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What's New on the Statewatch website: 2018
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Carries all items that have been added or updated from News Online, News Digest and Observatories.

December 2018

Talk by Aidan White (President of the Ethical Journalism Network) at the launch of Statewatch's Library & Archive on the value of preserving written history

At the launch of Statewatch's Library & Archive on Thursday 22 November 2018 Aidan emphasised the importance of preserving history in its original written form - which cannot be digitally manipulated into fake news and views. And to ensure accountability so that past struggles can inform the present and the future. For as Orwell wrote in 1984:

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”.

Aidan's talk (video) and see also: Invitation the launch

“Our action saved lives” says Stansted 15 campaigner found guilty on terror-related charges (Left Foot Forward, link):

"For peacefully stopping a deportation flight from taking off, fifteen people were found guilty yesterday of breaching an obscure and rarely-used piece of anti-terror legislation.

Thirty-three year old Jo Ram is one of the Stansted 15, a group of campaigners who went to Stansted Airport in March 2017 to stop a Titan Airways plane deporting up to 60 people to Nigeria and Ghana.

On the day after she was found guilty of terror-related charges because of this protest, she told Left Foot Forward that she does not regret it.

“We couldn’t have not acted knowing what we did: that people due to be deported that night were being deported to their deaths.”"

160+ Academics request MEPs to vote in favour of Humanitarian Visas Motion Today - And it gets Approved! (link):

"Fernando López Aguilar, is the result of a long process of consultation with many stakeholders, including civil society actors and organisations as well as academics, adopted with the agreement of the Political Groups represented in the LIBE Committee."

Europe’s Shameful Silence – An Open Letter to EU Leaders from Jean Monnet Chairs (verfassungsblog.de, link):

"Because we share a commitment to a European Union based on democratic values, we are writing to you to express our profound disappointment and outrage about the EU’s failure to respond more robustly to recent developments in Hungary. On 1 December 2018, after a long running campaign of egregious harassment, the Hungarian government forced the Central European University to leave Hungary.

The fact that an independent university could be expelled from an EU member state is a galling attack on academic freedom that contravenes the Union’s core democratic values. Sadly, we are accustomed to seeing such attacks on academic freedom in authoritarian regimes such as Russia and Turkey, but the fact that this could occur within the EU is a truly shameful moment in the history of European integration. (...)

ECHR: Slovakian authorities failed to investigate possible racist motive in shooting by off-duty police officer at Roma family’s home (Press release, pdf):

"The case concerned a shooting spree in 2012 by an off-duty police officer at the home of a Roma family. The two applicants in the case, a married couple, were seriously injured and three members of their family were killed. When questioned by the police, the officer stated that he had been thinking about “a radical solution” for “dealing with” Roma people. He was ultimately given a reduced sentence of nine years’ imprisonment owing to diminished responsibility."

Marrakesh UN forum adopts migration pact despite withdrawals (euractiv, link):

"A United Nations conference adopted a migration pact in front of leaders and representatives from over 160 countries in Morocco on Monday (10 December), despite a string of withdrawals, including several EU countries, driven by anti-immigrant populism.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — finalised at the UN in July after 18 months of talks — was formally approved with the bang of a gavel in Marrakesh at the start of a two-day conference.

But the United States and at least 16 other countries either opted out or expressed concerns, with some claiming the pact infringes national sovereignty."

Council of Europe: Special Representative on migration and refugees supports UN Global Compact at conference in Morocco (link):

"The Council of Europe, with its system for human rights protection, is ready to engage in the implementation of the Global Compact. The initiatives undertaken in the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children represent some of the most ambitious and successful actions of our organisation in the migration field. In particular they can offer a valuable contribution to our member states, but also to other regions and the international community as a whole seeking to secure the practical implementation of the laudable objectives of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.(...)

Read: Statement in full (link)

IRELAND: High Court strikes down Ireland's data retention regime

The Irish High Court has ruled that Irish law on the retention of telecommunications data contravenes EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Why the hysterical reaction to the UN migration and refugee compacts matters (euractiv, link):

"Right-wing leaders are guilty of an hysterical reaction to the UN migration compact, writes Udo Bullman MEP."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3-10.12.18) including:

Travel surveillance: USA calls for global PNR standard and seeks to export profiling software

The USA is pushing for the adoption of an international standard on Passenger Name Record (PNR) data in order to "enhance the global security community’s ability to identify risks, detect and deter terrorism," while the country's Department of Homeland Security is promoting free passenger screening software that should “make real-time prediction[s] with a reasonable response time” of less than a second.

UK: Stansted 15: Activists who stopped deportation flight found guilty of 'endangering' airport (The Independent, link):

"A group of activists who stopped a deportation flight leaving Stansted Airport have been convicted of disrupting flights and “endangering an aerodrome”.

The defendants, who have become known as the Stansted 15, said they were “guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm”.

But a judge at Chelmsford Crown Court had told the jury that their intentions were not a defence."

See: The Home Office is guilty of harm, not us: Stansted 15 respond to guilty verdict (End Deportations, link)

UK: Pepper spray used in non-violent situations in prison pilot (The Guardian, link):

"A pepper spray intended for use on violent prisoners in England and Wales has been approved despite being used in non-violent incidents more than a third of the time in a recent trial, contravening official guidance, the Guardian has learned.

The Pava incapacitant spray, which is notably stronger than CS gas, causes acute pain if sprayed directly into the eyes. One officer described its effects as “unbearable, like your skin peeling off” after being affected when it was deployed."

UK: National Audit Office report: Handling of the Windrush situation (pdf):

"The Department had a duty of care to ensure that people’s rights and entitlements were recognised and this has been re-emphasised by the Prime Minister. We do not consider that the Department adequately considered that duty in the way that it introduced immigration policy."

UK-EU: Brace for Brexit criminal data-sharing 'cliff-edge', Home Office told (Civil Service World, link):

"MPs have urged the Home Office to prepare for the possibility it will face a “cliff edge” in the exchange of data needed to protect public safety after the Brexit transition period, in a report that warns existing arrangements for leaving the EU could compromise the UK’s security.

The UK has yet to negotiate access to EU-wide criminal databases used by police and intelligence agencies after Brexit, and it will be “near impossible” to secure access by the time the transition period ends in December 2020, the Home Affairs Select Committee said in a report today."

See the report: House of Commons Home Affairs Committee: Home Office preparations for the UK exiting the EU (pdf)

The rise of hipster colonialism (Al Jazeera, link) by Nanjala Nyabola:

"Last week, Germany's Africa Commissioner Gunter Nooke said that European countries should be allowed to lease land and to build and run cities in Africa as a means of stemming what he views as the unchecked expansion of migration from Africa to Europe. For Nooke, allowing the "free development" of these areas would stimulate African economies and create "growth and prosperity" and therefore, reduce the attractiveness of Europe as a destination for migration.

...The easiest way to get to the heart of what's wrong with this proposal is to go back to basics - what is colonialism and why is it bad? The dictionary defines colonialism as "a policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically". Ultimately, it's about exploiting a power differential in order to reorganise one society for the economic and social benefit of another: saying that one society's economic and social imperatives are more important than the other's.

So, Nooke's proposal is fundamentally hipster colonialism - attempting to reclaim colonialism by couching it in neoliberal trends or ideology while advocating for a return to an essentially exploitative system of social and economic organisation."

FRANCE: Fourth weekend of Yellow Vests protests: more than 1700 arrested and over 1200 held in custody

More than 1700 people were arrested across France at the weekend following the fourth round of 'Yellow Vests' protests against the government of Emmanuel Macron. Some 400 people were also arrested in Belgium during a "copycat" demonstration, according to RFI.

BREXIT: Court of Justice: UK can unilaterally revoke notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU

"In today’s judgment, the Full Court has ruled that, when a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification."

AFRICA: Appeal by African civil society organisations to their states: ‘’Let us move in our continent’’ (Statewatch translation, pdf):

"This is the heartfelt cry that we, organisations of African civil society, wish to raise at the margins of the week on migration in Marrakech that will witness a gathering of states, international organisations and civil society organisations from 4 to 11 December 2018. After the difficulties which have obstructed the acquisition of visas for Morocco for numerous African civil society organisations wishing to participate in this migration week, we cannot keep silent about the discrimination that Africans continue to suffer affecting their right to mobility in their own continent.(....)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 6-7 December 2018, Brussels

See Press release, 6-7 December, Final (pdf)

Main "B" Pts Agenda (for discussion), "A" Pts legislative (for adoption without discussion) and "A" Pts non-legislative (for adoption without discussion).

Amongst documents to be discussed are: Data retention- State of play (LIMITE doc no: 14319-18, pdf) and Reform of the Common European Asylum System and Resettlement (LIMITE doc no: 14597-18, pdf)

EU to process "confidential security information" with Libyan Coast Guard (link)

"The EU Border Agency has massively strengthened its surveillance capabilities. To make better use of this information, it will now be passed to the Libyan Coast Guard. This is legally impossible, now Frontex is pressing for the relevant regulations to be renewed. The navy in Libya, however, is using a Gmail address."

Host migrants or pay, France and Germany propose (euractiv, link):

"European Union governments that refuse to host refugees could instead pay to be excused from the bloc’s system of sharing out migrants, France and Germany proposed on Thursday (6 December) as they sought to end a long-running EU feud over migration.

The move reflects impatience with progress on reforming EU asylum rules ahead of EU parliament elections in May, diplomats said."

Syrian aid worker who swam refugees to safety freed from Greek jail (Guardian, link):

"Sarah Mardini had been held since August on people-smuggling charges criticised by rights groups.

After 107 days of incarceration, Sarah Mardini – the Syrian human rights worker who saved 18 refugees in 2015 by swimming their waterlogged dinghy to the shores of Lesbos with her Olympian sister – has been freed from Greece’s toughest jail.

The 23-year-old was released late on Wednesday from the high-security Koryallos prison in Athens, where she was being held in pre-trial detention on charges of people-smuggling.

She was allowed to walk free after her lawyers posted €5,000 (£4,450) in bail."

Greece, EU: Move Asylum Seekers to Safety: End Containment Policy, Organize Transfers Now (HRW, link):

"The Greek government and its European Union partners should urgently ensure that all asylum seekers on the Aegean islands are transferred to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries as winter approaches, 20 human rights and other organizations said today."

Statewatch comment: The official Greek Ministry figures shows that as of 5 December there are 15,790 refugees on the Greek islands with 7,825 on Lesvos, 4,182 on Samos and 1,476 on Kos,.

The CEU Leaves – Hungarian Students are Left in the Lurch (verfassungsblog.de,link):

"For 27 years Central European University has operated in Hungary’s capital. That era has come to an end. The December 1st deadline, given by the Board of Trustees of CEU to the Hungarian government, set the stage for a final showdown to see if an agreement would be signed allowing CEU to operate legally in the country. The Hungarian government balked, and now, all incoming students will study at a new campus in Vienna beginning in the academic year 2019-20."

EU: Growing concerns on “e-evidence”: Council publishes its draft general approach (EDRI, link):

"On 30 November 2018, the Council of the European Union published a draft text for its general approach on the proposal for a regulation on European Production and Preservation Orders in criminal matters – also known as “e-evidence”. The text is to be adopted by EU Member States, represented in the Council."

See also: E-Evidence: A threat to people’s fundamental rights? (euractiv, link): "EU justice ministers are set to approve a regulation this Friday (5 December) that will require EU-based tech companies to turn over electronic evidence within hours of a court order. The regulation, however, could pose a threat to people’s fundamental rights."

UK: Country returns guide: Guidance on returning immigration offenders to their country of origin (gov.uk, link):

"Home Office guidance on the documents required and processes for returning immigration offenders to their country of origin."

GCHQ Propose A 'Going Dark' Workaround That Creates The Same User Trust Problem Encryption Backdoors Do (TechDirt, link):

"Are we "going dark?" The FBI certainly seems to believe so, although its estimation of the size of the problem was based on extremely inflated numbers. Other government agencies haven't expressed nearly as much concern, even as default encryption has spread to cover devices and communications platforms.

There are solutions out there, if it is as much of a problem as certain people believe. (It really isn't… at least not yet.) But most of these solutions ignore workarounds like accessing cloud storage or consensual searches in favor of demanding across-the-board weakening/breaking of encryption.

A few more suggestions have surfaced over at Lawfare. The caveat is that both authors, Ian Levy and Crispin Robinson, work for GCHQ. So that should give you some idea of which shareholders are being represented in this addition to the encryption debate.

The idea (there's really only one presented here) isn't as horrible as others suggested by law enforcement and intelligence officials. But that doesn't mean it's a good one."

See the article by GCHQ staff: Principles for a More Informed Exceptional Access Debate (Lawfare, link)

EU: Accountability of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency: Recent developments, legal standards and existing mechanisms (Refugee Law Initiative, link to pdf):

"The paper assesses the political, administrative, professional and social accountability of Frontex, including parliamentary oversight and the newly introduced individual complaints mechanism.

The final part of the paper focuses on legal accountability, a strong, yet highly complex, form of accountability. There, we introduce the concept of systemic accountability and investigate possible courses of legal action against Frontex. In sum, Frontex is subject to moderately increased scrutiny under its renewed founding Regulation and to various EU accountability mechanisms of general application. But several procedural and practical hurdles could render legal accountability difficult to achieve in practice."

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Preventing unlawful profiling today and in the future: a guide (pdf)

"Technological developments have triggered an increased use of profiling in a wide range of contexts, including marketing, employment, health, finance, law enforcement, border control and security. The use of profiling tools to support the work of law enforcement and border management officials has received greater attention from EU Member States in recent years...

This guide explains what profiling is, the legal frameworks that regulate it, and why conducting profiling lawfully is not only necessary to comply with fundamental rights, but also crucial for effective policing and border management. The guide also provides practical guidance on how to avoid unlawful profiling in police and border management operations. The principles and practices in the guide are supported by examples, case studies and case law from across the EU and beyond."

ECHR-Hungary: Court condemns libel verdict against a Hungarian media company, stresses importance of hyperlinks on Internet

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Magyar Jeti Zrt v. Hungary (application no. 11257/16) 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 company being found liable for posting a hyperlink to an interview on YouTube which was later found to contain defamatory content.

FRANCE: 44 organisations ask Macron to give up antiterrorism censorship project (La Quadrature du Net, link):

"44 NGOs, professionals, hosting services and non profit Internet access providers ask Emmanuel Macron to renounce to its European Regulation project to censor the whole Web for dubious security reasons.

European governments will meet on the 6th of December to find a common position on this text. This Regulation will use the fear of terrorism to silence all of the Internet. It will do nothing but reinforce Google and Facebook (read our article) and threaten the confidentiality of our exchanges online (read our article)."

See the letter: Opposition to the Anti-terrorism Censorship Regulation (pdf) signed by 44 organisations including Statewatch.

SPAIN: Far-right entry into Andalucia's regional parliament welcomed by conservative parties

Vox, a far-right political party, has won 12 seats in Andalucia's regional parliament, prompting the leader of Spain's Popular Party (PP) - the country's chief conservative formation - to say that a potential alliance presents "an enormous opportunity" that he "would not let pass".

Malta says Spain will accept migrants rescued by fishing vessel near Libya (El País, link)

"Spain will accept at least 11 of the 12 migrants rescued several weeks ago by the Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Madre Loreto off the coast of Libya, according to Maltese authorities. The migrants were rescued by the fishermen while fleeing the Libyan Coast Guard on a rubber dinghy. Three of them scrambled on board while another eight threw themselves into the water and were picked up by the ship.”

See: The humanitarian fleet #United4Med calls on Europe to open its ports to the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto and condemns the negotiations between Spain and Libya (Statewatch News, 28 November 2018)

European Parliament: Humanitarian visas would reduce refugees’ death toll (link):

"Asylum-seekers should be able to request humanitarian visas at EU embassies and consulates abroad, allowing them to access Europe safely, say Civil Liberties MEPs.

With 37 votes to 10 and 3 abstentions, the Civil Liberties Committee agreed on Monday to ask the European Commission to table, by 31 March 2019, a legislative proposal establishing a European Humanitarian Visa. Holders would be allowed into Europe - only to the member state issuing the visa - for the sole purpose of submitting an application for international protection."

European Parliament: Better ID card security to curb document fraud (link):

"Civil Liberties Committee MEPs agreed on common security features for EU identity documents to reduce identity fraud.

Ensuring that identity documents are tamper- and fraud-proof is a key element in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Currently the security features in ID cards, as well as residence documents issued to EU nationals and/or their family members, vary significantly across EU countries. This increases the risk of documents being falsified and of identity fraud, which are increasingly big problems in the EU."

See: Analysis: Fingerprints in identity cards: who will oppose an unjustified and unnecessary proposal? (pdf)

How European secret services organise themselves in "groups" and "clubs" (link)

"For cross-border cooperation, Europe’s secret services or their responsible ministries join together in non-transparent formats. These networks are difficult to monitor and control."

BREXIT: Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona proposes that the Court of Justice should declare that Article 50 TEU allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU

"That possibility continues to exist until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded."

EU: Council of the European Union: Justice & Home Affairs Council 6-7 December 2018: Background Note (pdf) includes:

"On Thursday, ministers will aim to reach a partial general approach on the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) proposal and a general approach on the proposed regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The Council is expected to approve a comprehensive and operational set of measures to fight against people smuggling networks."

UK-BREXIT: Government publishes legal advice (euobserver, link)

"The UK will be "indefinitely committed" to the Irish backstop, UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox told MPs on Monday. Cox, who gives legal advice to the government on the Brexit deal, said there would be no unilateral right for the UK to pull out of the backstop, which is designed to prevent a new Irish border if no trade deal is reached with the EU after Brexit."

The UK government has published a limited version of the legal advice from the Attorney General (pdf) - MPs are currently debating a motion for the full legal advice to be published.

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.11-3.12.18) including:

EU: European Parliament civil liberties committee (LIBE): Draft mission report following the ad hoc delegation to Poland on the situation of the Rule of Law, 19-21 September 2018 (pdf):

"The objective of this mission of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) was to better understand the ongoing reforms of the Polish justice system as carried out by the Polish authorities, their objectives and their impact on the rule of law situation in Poland, within the framework of the Article 7(1) TEU procedure activated by the European Commission on 20 December 2017 in relation to the rule of law situation in Poland.

For this purpose, the delegation met with representatives of the Polish Government, the Sejm and the Senate, political parties, judicial institutions, representatives of the OSCE/ODIHR, legal practitioners, journalists and representatives of civil society."

European Council meeting, 13-14 December 2018: Draft guidelines for conclusions (CO EUR-PREP 50, LIMITE, 26 November 2018, pdf) covering multiannual financial framework (MFF), single market, migration, disinformation, external relations, racism and xenophobia, citizens' dialogues and strategic agenda:

"With a view to the forthcoming meeting of the European Council, delegations will find below the state of progress regarding the various topics on its agenda. Where possible, first indications are given on the elements the President of the European Council intends to include in the draft of the conclusions.

Member States are invited to provide their reactions, in order to help guide the preparations for the draft European Council conclusions which will be submitted in one week."

ITALY: Legal changes and climate of hatred threaten migrants’ rights in Italy, say UN experts

Italy’s proposed tightening of immigration rules will have a serious impact on migrants’ lives, and are of grave concern, UN human rights experts said today, urging the Government to reverse course.

BELGIUM: Crimes of solidarity: In Belgium, an increasingly brutal crackdown on migrant workers' collectives

"Muscular searches, preventive detention lasting for weeks, legal proceedings... For several months, the Belgian authorities have been particularly severe towards people who help migrants. A first correctional trial was held in early November in Brussels. Several Belgian citizens are accused of having participated in human smuggling after having aided and accommodated migrants, being charged and designated as smugglers. Faced with these increasingly repressive policies, a collective was created to highlight that 'solidarity is not a crime'."

Rise of killer robots seems inevitable at EU conference (EUobserver, link):

"Either Europe's military-industrial complex is incredibly shy - or it thinks that the debate about whether Europe should use lethal autonomous weapons is already over before it began.

The European Defence Agency held its annual conference in Brussels on Thursday (29 November), titled 'From unmanned to autonomous systems: trends, challenges and opportunities'.

At the last panel, one of the speakers said that it was inevitable that Europe would develop such military systems, because its adversaries would."

CYPRUS: PASSENGER NAME RECORD (PNR): House passes law requiring airlines to hand over passengers’ travel history (Cyprus Mail, link):

"Parliament on Friday approved a law transposing the EU PNR (passenger name record) directive, which requires air carriers to transfer to member states the passenger name record they have collected in the normal course of their business.

The vote was passed by 24 to 16.

The information passengers must provide includes in addition to full name, address and contact details, all payment details including billing address, passenger’s travel history including booking confirmations, ticket checks, passenger arrival information, ticket number, date of issue, seating number and all baggage information.

The plenum also passed an amendment increasing the penalties for violations relating to the management of the data."

EU-MED: Sea Rescue: A trade union statement (English, pdf) and Sauvetage en mer: Déclaration syndicale (French, pdf):

"We, the trade unions and seafarers from various European countries, hereby emphasise our attachment to the tradition and age-old ideals of our profession: rescue is a fundamental obligation, regardless of the person and his/her circumstances. We take pride in rescuing whoever is in distress in the vicinity of our ships. Rescue, being an obligation, is not part of migration policy and must not be fashioned by it.

We refuse any criminalisation of the masters and crews of ships acting so. On the contrary,we insist upon the fact that they are acting pursuant to the obligations of international Law.Those violating International Law are the governments which refuse to provide sufficient resources to rescue people."

Signatories: La CGT (France), Ver.di (Germany), BTB.FGTB (Belgium), FSC.CC.OO. (Spain), CGIL, UIL, CISL (Italy), CGTP.IN (Portugal), PCS, Nautilus International (Great Britain), International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA).

NORTHERN IRELAND: Bail extension for No Stone Unturned journalists "a travesty of justice" (NUJ, link):

"The decision of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to extend the bail of journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey has been described as "a travesty of justice" by the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland (NUJ).

The journalists will remain on bail until Friday 1 March 2019.

Trevor and Barry reported for questioning to Musgrave PSNI station today as a consequence of their arrest in August 2018 and in connection with their work on the award winning documentary film about the Loughinisland massacre called No Stone Unturned."

Turkish court rejects European rights court ruling to release top Kurdish politician (DW, link):

"A Turkish court has defied a European Court of Human Rights ruling demanding the release of Selahattin Demirtas. The decision comes after Turkey's president said the European court's decisions were non-binding."

Are You Syrious (30.11.18, link):

Denmark unveils plan for Nauru-style deportation center on Lindholm island

"As part of their yearly budget, the Danish government has unveiled a new plan, seemingly modelled on Australia’s offshore detention centers, to house asylum seekers in removal centers on the isolated island of Lindholm. The center will be established over the course of the next three years and will eventually house asylum seekers from the controversial Kærshovedgård deportation center."

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