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January 2019

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

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