FREE Newsletter: 7 and 8 November 2013

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
– LGBT RIGHTS

* EU Court of Justice rules sexual orientation valid ground for fear of persecution in asylum procedures
* Greece: Judges unconvinced by reasons for excluding same-sex couples from civil unions law
TRANSPARENCY
* Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents – State of play
DATA PROTECTION
* Moraes: EP is looking not only into NSA allegations but also at EU’s own backyard
________________________________________________________

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

– LGBT RIGHTS

EU Court of Justice rules sexual orientation valid ground for fear of persecution in asylum procedures
LGBT-EP: “Today the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that people fleeing their country with a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their sexual orientation may qualify for asylum in the European Union.
Rules to grant asylum in European Union Member States are laid down in the Directive on asylum qualifications. The Directive holds that depending on circumstances in their country of origin, people belonging to “particular social groups” may seek refuge in the EU.
Faced with asylum requests from three gay men from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, the Dutch State Council asked the CJEU whether homosexual people were considered a “particular social group” within the meaning of the Directive.
The Court of Justice answered that indeed, people of a specific sexual orientation targeted by laws criminalising their conduct or identity could constitute such a group.
The Court added that prison sentences prescribed by law only counted as “persecution” when they were enforced. This is the case in most of the 76 countries criminalising homosexuality, but not all.
Finally, the Court affirmed that EU Member States could not reasonably expect gay, lesbian and bisexual asylum-seekers to hide their sexual orientation in the countries they fled…”

Also on the same topic:

Gay Africans entitled to asylum, EU court rules: http://www.independent.ie/world-news/africa/gay-africans-entitled-to-asylum-eu-court-rules-29736980.html.

Greece: Judges unconvinced by reasons for excluding same-sex couples from civil unions law
Human Rights Europe: “Human rights judges today declared that the reasons given by the Greek authorities for excluding same-sex couples from civil unions law were “not convincing.”
In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Vallianatos and Others v. Greece (applications nos. 29381/09 and 32684/09), which is final, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:
a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the “civil unions” in Greece introduced by Law no. 3719/2008, entitled ‘Reforms concerning the family, children and society.’ This law made provision for an official form of partnership, allowing the persons concerned to register their relationship within a more flexible legal framework than that provided by marriage.
The applicants complained that Law no. 3719/2008 provided for civil unions only for different-sex couples, thereby automatically excluding same-sex couples from its scope. They complained that the Greek State had introduced a distinction which, in their view, discriminated against them.
The court remarked that of the 19 States which authorised some form of registered partnership other than marriage, Lithuania and Greece were the only ones to reserve it exclusively to different sex
couples.
It held that the state had not shown it to have been necessary, in pursuit of the legitimate aims invoked by the Law introducing civil unions, to bar same-sex couples from entering into such unions…”

TRANSPARENCY

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents – State of play
Statewatch: “After nearly five years of stalemate, an “institutional impasse”, the Council of the European Union (EU Member State governments) proposed that Regulation 1049/2001 on public access to EU institution documents should be amended but limited to modifying it to “take into account the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty”. This is a reference to the Commission proposal of 2008 which only makes one change – to extend the Regulation to cover EU agencies.
The Commission proposal ignores the obligation to implement Article 15 of the Lisbon Treaty which states that the Council and the European Parliament shall publish “documents relating to the legislative procedures” which would require the removal of Article 4.3 of the Regulation that allows the Council to refuse access where disclosure could “seriously undermine the institutions decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure”. The Council never agree to release a document on public interest grounds and 40.9% of all initial applications are refused under Article 4.3 plus part of 25.3% of refusals for “several reasons together” (2012 Annual Report).
See: Proposed Commission changes to Regulation on access to documents fail to meet Lisbon Treaty commitments and Secret trilogues and the democratic deficit by Tony Bunyan
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: “The European Parliament’s rapporteur, Michael Cashman MEP, is quite right to ask the Council, as a minimum, to commit itself to “new arrangements for granting access to documents” and putting documents online. The failure of the Commission to propose, and the Council to support, the full implementation of the Lisbon Treaty by making documents related to the legislative procedure public as they are produced means we have secret documents being discussed in secret trilogues – a process that excludes national parliaments, citizens and civil society. This makes a travesty of democratic accountability.” Statewatch’s Observatory: The Regulation on access to EU documents: 2008-ongoing…”

DATA PROTECTION

Moraes: EP is looking not only into NSA allegations but also at EU’s own backyard
European Parliament News: “Allegations of the US conducting a mass surveillance of Europeans continue to affect EU-US relations with some fearing it could jeopardise the ongoing free-trade agreement talks. Led by Claude Moraes, the EP’s civil liberties committee launched an inquiry to find out the truth. Members from the civil liberties and foreign affairs committees met with US representatives in Washington at the end of October to discuss the allegations. We asked Mr Moraes about their findings.
Do you now have a better idea of what legal remedies could be created to safeguard Europeans’ privacy?
Yes. When we complete our report in February 2014 and present it to Parliament, we will present a legal framework to protect EU citizens. It will include, for example, issues like whether there should be a remedy in law for EU citizens when data is transferred to the USA. At the moment those remedies are inadequate. The report will look to at issues such as Safe Harbour, the arrangement whereby when data is transferred to the United States, companies in the US have an obligation to protect that data. It will also look at our many arrangements with the United States like SWIFT and PNR, to make sure that all these arrangements are safe and secure and do what they are supposed to do, which is to fight terrorism but protect our data while we are doing it…”

Also on the same topic:

UK spy chiefs to testify in online broadcast Thursday : http://euobserver.com/tickers/122015

Germany rules out safe passage for Snowden testimony : http://euobserver.com/tickers/122014

US urges EU not to halt trade talks over spy affair : http://euobserver.com/news/122000

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