But news footage also clearly shows Ahmed using a megaphone to call on both sides to remain calm.

For this, a Hungarian court found him guilty of an “act of terror”, under Hungary’s extremely vague counter-terrorism laws, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Does this sound like terrorism to you?"

NORTHERN IRELAND: Inquiries, ‘collusion’ and seeking truth in Loughinisland killings (Irish Times, link):

"Next Friday morning, a group, mostly men, mostly late middle-aged, hope and expect to hear a ruling from Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey in the Royal Courts of Justice in Chichester Street in Belfast for which they have long campaigned.

Members of the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers’ Association, they went to court last year to challenge the report of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, into the 1994 Loughinisland killings .

Twenty-four people were gathered in The Heights Bar in the Co Down village on June 18th, 1994, watching the Republic of Ireland vs Italy in the World Cup, when two UVF members wearing boiler suits and balaclavas walked in shortly after 10pm.

Shouting “Fenian bastards”, one opened fire with an assault rifle, unleashing more than 60 bullets. Six men died, including Barney Green (87). Five were wounded. The gunmen laughed as they ran away."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-7.1.18)

The Logic of Leaks, reconsidered (LIMN , link)

"Are leaks fast and slow? Does their “illicit aura” matter? Naomi Colvin dives into the debate about leaking and the politics of journalism today. (...)

Journalistic practice is undergoing a period of radical upheaval in the digital age and leaks are a major part of the process whereby the formation of narratives has been opened up to wider scrutiny. Aspects of 2016’s agenda will inevitably give pause to those who closely followed the contours of Cablegate, but scholars of these trends must take care not to confuse cause and effect. The development of isolated information communities has not been caused by leaks, but it has made clearer some of the social and political problems that have been coming to a head since 2008. Not least of these is a widespread sense of institutional failure and corresponding alienation from conventional political narratives.

Leaks, particularly when accompanied by public access to source material, have provided some of the few instances where that divide has been successfully negotiated. Those who misidentify leaks as the problem therefore run the risk of embracing deeply anti-democratic norms. Without a reality check, this could become self-perpetuating."

UK: The road to anti-racism (IRR News, link):

"A unique project tells the tale of how militant anti-racists in the 1970s helped create the multicultural London now taken for granted."

A. Sivanandan 1923 – 2018 (IRR News, link): A. Sivanandan, the Director Emeritus of the Institute of Race Relations and founding editor of Race & Class has passed away.

"The Institute of Race Relations would like to thank everyone who has sent tributes and messages of condolences following the death of A. Sivanandan on Wednesday 3 January. As his family and friends mourn his passing, we invite you to leave tributes and personal memories below."

See links: Read about A. Sivanandan here
Race & Class: The A. Sivanandan Collection (free to download)
Soundcloud: An interview with A. Sivanandan by Avery Gordon for the 2013 Historical Materialism conference
Race & Class: On ‘lived theory’: an interview with A. Sivanandan by Avery Gordon (subscription only)

USA: Wilderness of Mirrors: Documents Reveal the Complex Legacy of James Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence Chief and Godfather of Mass Surveillance (The Intercept, link):

"Veteran CIA officer Cleveland Cram was nearing the end of his career in 1978, when his superiors in the agency’s directorate of operations handed him a sensitive assignment: Write a history of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff.(...)

He had served two decades in the clandestine service, including nine years as deputy chief of the CIA’s station in London. He knew the senior officialdom of MI-5 and MI-6, the British equivalents of the FBI and CIA, the agency’s closest partners in countering the KGB, the Soviet Union’s effective and ruthless intelligence service.

Cram was assigned to investigate a debacle. The Counterintelligence Staff, created in 1954, had been headed for 20 years by James Jesus Angleton, a legendary spy."

A seahorse for the Mediterranean: Border surveillance for Libyan search and rescue zone (link):

"Libya is to become the first third-state to join the EU’s satellite-supported “Seahorse Mediterranean” network. The Italian military is currently setting up the necessary control centres, to be followed by a new application for a search and rescue zone, supported by Italy. In the end, the Libyan coastguard is to coordinate all maritime search and rescue missions itself.(...)

Unlike the ships in the EU military mission EUNAVFOR MED or merchant ships, the Libyan patrol boats would be able to escort the rescued parties on board back to Libya without infringing upon the principle of non-refoulement enshrined under international law. Thus the creation of such a coordination centre means a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of refugees and independently-organised rescue missions that have been repeatedly shot at by coastguard units. There is already evidence about the Italian navy’s involvement in such a facilitating return of migrants to Libya."

European Parliament: Brexit: the Constitutional Relationship of the United Kingdom with the European Union (link): Useful sources from the parliament and others.

UK: Tribunal rules against total secrecy over UK drone strikes (Guardian, link):

"Court imposes limits on ability of government to reject information requests on national security grounds.

The government’s power to block requests for information on national security grounds has been significantly curtailed by a tribunal ruling over targeted killings of British jihadists abroad.

Although attempts to obtain the legal advice given to the prime minister before RAF drone strikes in Syria in 2015 were dismissed, the court said officials could not rely on a blanket ban preventing the release of all relevant details.

The upper tribunal administrative appeals chamber decision, handed down shortly before Christmas, said freedom of information requests in such sensitive policy areas should be subject instead to qualified exemptions in which security concerns are balanced against wider public interests."

EU rebels Poland, Hungary show united front (euractiv, link):

"Poland and Hungary are winning the battle against the EU over immigration, the two countries’ premiers said Wednesday, with Hungary’s Viktor Orban predicting “a year of great confrontations” with Brussels.

“The dial is turning in our direction,” Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Budapest, showing a united front with Orban in his first bilateral trip since being appointed last month.

The European Union is taking Hungary, Poland and also the Czech Republic to court over their refusal to accept EU mandatory quotas for asylum-seekers decided by a majority of member states in 2015."

Spycops victims forced to seek crowd funding for participation in Undercover Policing Inquiry (Byline, link):

"A crowd-funder by victims of undercover policing has reached over half of its £10K target, but questions remain as to why they have to do this in the first place, when millions have already been spent by the police and state."

UK: Government widens legal aid scope for prison law (Law Gazette, link):

"Legal aid will be restored for three areas of prison law following a Court of Appeal judgment, the government has confirmed.

In Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service v the Lord Chancellor, the court ruled that the high threshold required for a finding of inherent or systemic unfairness was satisfied in the case of pre-tariff reviews by the parole board, category A reviews (those whose escape would be highly dangerous), and decisions regarding placement in close supervision centres. The threshold was not satisfied in relation to decisions about offending behaviour programmes and courses, and disciplinary proceedings where no additional days of imprisonment or detention can be awarded.

This week Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, a prison charity, posted a letter on Twitter from the Ministry of Justice confirming that an amending statutory instrument has been laid before parliament, extending criminal legal aid to the three areas where the court ruled against the government."

UK-EU: Police cooperation: official UK guidance recommends avoiding use of European Investigation Order "where possible"

Official guidance for UK police forces says that they should "always where possible" bypass the European Investigation Order (EIO) and "try to maintain police cooperation activity through existing routes," despite admitting that the EIO "is likely to have significant and positive effect on UK investigations with evidence and information held overseas becoming much easier to access."

EU: Access Info calls for greater transparency of Council of the EU in submission to European Ombudsman (link):

"Madrid, 3 January 2018 – Access Info has recommended that the Council of the European Union significantly increase transparency of the legislative process, in particular by providing the public with details on the positions that EU Member States take in negotiations on legislation.

These recommendations were submitted to the European Ombudsman’s consultation held as part of her enquiry into transparency of the Council, which is based in large part on the case of Council v. Access Info Europe, won by Access Info on 17 October 2013, in which the Court of Justice of the EU established the right of the public to access documents containing the names of Member States putting forward legislative proposals, even at early stages of debate."

See: European Ombudsman Consultation On Transparency of the Council of the EU - Submission by Access Info Europe (link to pdf)

Researchers find a string of security vulnerabilities affecting GPS services (computing, link):

"GPS and location-tracking services could be vulnerable to a string of newly discovered vulnerabilities, dubbed "trackmageddon", according to two security researchers.

In a paper, Vangelis Stykas and Michael Gruhn claim that key security problems could expose users of GPS services to tracking by third parties.

The services are described as databases that harvest geolocation data from a range of connected devices, including child trackers, car trackers and pet trackers."

Here's How Privacy Is Violated in Estonia (Liberties, link):

"It seems that privacy is not a concern to E-stonia, where data protection laws allow government agencies to access users' personal data, which ICT companies retain despite EU law.

The government of Estonia likes to promote the country as a digital society. There is much to be happy with: many state services are delivered with minimal hassle and projects like the so-called e-residency and internet voting are innovative and potentially transformative. However, unlike Estonia’s Nordic neighbour Sweden, the e-state is built upon a foundation that does not fully take into account basic human rights such as protection of personal data."

European Parliament study: EU and Member States’ policies and laws on persons suspected of terrorism-related crimes (pdf):

"This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE Committee), presents an overview of the legal and policy framework in the EU and 10 select EU Member States on persons suspected of terrorism-related crimes. The study analyses how Member States define suspects of terrorism-related crimes, what measures are available to state authorities to prevent and investigate such crimes and how information on suspects of terrorism-related crimes is exchanged between Member States. The comparative analysis between the 10 Member States subject to this study, in combination with the examination of relevant EU policy and legislation, leads to the development of key conclusions and recommendations."

How Europe's New Internet Laws Threaten Freedom of Expression (Foreign Affairs, account required) by David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression:

"For some years now, Americans have been demanding that Internet companies deal with online ugliness—from misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of abuse to disinformation, propaganda, and terrorist content. The public fever is justifiably high. As The New York Times breathlessly editorialized about Facebook and fake news shortly after the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, “Surely its programmers can train the software to spot bogus stories and outwit the people producing this garbage.” And yet, while Congress hauls company lawyers up to Capitol Hill hearings and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other technology companies struggle to address public concerns, U.S. legislation to restrict online content seems as unlikely today—for constitutional and political reasons—as it did before November 2016 (bracketing such things as child exploitation and imminent threats of violence, subjects strictly regulated offline and on).

Meanwhile, as Americans collectively fret over an Internet gone bad, Europe regulates, unconstrained by the legislative paralysis or solicitousness toward corporate America present in Washington. At every level—executive, legislative and judicial, union and state—Europeans are moving to impose restrictions on the expression that Internet companies can permit on their platforms. Although these moves reflect legitimate concerns about the abuse of online space, many risk interfering with fundamental rights to freedom of expression. What’s more, the possibility of this trend spreading beyond Europe is high."

The article concludes:

"The proposals above [such as those in the Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online and Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive], however, risk leading to a shrinking of space in the most important forums for expression available in history. They will be hard to contain in practice, principle, or in terms of geography. To the extent that they involve outsourcing adjudication to private actors, they limit the possibility of democratic accountability. They should be reconsidered, limited, and enforced through the traditional tools of the rule of law."

EU: Visa liberalisation: Commission reports on implementation of benchmarks for Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries (Commission press release, pdf):

"The Commission is today reporting on the continuous fulfilment of the visa liberalisation benchmarks by the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) as well as the Eastern Partnership countries (Georgiam Moldova and Ukraine). The report shows that, whilst the visa liberalisation requirements for the countries concerned continue to be fulfilled, action is required in a number of specific areas to preserve their sustainable implementation.


Today's report is the first assessment under the new monitoring mechanism for the eight countries that have concluded visa liberalisation dialogues with the EU. The assessment shows that all eight Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries have demonstrated strong commitment to meeting the necessary requirements and have undertaken important efforts to implement a number of far-reaching reforms set out under the visa liberalisation process. It is now imperative that those reforms are sustained and that the countries do not backtrack on their achievements. Today's report focuses on the areas where further actions are required, in particular irregular migration and readmission, fight against corruption and money laundering as well as public order and security."

See: First Report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism (COM(2017) 815 final, pdf) and: Staff Working Document (SWD(2017) 480 final, pdf)

UK: Asylum offices 'in a constant state of crisis', say whistleblowers (The Guardian, link):

"Staff in the Home Office’s asylum directorate are undertrained, overworked and operating in a “constant state of crisis”, two whistleblowers have claimed, as applicants endure long waits to have their case dealt with due to internal pressures.

The Home Office staff have also told the Guardian that asylum case workers are making poor decisions about applications because they are under pressure to focus on more profitable visa applications. Despite a “shocking increase in complaints (from applicants) and MP enquiries questioning delays”, they say caseworkers have been told to brush off all enquires and “just give standard lines” of response when called to account."

And see: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of asylum intake and casework - April-August 2017 (pdf)

UK: Investigation after man dies in Staffordshire prison (The Sentinel, link):

"An investigation is underway after a prisoner died at one of the region’s biggest jails.

The inmate at HMP Dovegate, near Uttoxeter, was pronounced dead yesterday afternoon (December 22).

Serco, which runs the prison, confirmed the man’s death this morning (December 23) but has not yet released details of his age or name.

A post-mortem will now be carried out to establish why he died before a report is prepared for the coroner ahead of an inquest being opened.

It is understood prison staff had tried to save the man but their attempts were unsuccessful."

Germany's populist AfD seeks to turn online 'censorship' to its advantage (Deutsche Welle, link):

"The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party complained on Tuesday that its politicians had been the victim of censorship online. This followed news that Cologne's police had pressed charges against two leading AfD politicians, in response to provocative tweets about "barbaric, Muslim, group-raping hordes of men," as one of them had put it.

These developments coincide with the introduction of a new law forcing social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to respond to requests to delete offensive content more quickly."

EU: Poland refuses Middle Eastern migrants (euronews, link):

"It might be a brand new year but the European Union is already facing the same old problems.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says his government won't meet the EU's mandatory refugee quotas set to help take the burden off Italy and Greece.

"We are invariably of the opinion, formulated by Law and Justice ahead of the elections of 2015, that we will not be receiving migrants from the Middle East and Northern Africa in Poland," Morawiecki said during an interview with Radio Poland.

That doesn't mean the country isn't pulling its weight, Morawieski said."

UK: Nuno Cardoso: Police investigated over death of black law student who was restrained in van (The Independent, link):

"A law student who wanted to be the “best lawyer in the country” has become the fifth young black man to die after being restrained by police officers this year.

The mother of Nuno Cardoso, 25, demanded “justice” for her son after he collapsed in the back of a police van in Oxford.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said four Thames Valley Police officers involved in the incident were under investigation.

Mr Cardoso, who was originally from London, was arrested and restrained after an assault was reported in the early hours of 24 November.

“At around 5.30am, Mr Cardoso was being taken to a police station in the back of a police van when officers reported that he had become unwell,” a spokesperson for the IPCC said."

BELGIUM: PNR: From January 1st airlines to start conducting identity checks at boarding gates (The Brussels Times, link):

"Airlines operating in Belgian airports must, beginning with Belgian Airlines, from January 1st conduct a “compliance check”.
This means that passenger identity will from now on be checked at the boarding gate. Identity documents will be compared with the boarding card.

Kim Daenen, Communications Manager and Spokesperson of Brussels Airlines, says, “This is a visual check.” She goes on, “We will check if the surname on the identity card is identical to that printed on the boarding card. This check will be effected at the boarding gate for each flight both from and to Belgium.”

This new measure falls within the context of the PNR measures (Passenger Name Record), which anticipates that airlines will send passenger data to the crisis centre 48 hours before the flight, and a second time upon the flight landing. Brussels Airlines will send this data, effective from January 1st. Strictly speaking, other Belgian airlines will be implementing the measure at a later date."

Council of the European Union: Eurojust, ECRIS, ETIAS

• Eurojust: Proposal of the European Parliament and of the Council for a Regulationon the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) - Follow up of the third trilogue of 6 December 2017 (LIMITE doc no: 14306-REV-2-17, pdf): 296 pages: Four column trilogue document with Commission proposal, Council position, EUropean Parliament "Orientation" position and "compromise" position.

• ECRIS: Proposal for a Directive amending Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA, as regards the exchange of information on third country nationals and as regards the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), and replacing Council Decision 2009/316/JHA- Outcome of the discussions in the (JHA) Council on 8 December 2017 (LIMITE doc no: 15450-17, pdf):

"On 8 December 2017, the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) reached a general approach in relation to the above mentioned proposal for a Directive, as revised in the light of the proposal for a Regulation (see doc. 15448/17).

UK still maintains a Parliamentary scrutiny reservation.

The text of the draft Directive as agreed, which is set out in the Annex, will constitute the basis for the negotiations with the European Parliament in the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure (Art. 294 TFEU)."

• ECRIS: General approach to above agreed by the Council prior to trilogue meetings with the European Parliament (LIMITE doc no: 15448-17, pdf)

• ETIAS: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and amending Regulations (EU) No 515/2014, (EU) 2016/399, (EU) 2016/794 and (EU) 2016/1624 (LIMITE doc no 15840-17, pdf):

"ETIAS is an automated system set up to identify security, illegal migration or public health risks associated with visa-exempt visitors travelling to the Schengen Area. It will gather information to allow for advance processing on those visitors prior to their travel.(...)

At the last trilogue, the main political issues, as listed in document 15127/17 (+ COR 1), have been provisionally agreed, pending confirmation by the co-legislators. The Presidency debriefed delegations on the outcome of this trilogue at the JHA Counsellors
meeting on 18 December. All delegations that took the floor regarded the compromise reached on these issues as generally positive. Some delegations used this opportunity to ask the Presidency some clarifications and to outline their views."

• ETIAS: See as referred to above:151217-17 (LIMITE doc, pdf) and: 15127-17-COR-1 (LIMITE doc no: pdf)

EU should ban Austria presidency, French appeal says (euobserver, link):

"France's former foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has called on the EU to boycott Austria's upcoming six-month presidency of the Council of the EU as well as Austrian ministers belonging to the country's far-right coalition party. (...)

The letter was co-signed by Benjamin Abtan, the founder of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement, and Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, founders of the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France group.

They said that other EU leaders have met the rise to power of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) in Austria with "silence and a guilty apathy", and that they were "concerned" about the party's "ideology of hatred"."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.12.17-1.1.18)

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