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January 2019

Budapest: This EU Parliament should stop deciding on migration and rule of law (euractiv, link):

"The current European Parliament should make no decision on issues related to migration and rule of law as it does not represent the will of EU citizens, a high-ranking Hungarian government official told EURACTIV Croatia in an interview."

EU: New report examines widespread deployment of automated decision-making systems in policing, employment, social security and more

A new report by Algorithm Watch says that automated decision-making systems of one kind or another are in use in "almost all aspects of daily life" across the EU.

EU: 'Bizarre and unacceptable': MEPs slammed over wanting secret ballot for transparency vote (euronews, link):

"Centre-right MEPs have been criticised for allegedly requesting a secret ballot for a vote on… transparency.

The apparent irony of the demand was highlighted by their European Parliament colleague Sven Giegold.

He said politicians from the European People's Party (EPP) group decided to ask for their votes to be concealed for the ballot at a meeting earlier this month.

MEPs normally have their voting choices recorded."

Standing up for Romanian democracy from abroad and from within (Eurozine, link):

"On 10 August 2018, tens of thousands of Romanians from the European migration, joined by other Romanian citizens, descended onto the streets of Bucharest in order to protest against the government. They were met with tear gas. The gendarmerie brutally charged at the crowd, beating people up and dispersing them with water cannons. The police later claimed that their violence was legitimate against provocateurs. However, as multiple testimonies showed, violent protesters were not encircled and isolated from the crowd but, on the contrary, used to legitimize the indiscriminate use of force. Nothing was done to protect the peaceful protesters. Instead, they were considered potential adversaries from the very beginning. Hundreds were injured. The president condemned police brutality and the military prosecution opened an investigation. Yet so far no member of government has apologized for the misdeeds of the gendarmerie. The authorities claim to have been defending the state. Prime minister Viorica Dancila even sent a letter to the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, stating that the protests were an attempt to overthrow a legitimate government."

Europol EDEN conference report: Freedom AND Security: Killing the zero sum process (pdf)

"We at Europol recognise the necessity to talk about dignity and respect for fundamental rights when fighting transnational crime and terrorism. But, how can law enforcement effectively respond to terrorist and cybercrime threats when at the same time protecting the fundamental right of data protection? How much of our privacy will we, or should we, sacrifice in order to guarantee security? Do we actually need to sacrifice privacy and freedom in order to guarantee security?"

EU tests crossborder querying of police files (Matthias Monroy, link):

"The introduction of a European Police Records Information System has been under discussion for years. Authorities could use it to query police files in other countries. Through the back door, a EU-wide „troublemaker database“ could become reality.

The European Union is continuing to examine the crossborder networking of police files in the Member States. This was written by the German Ministry of the Interior in response to a parlamentarian inquiry. It would allow investigating authorities to query whether information about suspects or defendants is available at a foreign police station. Such a system exists so far only for convictions and has recently been extended."

UK: Refusals of FOI requests at record levels as government discloses less and less information (The London Economic, link):

"A major new report has found refusals of Freedom of Information requests are at record levels.

According to the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank government departments refused to give any information in response to almost half (45 per cent) of FOI requests in the first quarter of 2018.

Analysis of the data shows the first three quarters of 2018 had the highest proportion of requests withheld in part or in full – more than half – since the introduction of FoI in 2005."

See: Whitehall Monitor 2019 (Institute for Government, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22-28.1.19) including:

UK-ECHR: Calls for extremism database to be abolished as ECtHR rules UK police violated peaceful pensioner's privacy rights

There have been calls for the database on "domestic extremists" hosted by the Metropolitan Police to be abolished following the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling last week that the police's failure to delete data held on John Catt, a peaceful protester who is now 94 years old, violated his right to privacy.

UK-France: Action plan on small boats crossing the Channel published: more information-sharing, €3.6 million for new security equipment, joint return operations

The interior ministers of the UK and France have declared their determination "to stop this trend of illegal migrants seeking to cross the Channel in small boats", with a new action plan setting out a series of measures.

IRELAND: Dept of Social Protection refuses FOI request on Public Services Card (ICCL, link):

"The Department of Social Protection has refused to release information regarding the Data Protection Commissioner’s investigation into the Public Services Card, in part because it may “be contrary to the public interest”. The request was brought by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties under freedom of information legislation.

The detailed response from the Department of Social Protection to ICCL’s request relies on Sections 29(1), 30(1), 32 (1)(c), 35 and 37(1) of the Freedom of Information Act. Amongst other issues, these sections include grounds for refusal of a request based on “public interest” or that the “requester concerned would thereby become aware of a significant decision that the body proposes to make”."

Report: Public Understanding of GDPR: How companies, regulators, and civil society can support data protection rights (Open Rights Group, link):

"Debate and guidance about data protection and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has focussed on helping businesses achieve compliance. This is clearly valuable. The strengthened rights that individuals enjoy under GDPR have, however, received less attention.

Important questions are left to be explored relating to the public understanding of data protection. How aware is the public about data protection and what their rights are? If they are aware of their rights, how well do they understand what those rights entail? Where do these rights fit within people’s everyday lives?

Open Rights Group has carried out research over the last year to investigate these questions."

UK-EU: Post-Brexit migration, policing and security: analyses

One recent analysis argues that the post-Brexit UK migration regime foreseen in a recent white paper "will create new hierarchies of race and class – and intolerable hardship", while another argues that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the extradition of criminal suspects between the UK and EU Member States - one aspect of the numerous policing and security issues covered in proposed new regulations - may well face problems.

EU: The changing patchwork of the child's age of consent for data processing across the EU (January 2019) (Better Internet for Kids, link)

"Eight months have passed since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became applicable across the European Union (EU) in May 2018. This new update focuses on the most recent situation in terms of the age that has been decided upon by national government when implementing article 8 GDPR, final implementation laws adopted by most countries and specific provisions certain states include in their (updated) legislation."

The politics of pre-emption (Eurozine, link):

"Security forces increasingly use data-driven crowd control techniques to pre-empt unpredictable situations. Unlike traditional prevention methods, pre-emptive policing actively engenders crowd behaviour – and in doing so interferes with the basic conditions for political agency, argues Krystian Woznicki. "

UK: Information Commissioner's Office: 'Outsourcing Oversight? The case for reforming access to information law (pdf):

"The landscape of public service delivery has fundamentally changed and continues to evolve. The Government and the wider public sector today relies heavily on a multitude of organisations, other than public authorities, to deliver and support many core public services. Data published by the Institute for Government (IfG) in December 2018 said that the Government spends £284 billion - almost a third of its total expenditure - with external suppliers...

Public services are delivered in many ways, including by organisations that are not public authorities. This report is not about whether certain methods are to be preferred. It is about highlighting the clear risks to transparency and accountability when information held by such organisations is removed from the scrutiny offered by access to information law. The current law is not fit for purpose. It needs to keep pace with the changes in the modern public sector and public expectations."

EU: Inclusion of dual nationals in new criminal records database "incompatible" with the right to non-discrimination

A new EU database approved by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee last week will breach the right to non-discrimination, according to a committee of international legal experts.

EU: First Report from the Joint Europol and Eurojust observatory function on Encryption (Council document 5435/19, LIMITE, 16 January 2019, pdf):

"This report is meant to be a source of reference in the ongoing debate on encryption, and elucidate how the developments in the area may have an impact on law enforcement and the judiciary. Furthermore, it aims to be a well-rounded resource which can be used to inform the policy debate and development around the topic. Hence, the report is targeted towards a specific audience, primarily members of law enforcement and the judiciary working around the topic and members of the interior and justice ministries working on the development of policy in this area."

UK: Campaigners get go-ahead to challenge exemption UK gave itself over immigrants' data (The Register, link):

"The High Court has agreed to hear a campaign group's case against the UK's Data Protection Act, which they say leaves immigrants with fewer rights over their data.

The sueball – lobbed by the Open Rights Group and EU citizens' group the3million – targets an exemption in the Act that was passed into law last May.

The groups want to remove this exemption from the Act, on the grounds that it is incompatible with the General Data Protection Regulation and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights."

See: What is at stake with the immigration exemption legal challenge? (Open Rights Group, link)

EU urges crackdown on 'golden passports' for big investors

"The EU Commission has told EU states to tighten checks on non-EU nationals who acquire citizenship - so-called "golden passports" - through investments.

The Commission plans closer monitoring of those schemes and of "golden visas" granting residence in exchange for big investments. It says they can be abused for tax evasion and money-laundering."

FRANCE-GERMANY: Merkel and Macron sign Treaty of Aachen to revive EU (Deutsche Welle, link):

"French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday signed a new friendship treaty that is designed to deepen the Franco-German friendship, bring ties to a "new level" and improve the lives of citizens in both countries.

The treaty was signed in the German city of Aachen, as France and Germany marked the 56th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty.

The idea isn't new. Paris, in particular, has regularly suggested renewing the treaty in the decades since it was first signed, despite the fact that amendments have been added over the years.

The Treaty of Aachen will be the "foundation of cooperation between our countries," said Merkel before the signing the new friendship pact. "

Survivors of the War on Terror by Ala Busir (link)

Portraits and stories of people imprisoned in Northen Ireland and in Guantanamo and other prisons during the so-called "war on terror".

And see: Statewatch Observatory on "rendition"

EU: Frontex proposal: Presidency attempts to "accommodate Member States' concerns" over "standing corps" and executive powers

The Council of the EU is pressing ahead with negotiations on the new Frontex proposals, which were announced by the Commission last September. Recent Council documents show that the proposal to introduce a "standing corps" of 10,000 border guards at the disposal of Frontex (now formally known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) has caused some consternation amongst Member States, as have proposals to provide Frontex staff and members of "teams" with executive powers.

GERMANY: Police Laws in Saxony: Czech, Polish and German Criticism on Plans for Facial Recognition in the Border Region (Digitalcourage, link)

"Together with our Czech partner organisation IURE and the Polish Panoptykon Foundation, we strongly criticize the planned preventive automatic facial recognition in the border region of the German federal state of Saxony, the Czech Republic and Poland.
The debate and potential vote in the Saxon parliament was set to take place in late January 2019. Considerable objections and controversy however led to this being postponed to March 2019, giving us more time to inform people, organisations and politicians about the problematic bill.

Digitalcourage has published a statement in which we criticize the course of surveillance politics currently pursued by the governing CDU/SPD coalition in Saxony. Digitalcourage especially warns about the planned use of covert agents and machine guns, the concept of “abstract danger”, the fact that contacts and companions are affected, and about the planned preventive surveillance of all telecommunication."

EU: Visa Information System: child fingerprinting and police access proposals criticised by data protection authorities

European data protection authorities have strongly criticised the European Commission's proposals to extend the Visa Information System (VIS), arguing that the lowering of the fingerprinting age for children, access to visa data by law enforcement authorities and the storage of long-stay visas and residence permits in the database fail to meet basic data protection and fundamental rights standards.

EU-POLAND: The rule of law in Poland: reports from the Council's hearings

Statewatch is today publishing the two most recent reports produced by the Council on its 'hearings' on the situation of the rule of law in Poland, which have been held in the General Affairs Council (GAC).

EU: Returns Directive: latest Council Presidency compromise proposal

"Delegations will find attached a revised Presidency compromise proposal as regards the draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (recast), prepared taking into account delegations' comments provided at and after the IMEX meeting on 3 December and JHA counsellors' meeting on 12 December 2018."

European Parliament Study: Fit for purpose? The Facilitation Directive and the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants: 2018 Update (pdf):

"It takes stock of and examines the latest developments that have taken place since 2016, specifically the legislative and policy changes, along with various forms and cases of criminalisation of humanitarian actors, migrants’ family members and basic service providers.

The study uses the notion of ‘policing humanitarianism’ to describe not only cases of formal prosecution and sentencing in criminal justice procedures, but also wider dynamics of suspicion, intimidation, harassment and disciplining in five selected Member States – Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Italy.

Policing humanitarianism negatively affects EU citizens’ rights – such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. When civil society is effectively (self-)silenced and its accountability role undermined, policies to combat migrant smuggling may be overused and give rise to serious breaches of the EU’s founding values, notably the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. Moreover, policing humanitarianism negatively affects wider societal trust and diverts the limited resources of law enforcement from investigating more serious crimes."

Council of the European Union: Common European Asylum System: Qualifications & Resettlement Regulations - latest

Qualifications: Proposal for a Regulation on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and for the content of the protection granted and amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents (First reading) - State of play and guidance for further work (LIMITE doc no 5456-19, pdf):

"These limited changes received wide support at the meeting of JHA Counsellors on 16 July 2018 and were also presented to the European Parliament both at technical and political level. At the meetings on 17 July and 26 September 2018, the Parliament informed the Presidency that, in principle, in view of the provisional agreement reached in the June trilogue meeting, it
stands by the agreement reached therein and does not intend to continue the negotiations for the time being.
(...)

Against this background, and with a view to possible upcoming discussions with the European Parliament, COREPER is invited to confirm whether it can support the changes set out in the Annex to this note, merely in order to continue discussions with the European Parliament."

• Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council (First reading) - State of play and guidance for further work (LIMITE doc no 5164, pdf):

"In the context of ongoing negotiations with the European Parliament on some outstanding technical and drafting issues, the Presidency has the intention to address also the issues set out in the Annex.(...)

Against this background, and with a view to possible upcoming discussions with the European Parliament, COREPER is invited to confirm whether it can support the changes set out in this note."

European Parliament: In depth analysis: Standard Essential Patents and the Internet of Things (pdf):

"The report evaluates the efficient resolution of licensing disputes over FRAND, including via litigation, arbitration and mediation, licensing pools and collective licensing. The current document also puts forward some policy recommendations to, inter alia, enhance the general environment of FRAND licencing in the context of SEPs. [Standard Essential Patents]."

France summons Italian envoy over Di Maio Africa comments (euractiv, link):

"France has summoned Italy’s ambassador to protest against comments by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who accused Paris of continuing to colonise Africa and causing people to migrate from the continent, a government source told AFP. (...)

“The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” Di Maio said."

GREECE: Experts warn of dangers of excessive tear gas use in letter to PM (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The Association of Greek Chemists sent a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday warning of the hazards of tear gas use as to disperse crowds during unrest at protest rallies.

In the letter, the association urges Tsipras to consider banning the use of “dangerous chemicals that linger in the atmosphere of the urban environment for days, harming the quality of life of all citizens.”

The warning came in the wake of accusations that police used an excessive amount of tear gas in response to violence at Sunday's demonstration in Athens against the Prespes name deal."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-21.1.19) including:

EU: Open letter to European Institutions: public reporting must be a safe option for whistleblowers (European Federation of Journalists, link):

"The Council of the European Union will soon adopt its general approach on the directive on the protection of whistleblowers. Ahead of this crucial political agreement among the Member States, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) would like to insist about the importance of granting the widest protection to whistleblowers, including persons choosing to turn to the media to blow the whistle."

ITALY: Stefano Cucchi: How one death in custody has become the symbol of police brutality in Italy (Lacuna, link):

"The death in custody of 31-year-old Stefano Cucchi has brought the abuse of police power under scrutiny in Italy. After losing her brother and enduring the subsequent trial, Ilaria Cucchi is now receiving harassment and online threats from police officers. Sociologists say Stefano’s case is not isolated and ask what the country will do to clean up its policing."

See also: Statewatch Analysis: Shocking death spotlights prisoner plight (June 2010, pdf)

UK: Wales has 'highest imprisonment rate' in western Europe (BBC News, link):

"Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, new research has claimed.

The Wales Governance Centre's analysis of official figures also reveals average custody rates are higher than in England for a number of different groups and offences.

In particular, non-white Welsh prisoners are overrepresented in prison."

See: Wales Governance Centre: Sentencing and Immediate Custody in Wales: A Factfile (pdf) by Dr Robert Jones

European Anti-Terrorist Force now coordinated at Europol (link)

"For four years, Austria is in charge of the EU network of special units. The head of the Cobra decided on a closer connection to the EU police agency. This also applies to military forces that assume tasks in the field of internal security."

EU: Leaders Stoke Fear, Ignore Rights - Defense of Shared Values Vital to Curb Negative Trends (HRW, link):

"(Berlin) – Influential leaders in European Union states used migration to stoke fear, justify abusive policies, and block meaningful reform in 2018, even as arrivals at borders decreased, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019. But during 2018, EU institutions, with backing from some EU states, demonstrated a greater commitment to address attacks on democratic institutions and the rule of law in Hungary and Poland.(...)

“We saw populist leaders in EU states stoking fear and jettisoning rights during 2018 with little regard for the consequences,” said Benjamin Ward, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Thankfully, we have some EU institutions and states willing to stand up to the populists’ dangerous disregard for Europe’s core values.”"

Promoting rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU (EP, link):

"EP wants to triple the budget for the Rights and Values Programme - Fast-track procedure to support democratic dialogue where EU values are at risk

The EU should do more to promote democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights across the EU, including through support to civil society organisations.

MEPs endorsed on Thursday the position of the Civil Liberties Committee to triple the funds allocated in the long-term EU budget (2021-2027) for the Rights and Values Programme, up to 1.834 billion euros (the European Commission had proposed €642 million)."

EU-IRELAND: Fingerprints in passport cards: Irish government obtains opt-out

The Irish government has obtained an opt-out from what would have been a requirement for the fingerprinting of all holders of the country's passport card, which can be used as a more convenient alternative to the standard passport book.

Germany's intelligence agency to step up surveillance of AfD (The Local, link):

"Germany's domestic intelligence will step up monitoring for political extremism of the far-right AfD [Alternative für Deutschland, Alternative for Germany] party, sources said Tuesday, a blow to the party in a busy election year.

However, the agency has shied away from immediate full surveillance of the entire party, including phone and email taps, the use of undercover informants and the collection of personal data on MPs.

A report on the move by Berlin's Tagesspiegel daily was confirmed to AFP by sources familiar with the decision ahead of separate Berlin press conferences by domestic intelligence (BfV) chief Thomas Haldenwang and AfD leaders."

European Parliament study: Challenges in the implementation of EU Law at national level (pdf):

"The better regulation package has important consequences for the Commission’s enforcement policy: more emphasis on compliance-based mechanisms and a strategic use of legal sanctions; the phasing out of EU Pilot; and greater use of financial sanctions for Article 260(3). New data analytics tools should also increase effectiveness of transposition tracking in future, examining correctness as well as timeliness of transposition, which is crucial to effective implementation of EU law.

2017 and 2018 infringement data, from complaints to financial sanctions, remains broadly in line with the previous five years. The main sectors that resist efforts to solve infractions once an infringement case has been launched are environment, transport / mobility and financial stability. The top sectors referred to Court in 2017 are environment, internal market, justice and transport. Italy, Hungary and Poland had the most cases referred to Court in 2017. In 2018 (to date) environment, energy and transport were the top sectors referred to Court with Italy, Hungary and Spain having the most cases against them."

UK: 'Degrading strip search left me with PTSD' (BBC News, link):

"A woman subjected to a "degrading" strip search by police in London is challenging a decision not to punish the officer who authorised it.

Koshka Duff was arrested after offering a legal advice card to a black teenager during his stop-and-search.

What happened left her with multiple injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the academic says.

The custody sergeant was cleared of misconduct, and the Met said it was satisfied investigations were thorough.

Dr Duff, a 30-year-old lecturer at the University of Nottingham, does not agree and is challenging the misconduct hearing's findings by way of a judicial review."

EU: Authorities with access to Passenger Name Record (PNR) data in each Member State: List of competent authorities referred to in Article 7 of Directive (EU) 2016/681 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime (6 June 2018, pdf):

"This list reflects the authorities entitled, in each Member State, to request or receive PNR data or the result of processing those data from their national Passenger Information Unit (PIU) or for the purpose of Article 9(3) of Directive (EU) 2016/681 directly from the PIU of any other Member State only when necessary in cases of emergency"

UK: Grayling under fire as serious crimes committed on parole soar by 50% (The Guardian, link):

"The number of rapes, murders and other serious crimes committed by offenders on parole has risen by more than 50% since reforms to probation were introduced four years ago, according to official data that has triggered calls for the government to rethink its plans for another shake-up of the service.

Serious further offence reviews – which take place when a convicted offender under supervision is charged with another serious offence (SFO) – rose from 409 in the year before the 2014 reforms to 627 in the 12 months up to last April.

The new figures for England and Wales – which were shared with Plaid Cymru’s justice spokeswoman, Liz Saville Roberts – come as it emerges that coroners have taken the highly unusual decision to reopen inquests into three people killed by offenders under supervision, a move that is expected to expose systemic flaws in the probation service."

MOLDOVA-ECHR: Activist’s conviction for using sculptures of genitals to protest against corruption was “manifestly disproportionate” (press release, pdf):

"In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Mãtãsaru v. the Republic of Moldova (application no. 69714/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the applicant’s conviction for demonstrating in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office with obscene sculptures. His sculptures likening public officials to genitals were intended to draw attention to corruption and political control over the Prosecutor’s Office. The courts found that his actions had been “immoral” and offensive for the senior prosecutors and politicians he had targeted. He was given a two-year suspended prison sentence."

State seeks ‘leapfrog appeal’ of landmark Dwyer ruling on data retention law (Irish Legal News, link):

"The State is to ask the Supreme Court to hear its appeal against a High Court ruling that sections of the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 are inconsistent with EU law.

Brian Murray SC, for the State, told Mr Justice Tony O’Connor it intends to apply to the top court to hear “a leapfrog appeal” of the finding that convicted murderer Graham Dwyer is entitled to certain limited declarations concerning provisions of Ireland’s data retention laws.

It is believed that the appeal of the finding in Dwyer’s favour could be heard by the Supreme Court sometime in the next 12 months."

See: High Court strikes down Ireland's data retention regime (Statewatch News, 10 December 2018)

EU: Bulgaria and Hungary are undermining the rule of law with "European supervision"

According to analyses published earlier this month by the website Verfassungsblog, the Bulgarian and Hungarian governments are undermining the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary whilst obtaining nominal approval for their actions from institutions such as the European Commission, the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission (formally known as the European Commission for Democracy through Law).

PSNI agrees to publish policy on biometric data retention in court case settlement (Irish Legal News, link):

"The PSNI will publish a formal public policy on its retention of biometric data after settling a case brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC).

The NIHRC issued judicial review proceedings against the PSNI in December 2017 on behalf of an individual who wanted them to erase fingerprints and DNA retained after the individual was arrested in 2009.

The individual was arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, but the police subsequently accepted that they had simply intervened in a neighbourhood dispute to keep the peace, and no charges or prosecution were brought.

The PSNI refused to destroy the individual’s data on the basis of their previous 1992 conviction for common assault."

And see: Police to provide greater clarity on DNA retention in Northern Ireland (Belfast Telegraph, link)

CYPRUS: KISA press release: Landmark conviction against racism in social media

On 7 January, the District Court of Nicosia convicted for the first time a citizen for racist comments on social media. In particular, responding to a parent, Ms A.M. called him ''stupid'' because he had adopted children from Asia, which are ''idiots'', as she claimed.

KISA considers that this decision undoubtedly constitutes an important and positive development in the efforts for the elimination and combating of xenophobia, racist discourse, hate speech and hate crime.

EU Commission wants to use artificial intelligence for surveillance (Matthias Monroy, link)

"An EU document compares machine learning with the invention of electricity. A total of 20 billion euros is to be invested in research into „AI made in Europe“.

A „Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence“ of the European Union envisages the increased use of algorithms in the areas of „migration, infrastructure monitoring“. This is the message in the annex to the communication from the EU Commission, which the Secretary General addressed to the Council shortly before Christmas. AI-based machine learning is to be used primarily in the areas of geoinformation and earth observation."

See: European Commission: Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence (COM(2018) 795 final, pdf) and: Annex (pdf)

EU: Council: Values of the Union - Hungary - Article 7 (1) (14022/18, 8 November 2018, pdf)

"Delegations will find in the Annex a Commission non-paper providing factual information on the values-related infringement proceedings in relation to Hungary."

Ongoing proceedings include: NGO law, Higher Education Law, Asylum, Relocation, New legislation criminalising activities in support of asylum and residence applications, Roma.

Infamous history: RAF veteran ‘admitted 1961 killing of UN secretary general’ (The Observer, link)"

"Exclusive: Cold case documentary casts new light on mystery of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane crash.

New evidence has emerged linking an RAF veteran to the death in 1961 of the UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld in a mysterious plane crash in southern Africa.

Jan van Risseghem has been named as a possible attacker before, but has always been described simply as a Belgian pilot. The Observer can now reveal that he had extensive ties to Britain, including a British mother and wife, trained with the RAF and was decorated by Britain for his service in the second world war."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3-9.1.19) including:

Irish passport card holders to be fingerprinted under new EU rules

New EU rules on national identity cards and travel documents will "compel Ireland to introduce fingerprinting" of all holders of the Irish passport card, according to a document circulated by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU (pdf).

UK: New contracts in asylum accommodation scheme criticised for "squalid, unsafe slum conditions"

The UK government has announced the signing of £4 billion of new contracts in an accommodation scheme that in its previous incarnation was criticised for leaving asylum seekers living in "squalid, unsafe slum conditions".

UK: Stansted 15 launch appeal against 'disproportionate' convictions (The Guardian, link):

"The 15 immigration activists found guilty of a terror offence for blocking the takeoff of a deportation charter flight from Stansted airport have launched an appeal against their convictions.

...On Monday, lawyers representing all 15 defendants lodged submissions amounting to around 100 pages at the court of appeal in London. They are arguing that the judge was biased in his summing up of the case, that he should have allowed the defendants to make the defence of necessity, and that he got the law wrong about what the offence means.

They also claim that the court did not properly check that the attorney general had properly given consent for the terror charge to be levied against peaceful protesters, and that the judge should have ordered disclosure of the materials sent to the attorney general when deciding whether to sign it off."

GREECE: Pregnant women, children and survivors of torture abandoned in Greek camps as screening system breaks down (Oxfam International, link):

"Hundreds of pregnant women, unaccompanied children and survivors of torture are being abandoned in refugee camps on the Greek islands, an Oxfam report revealed today. It details how the system to identify and protect the most vulnerable people has broken down due to chronic understaffing and flawed processes.

...Oxfam is calling for the Greek government and EU member states to deploy more expert staff, including doctors and psychologists, and to fix the screening system on the Greek islands. It said that more people seeking asylum should be transferred to mainland Greece on a regular basis – particularly the vulnerable. Oxfam is also calling on EU member states to share responsibility for receiving asylum seekers with Greece more fairly by reforming the ‘Dublin Regulation’ in line with the position of the European Parliament."

See the report: Vulnerable and abandoned: How the Greek reception system is failing to protect the most vulnerable people seeking asylum (pdf)

UPDATED: Statewatch Observatory: Creation of a centralised Justice & Home Affairs database The Observatory has been updated with new documents.

European Parliament Studies: EU Defence: The White Book implementation process (pdf):

"The question of a defence White Book at European level has been under discussion for some time. Many voices, particularly in the European Parliament, are pushing for such an initiative, while others consider that it is not only unnecessary, but could even dangerously divide Europeans."

And: Unlocking the potential of the EU Treaties: An article-by-article analysis of the scope for action (pdf):

" The Treaty of Lisbon is the current legal foundation for the work of the European Union and its institutions. Although there is at present no general debate within the institutions on the revision of the Treaties, senior EU politicians have recently hinted at the possibility of expanding Parliament's powers. However, given that the ordinary procedure for revision of the Treaties is cumbersome and lengthy, and that the simplified procedure cannot be used to broaden EU competences, it makes sense to explore possibilities for unlocking the full potential of the existing Treaties as they stand now."

UK: Spycops in context: Beneath the undercover policing scandal (Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, link):

"Undercover policing, however, is just one weapon in an entire armoury of political policing. The undercover policing scandal, which the Spycops in context papers are a response to, cannot be adequately understood without a wider historical view of the British state’s counter-subversion apparatus.

Isolating the undercover units from the rest of the political policing system – Special Branch, MI5, specialist cabinet committees, the Information Research Department and more – allows the SDS and NPOIU to be viewed as rogue aberrations, not indicative of anything fundamental about Britain’s social order.

A broader historical view of the coercive branches of the state paints the SDS and NPOIU in a different light. This view reveals the units to be part of a long-running system of political policing, the function of which is to contain and undermine deep dissent against the status quo. "

UK: Police spy misleads inquiry about sexual relations with women (The Guardian, link):

"A police spy appears to have misled a public inquiry about sexual relationships he had with two women while he was undercover.

The undercover officer initially told the inquiry he had not had sexual relationships with the two women while using the fake name of James Straven.

He later admitted to having the relationships while he infiltrated animal rights groups between 1997 and 2002. The two women only discovered he had deceived them after he made this admission."

EU: Joint Research Centre report: Automatic fingerprint recognition: from children to elderly (pdf)

"By courtesy of the Portuguese Government, DG JRC has received a comprehensive set of fingerprint data from individuals aged 0-25 and 65-98. The main purpose of the proposed experiments is to deepen the understanding regarding the physiological development of the fingertip ridge structure over time and its impact on automated fingerprint recognition. The experiments explore three biometric processes in the light of age, ageing and growth effects. These effects are demonstrated and validated. A growth model is also developed and validated. The report concludes with a series of recommendations for enhanced implementation of automated fingerprint recognition system and suggestions for further researches."

European Commission: Seventeenth Progress Report towards an effective and genuine Security Union (COM(2018) 845 final, 11 December 2018, pdf):

"This is the seventeenth report on the further progress made towards building an effective and genuine Security Union. It covers developments under two main pillars: tackling terrorism and organised crime and the means that support them, and strengthening our defences and building resilience against those threats. The European Parliament and the Council made significant progress on a number of legislative priorities over the last months. However, for a large number of important priority files, political agreement is still pending and the co-legislators need to make further efforts. With the next European Parliament elections taking place in May 2019, time is of the essence in order to deliver on the pending priority proposals put forward by the Commission to complete the Security Union, as called for by President Jean-Claude Juncker in his 2018 State of the Union address."

EU: New Schengen Information System rules in force: deportation decisions to be included, new types of police check permitted

At the end of December three new Regulations governing the Schengen Information System II (SIS II), the EU's largest database and information system for law enforcement and migration purposes, came into force.

UN report sheds light on ‘unimaginable horrors’ faced by migrants and refugees in Libya, and beyond (UN News, link):

"From unlawful killings, arbitrary detention and torture, to gang rape, slavery, and human trafficking, the report covers a 20-month period up to August 2018, and details a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees.

The findings are based on 1,300 first-hand accounts gathered by UN human rights staff in Libya itself, as well from migrants who have returned to Nigeria, or managed to reach Italy, tracing the entire journey of migrants and refugees from Libya’s southern border, across the desert to the northern coast."

See the report: Desperate and Dangerous: Report on the human rights situation of migrants and refugees in Libya (pdf)

Undermining Democracy, Not Defending It: The ‘Integrity Initiative’ is Everything That’s Wrong With British Foreign Policy (Novara Media, link):

"This weekend a truly extraordinary story was unearthed regarding the machinations of the ‘Integrity Initiative’ (II), a British think tank funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the tune of £2.2m.

While several of the think tank’s tweets – attacking Jeremy Corbyn and key advisors – have garnered the most interest so far, it is leaked documents concerning its working processes and efforts abroad that are particularly shocking.

In these documents the core approach of the II is made clear – their modus operandi being a ‘cluster approach’ where influencers, policy-makers and journalists coordinate across a range of countries. One such cluster operates in Spain, where the II successfully obstructed the appointment of a reservist colonel, Pedro Baños, who was preferred by the socialist government as the country’s next head of national security."

See also: Inside the Temple of Covert Propaganda: The Integrity Initiative and the UK’s Scandalous Information War (Gray Zone, link)

UK: Police force admits passing footage of disabled protesters to DWP (Disability News Service, link):

"A police force has admitted passing video footage and other information about disabled anti-fracking protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

...DNS has also spoken to disabled protesters who say Lancashire police has passed information about their involvement in the protests to DWP, in an apparent attempt to have their disability benefits removed.

Lancashire police this week confirmed to DNS that it had passed on information and footage of disabled protesters at Preston New Road to DWP.

Despite this admission, DWP would only say that it had no “formal arrangement” with any police force to pass it information about disabled protesters, and it refused to say if the department had received material from Lancashire police."

GERMANY: Anti-Semitic violence in German capital soared over 2018 (i24 News, link):

"Anti-Semitic violence in the German capital reached new highs over 2018, with newly published statistics showing that at least five anti-Semitic incidents were reported weekly in Berlin alone. In total, 295 incidents were reported to the authorities in 2018 by mid-December – 24 of them were violent.

The prior year, only seven violent crimes with an anti-Semitic background were registered in Berlin, out of a total of 305 incidents. The majority of cases referred to insults, sedition and property damage.

The newly-appointed anti-Semitism officer in Berlin’s prosecutor’s office General Claudia Vanoni, who revealed the statistics, noted that she expects the final figures for 2018 to be higher, as incidents can be reported also weeks after the fact."

Northern Ireland's hidden borders (Verso, link):

"This [racial profiling at the borders between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and mainland UK] is likely to become worse after Brexit, for a larger number of people, whatever solution is reached about the border. Yet even a scenario where Brexit is reversed through a second referendum is no solution to this issue. The current operations would still be in place. And indeed, they are being strengthened. The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill currently passing through Westminster contains provisions that will grant powers to police and other officials to stop, search and detain anyone found within one mile of the North-South border, without the need to show any reasonable suspicion. The bill also explicitly names two train stations (the first stop on the cross border rail service) which are several miles in from the border yet fall under these powers.

It is completely understandable that people in Ireland are weary about what the future will bring to journeys that, for now, many of us take for granted. In addition to trade, travel, and cross-border work, after decades of violent conflict people are rightly anxious about what a ‘hard border’ will mean, and many are determined to resist that. We need to ensure that calls for ‘no borders in Ireland’ extends to everyonewe share this island with. Operation Gull targets communities of colour, violates the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, and has no place Ireland. It’s time for Gull to go."

Europol to coordinate hacking authorities in Member States (link):

"European police should access computers and telephones with Trojan programs. Europol is now building up a "decryption platform“ in The Hague.

The European Union wants to support the Member States in intercepting telecommunications. Investigators should be able to penetrate private computers or mobile phones to install software to read encrypted messages. This was confirmed by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (MOI) in response to a question by a Left Party Member of Parliament. The focus is on the police agency Europol, which has been commissioned to set up a „decryption platform“.

See also: Statewatch Analysis: EU agrees rules for remote computer access by police forces (pdf)

Unravelling the concept of unconscious bias (IRR News, link): A critique of RAT (Racial Awareness Training):

"To mark the anniversary of the death of A. Sivanandan, the IRR examines how useful his ideas are for unravelling the recent turn in the UK to the concept of unconscious bias.(...)

it effectively exonerates governments, institutions, organisations, even individuals, for it is unconscious, inevitable. But it can be remedied – through retraining and therapy for the individual. Unconscious bias (UB) is the child of neoliberalism.(...)

The emphasis on individual bias runs fundamentally against a materialist view of society. It puts the chicken before the egg. Do ‘white’ attitudes and biases create the discrimination that blights the lives of BAME people? Or are those biases being inculcated and constantly being redefined by the political culture around us, itself being reproduced by the laws of the land, the steers from the media, and in fact the larger processes of globalisation and its flipside austerity – which provide the wrapper for class and power relations?"

Europe’s largest police database expanded again (link)

"The Schengen Information System contains 79 million entries on persons and objects. These can now also be used by the EU agencies. A new regulation allows simple police officers to question people without a lawyer."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.12.18-2.1.19) including:

UNHCR (31.12.18): 112,852 refugees arrived in the EU by sea and 6,782 by land
When governments turn against volunteers - the case of AYS
"Its an Act of Murder: How Europe Out sources Suffering as Migrants Drown


Statewatch News Online: archives

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