FREE News: 5th and 6th February

Terrorism

“EU to tighten borders after counter-terrorism summit”

EU leaders meeting next week (12 February) aim to tighten border crossings and crack down on inflammatory online content in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders.

The draft summit conclusions, seen by EUobserver, say member states plan to make “a targeted amendment of the Schengen Borders Code, to allow for systematic checks against all relevant databases in order to detect and disrupt suspect movements, notably of foreign terrorist fighters”.

They call for “monitoring and removal of content promoting terrorism or violence on the internet”.

They also urge MEPs to “adopt urgently the proposal on European Passenger Name Record (PNR) with solid data protection safeguards”.

The PNR scheme – on sharing the private data of suspect travellers – has been stuck in the European Parliament for the past three years due to concerns on privacy and on its compatibility with EU law.

[…]

An EU diplomat told this website the text is at an early stage in the drafting process, with member states still “sending in their amendments”.

Most of the measures in the paper were already floated by EU officials and interior ministers in recent weeks.

But one idea mooted by the EU’s counter-terrorism co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove – to make internet firms hand over the keys to their encryption systems – has not made the cut at this stage.

The other steps to be endorsed at the top level include: increasing police and intelligence co-operation; increasing intelligence sharing with Arab countries; tightening EU laws on illicit firearms; and strengthening the bloc’s anti-money laundering regime.

[…]

Read the full article on Euobserver

“Germany set to pass ‘one of the harshest’ anti-terror laws in Europe”

The Merkel government approved a new law meant to mitigate radical Islamist attacks, by making it a criminal offence to travel abroad to receive military training. Civil rights advocates are furious. EurActiv Germany reports.

“We are amending our criminal law where it is necessary and useful,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said after the government signed off on a draft law to monitor the preparation for seditious acts of violence.

“We will have one of the harshest criminal anti-terrorism laws in all of Europe. That will make Germany safer,” he ensured.

In the future, leaving Germany to go to an area where a terrorist training camp is located will be punishable by law, if the trip is aimed at committing serious seditious acts of violence.

“We must do everything we can to prevent Islamists from becoming more strongly radicalised in training camps,” Maas said.

In addition, the government hopes to make terrorism financing an independent criminal offence. To hit terrorist organisations like ISIS at their core, the government pointed out, its financial sources must to be dried up.

By strengthening these laws, the German government is implementing the UN Resolution “Foreign Fighters” from September 2014 and demands from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

[…]

Read the entire article on Euractiv

Read also the interview to Peter Knoope, associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism: Respect for basic rights should prevail over terrorism fear (Euractiv)

Citizens ‘rights

“Sylvie Guillaume: There is a strong demand from citizens for an obligatory transparency register”

A new transparency register has been in force since 27 January, allowing everyone to find out which interest groups have been lobbying the EU institutions. However, the register, which is used by the Parliament and the European Commission, is not yet obligatory. Sylvie Guillaume, a French member of the S&D group, is the vice-president responsible for the transparency register. We asked her how the new register works and how it will make a difference.

How does the new register work ?

In the new register, pressure groups will have to specify more clearly which organisation they represent, the people they work for, the area they operate in and how much money has been dedicated to this lobbying activity.

Once registered, they can then take part in meetings, intergroups or in hearings.

The register is not obligatory for the time being. Will this change?

The Parliament has been calling for an obligatory register for a long time. There is a strong demand for it from citizens.

However, this is not so easy to achieve as all member states represented in the Council will have to agree to this.

How will the register help people to get a clear idea of who is trying to influence decisions?

The register will only give you part of the picture as lobbying can take many forms.

After the European Commission decided to make the commissioners’ agendas public from 1 December 2014, there is a lot more information available for people to check out.

The goal remains to make the register obligatory, but it also needs to be further improved. The data needs to be verified to ensure everything is trustworthy.

(European Parliament Press Releases)

Fundamental rights

“Fair trials for children: MEPs amend rules to establish strong EU-wide standards”

Draft EU rules to ensure that children suspected or accused of a crime are assisted by a lawyer at all stages of criminal proceedings in any EU country were approved by the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday. MEPs also made sure that children will be individually assessed by qualified staff, can be heard and state their views in a trial and are kept separate from adult inmates, even, in some cases, after they are 18 years old.

An estimated one million children come into formal contact with the police and judiciary in the EU each year (i.e. 12% of the total EU population facing criminal justice). However, their legal protection varies from country to country. Due to these disparities, in practice many children do not have access to a lawyer in the EU.

“The key aim of this directive is to protect the rights of minors whilst respecting the nature and function of legal proceedings in all member states. It lays down a ‘catalogue of rights’ for young people facing legal proceedings anywhere in the EU. This is a big step forward towards building a framework for fair trials for children”, said rapporteur Caterina Chinnici (S&D, IT), in a committee debate.

Children to be assisted by a lawyer at all stages

The draft directive would make the assistance of a lawyer mandatory for children at all stages of criminal proceedings in any EU country. MEPs inserted provisions throughout the text to ensure that the child’s best interests are always taken into account.

Other fair trial safeguards

MEPs strengthened the safeguards envisaged for children in the Commission proposal, such as. the right to be promptly informed in a simple language about the charges against them, the conduct of the proceedings and their rights. They also added a specific provision on their right to effective remedies and the following requirements, among others:

  • once arrested, the child has the right to meet with the holder of the parental responsibility or another appropriate adult promptly and in any event prior to questioning,
  • children should be entitled to participate fully in the trial, including being given the opportunity to be heard and to express their views, and
  • children must be detained separately from adults and “may, when they reach the age of 18 years, continue to be detained separately from adults unless it is considered to be in their best interests or in the best interests of other detained children not to do so”;
  • these rights would apply “irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status”.

Next steps

The committee vote gives the rapporteur a mandate to start negotiations with the Council with a view to reaching an agreement on the proposed directive. Three-way talks between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission (“trialogues”) should start soon.

(European Parliament Press Releases)

“Rights, remedies and state immunity: the Court of Appeal judgment in Benkharbouche and Janah” (Steve Peers Law Analysis Blog)

Yesterday’s important judgment in Benkharbouche v Sudan and Janah v Libya by the Court of Appeal raised important issues of public international law, the ECHR and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and demonstrated the relationship between them in the current state of the British constitution. The case involved two domestic workers bringing employment law complaints the respective embassies of Sudan and Libya, which responded to the complaints by claiming state immunity, based on a UK Act of Parliament (the State Immunity Act) which transposes a Council of Europe Convention on that issue.

The question is whether invoking state immunity for these employment claims amounted to a breach of human rights law, given that Article 6 of the ECHR (the right to a fair trial) guarantees access to the courts, according to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In turn, this raised issues of EU law, given that Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights likewise guarantees the right to a fair trial, and some of the claims concerned EU law issues (the race discrimination and working time Directives). (Other claims, such as for ordinary wages and unfair dismissal, were not linked to EU law).

The Court of Appeal, essentially following the prior judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, made a careful study of recent ECtHR case law, concluding that state immunity could no longer be invoked against all employment law claims, but only against those claims concerning core embassy staff. This could not apply to domestic workers; Ms. Jamar’s tasks did not involve (for instance) shooting any British policewomen.

But what was the remedy for this breach of human rights principles? At lower levels, the tribunals had been powerless to rule on the claims for breach of the ECHR, since the UK’s Human Rights Act awards the power to issue a ‘declaration of incompatibility’ that an Act of Parliament breaches the ECHR to higher courts only. So the Court of Appeal was the first court that could issue such a declaration, and it did so in this case. (The Court concluded that it could not ‘read down’ the relevant clauses in the State Immunity Act to interpret them consistently with the ECHR).

[…]

Read here the full article

Other articles related to the area of JHA:

“Sigmar Gabriel seeks dialogue with Pegida followers” (Euractiv)

[…]

In the debate over how to deal with Germany’s anti-Islam movement, Pegida, Vice Chancellor and Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel warned against marginalising the organisation’s followers.

Pegida “very clearly belongs” to Germany, he said. “There is a democratic right to be right-wing or German nationalist,” Gabriel told the journal Stern. “Even a right to spread stupidities like (the) supposed Islamisation of Germany.”

In doing so, Gabriel implicitly criticised all those who called for a clear dissociation with the anti-Islam movement, over the past few months.

The SPD leader said he agrees with the argument “that refusal to talk, the collective bashing, only riled up the protests and increased their size”.

[…]

[T]he SPD is moving closer to the anti-Islam organisation, despite the heated debate within the party and elsewhere over the correct approach to Pegida.

[…]

Read the full article here

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