11th January, 2002 European Parliament demands more time for debate of EU arrest warrant

Members of the United Left Group and the Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament have welcomed a ruling by the Parliament's President to postpone a plenary vote on the European Arrest Warrant. Thirty-four Euro- MPs from various political groups, signed a procedural protest calling on the European Parliament to deliberate carefully before approving the European Arrest Warrant proposal. Sir Neil MacCormick MEP (EFA - Scottish National Party) said: "There remain important amendments that will insert essential safeguards before the European Arrest warrant is brought into being. I'm glad that parliament has decided to have a debate because I want to argue the case in favour of creating a form of European "habeas corpus". Deferring a final decision till January can only be good. If a court can order that a person be detained and sent to trial in another country under a European arrest Warrant, surely that Court must have power to revoke its order if it is turned into an instrument for abuse of rights. No country should tolerate that its Courts become the powerless instruments to facilitate human rights violations in another country” More at this website

 

As part of its so-called anti-terrorism programme, the EU is to agree the early entry into force of the provisions in the EU Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Convention on joint investigation teams. This will allow member states to set-up joint police teams that will operate in two or more participating countries. Teams will include representatives of Europol, (the European Police Office) and Eurojust (the EU prosecutions Unit). The MLA Convention was agreed in June 2000 after five years of negotiations, and its entry into force requires ratification by the 15 national parliaments. As yet, no member state has ratified the Convention but following the terrorist attacks in US on 11 September, the UK, France, Belgium and Spain proposed that Article 13 of the MLA Convention should be brought into effect early through an EU Framework Decision, agreed on 6 December 2001 and to be implemented by the member states by 1 July 2002. It allowed for joint teams to be set-up to combat terrorism and trafficking in drugs and human beings, and this provision was carried through to a second draft of the proposal, dated 9 October. However, on 16 November, the permanent representatives of the four member states behind the proposal, declared that the Framework Decision should correspond to that of the original Article 13 of the MLA Convention, which would remove any limitation on the scope of offences, allowing joint teams to be set- up for: "criminal offences [that] require difficult and demanding investigations having links with other Member States".

Meanwhile, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council has reached "political" agreement on the Framework Decision on combating terrorism which will be formally adopted at a later Council . The proposed measure has been extensively criticised by civil society groups because the original proposal from the European Commission was so widely drawn as to embrace trade union and protests and it had been hoped that the final text would include an explicit exclusion of normal democratic activity. However the final press release from the Council of Ministers meeting says that the agreed measure is a "balance" between the needs to combat terrorism and legitimate activities like trade union and anti-globalisation protests – which is a signal to read the text carefully as the former will always triumph over the latter. The final text has a "Declaration" attached saying that protests and other political activities would not be covered by the definition of terrorism. However, a "Declaration" is not binding and has no formal legal force. What is critical is the text.

According to the UK-based Statewatch, there some signs that the strong concerns raised by civil society groups over the proposed EU definition of terrorism are having some effect on the original proposal put forward by the Commission which clearly extended the definition of terrorism to include protests and other democratic activities. At the 16 November meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council it was agreed that a Declaration should be added to the Framework Decision which reads: "The Council declares that the framework decision on the fight against terrorism covers acts which are considered by all Member States of the European Union as serious infringements of their criminal laws committed by individuals whose objectives constitute a threat to their democratic societies respecting the rule of law and the civilisation upon which these societies are founded. It has to be understood in this sense and cannot be construed so as to argue that the conduct of those who have acted in the interest of preserving or restoring these democratic values, as was notably the case in some Member States during the Second World War, could now be considered as "terrorist" acts. Nor can it be construed so as to incriminate on terrorist grounds persons exercising their legitimate right to manifest their opinions, even if in the course of the exercise of such right they commit offences."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, commented: "It would appear that the detailed critiques from across civil society has made some in the Commission, the European Parliament and in the Council to think again about extending terrorism to include democratic dissent. The text of the Decision is crucial. Now the Council has to withdraw the proposals to place protestors under surveillance, to police future demonstrations with national para-military police units, to create an EU-wide database on "suspected" protestors and all the proposed measures and operational cooperation which have nothing to do with combating terrorism" More at this website

EU Ombudsman calls on European Parliament to act on Council secrecy

The European Ombudsman, Mr Jacob Soderman, has sent a Special Report to the European Parliament calling on it to intervene in order to get the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) to obey the Ombudsman’s findings that documents should be given to UK-based civil liberties group Statewatch. Statewatch lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman concerning the Council failure to respond to requests for documents and information in July 2000. The first was a request to the Council for access to all the documents considered at a meeting of the Police Cooperation Working Party (Experts' meeting - Interception of Telecommunications) on 3-4 September 1998 – this concerned the discussion over a document, ENFOPOL 98, to extend telecommunications surveillance to cover e-mails and mobile phones. The Council tried to deny the existence of six documents listed in the "Outcome of proceedings" (the minutes) of the meeting. The documents were referred to as "Meeting documents 1- 6". The second aspect of the complaint concerns Statewatch's request for a list of the documents considered at a series of meetings in January 1999 including any documents not listed on the agenda or in the "Outcome of proceedings" such as "Room documents, non-papers, meetings documents, SN documents". Statewatch argued that, under the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, citizens were entitled to have a list of all the documents considered so that they could see which views/positions were accepted and which were rejected. The Council failed to supply the lists. The Ombudsman found that "the Council's failure to maintain a list or register of all documents put before the Council.. constituted maladministration and made a Recommendation to the Council. The Council responded by saying it accepted this Recommendation but the Ombudsman's Special Report concludes that its response: "raise doubts as to whether the draft recommendations will indeed be implemented" This was the eighth successful complaint that Statewatch has lodged against the Council on access to EU documents. This is only the sixth Special Report that the European Ombudsman has made to the European Parliament and is the strongest power available to him - it usually follows the failure of one of the institutions to respond positively to his Recommendations to change their practices. More at this website  

EU Commission publishes new security rules

The European Commission has published its new security rules, including a new classification of documents code, before making available its rules of procedure for the public's right of access to documents. The new security rules meet the "NATO" standards. Under the new Regulation on access to EU documents which came into operation on 3 December each of the EU institutions had to amend its rules of procedure to show how it was going to implement the new Regulation. The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament had done this by the deadline. Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor said: "It is shows that the European Commission has a contempt for democracy when it publishes its rules for security to meet NATO standards, including the classification of documents which will not be made public, before it puts out is rules on the public's right of access to its documents - which is was obliged to do by 3 December."

Euro-MPs in group attacked by Israeli military

Physician and human rights activist Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC), which won the WHO World Health Award 2001, and director of the Health, Development, Information and Policy institute (HDIP) was arrested last week by Israeli plain-clothes goons after participating in a morning press conference in East. Jerusalem. After being held for four hours, Dr. Barghouthi was deported from East Jerusalem to the West Bank at the Ram checkpoint, between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Upon his release, and waiting for his car to arrive to take him back to Ramallah, the doctor was talking with international delegates and press, the same people who were with him at the time of his initial arrest.

It is at this point, according to witnesses at least three jeeps of Israeli soldiers arrived at the checkpoint, and attempted to rearrest Dr. Barghouthi. The doctor and those with him were  subjected to pushing, punching, being thrown to the ground and dragged along, while soldiers fired tear gas, threw sound bombs, and opened fire above the heads of the people. In this violent assault Luisa Morgantini, an Italian Member of the European Parliament’s United Left Group, and Danish independent progressive MEP Ulla Sandbaek, were thrown to the ground and physically attacked.

Dr Barghouthi was released, without charges, one hour later. During this brief detention, however, he incurred a fractured knee, lacerations, and bruising to his face and body.

Israeli peace groups are beginning a campaign of formal protest to the Israeli government and are asking people to write to the Israeli authorities, to the Israeli Embassy in their own country – you can find the address at this website - and to their own MPs, MEPs and relevant government ministers. Israeli government ministers’ co-ordinates can be found on our Action page.

The two MEPs who were attacked are now safe and sound back at the European Parliament, and will address a meeting next week in Strasbourg. See our Action page for details.

Environmentalist NGOs set “tests” for Spanish EU Presidency

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest federation of environmental organisations, this week submitted its “Memorandum” containing the “10 Green Tests” to the new Spanish Presidency of the EU. Sustainable development, climate change, environmental liability and enlargement are some of the main issues dealt with in the tests, which will also serve to assess the Presidency’s achievements at the end of its term.

Sustainable Development is high on the EEB’s list of priorities. The EEB emphasises the importance of the Spanish Presidency’s Summit in Barcelona to achieving progress on European sustainable development. “It is crucial that the Summit delivers effective new agreements to promote Sustainable Development within the EU, and that an effective methodology for Sustainability Impact  Assessment is agreed for all EU policy actions and EU legislation,” a spokesperson said.

Attention is also given to Climate Change, and the awaited EU process of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. This must be completed in time for the Rio +10 Earth Summit in Johannesburg in September 2002. EEB Secretary General John Hontelez said “It now falls to Spain to ensure that the EU will deliver what it has been promising.”

Unusually, the EEB, which for some years now has set “tests” at the beginning of each six-month EU Presidency, has also included a Test that relates to a purely national situation. This exception to its usual rule concerns a demand for a review of the Spanish National Hydrological Plan. “The EEB has done this because of the enormous scale of the project, the EU funding which it is seeking, and widespread national and international opposition to the project as it stands. The review is seen as a test case to demonstrate whether Spain and the EU are truly committed to sustainable development and nature conservation,” added the spokesperson.

The Bureau is pleased that the European Commission is about to bring forward long-promised proposals on environmental liability. “We have pushed for a Directive on Environmental Liability for the past 10 years; however, in order to make it adequate, the EEB demands that the scope of the proposed Directive is broadened, and that it includes a reversal of the burden of proof, and compulsory insurance provision.”

The 10 Green Tests are can be read at the EEB’s website at http://www.eeb.org

New Statewatch Bulletin on the EU, protest, and terrorism

The latest edition of the bi-monthly Statewatch bulletin has just been published. As well as regular news coverage of civil liberties issues in the UK, EU and around Europe, it contains feature articles on “Scenes from the war on freedom and democracy” Reports from Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and the UK - “EU to set up databases on protestors and foreigners” Under the EU’s “Anti-terrorist roadmap” new databases on the Schengen Information System are to be created, “Policing protests – Gothenburg 2001” Have the police learnt lessons, or will there be a stronger response next time?- “Does the EU definition of terrorism cover protests?” Despite reassurances the definition covers acts with the aim of “unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act”, “The European Commission’s white paper on governance: a vista of unbearable democratic lightness in the EU” Examines the background to the planned “debate” on the future workings of the EU and whether it can meet the demands of civil society for the right to know what is being discussed and how decisions are made. See this website and for the full-text of the UK ANTI-TERRORISM, CRIME AND SECURITY ACT 2001, go here.

Peace activist fined for Scottish convoy action



Peace activist Ulla Roder was found guilty last Thursday of a breach of the peace at Stirling Sheriff Court and was fined £150 for her part in a protest against a nuclear weapons convoy near the town last year. Ms Roder was one of eleven activists arrested at the protest last June on the Stirling to Buchlyvie road. The protest, organised by NUKEWATCH, aimed to draw attention to the grave risks these road convoys, with their combination of high explosive and plutonium, bring to the communities they pass through.



Roder had been arrested in the roadway in front of the convoy and police witnesses for the Crown, Constables Sneddon and McDonald, said that she had refused to move when asked and had had to be carried off the roadway. This was contradicted by Ulla herself and by defence witness Roz Bullen from Edinburgh. There were also a number of discrepancies in the testimony of the two officers. Roder's solicitor, Gerry McClure, highlighted these inconsistencies and argued that the Crown's case had not satisfied the requirements for a conviction of breach of the peace in the terms of the recent High Court Opinion in the Smith v Donnelly appeal.



Sheriff Wylie Robertson, finding Roder guilty, said that while her actions might not in isolation have been enough to warrant a conviction, they were sufficient when taken in the context of what was happening, which, if continued, could have caused a serious disturbance in the community. He gave her three months to pay the fine.



Ms. Roder, from Odense in Demark, is one of the Trident Three, famously acquitted after disarming a Trident-related research barge in Loch Goil in 1999. In April this year she swam to Trident submarine HMS Vengeance in its "high security" berth in Faslane and spray-painted "USELESS" on its hull. In October/November she served a month in Cornton Vale Prison for anti-Trident actions before going to the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm to receive, on behalf of the Trident Ploughshares campaign, the Right Livelihood Award.



David Mackenzie of UK peace group Trident Ploughshares, said: "It was bizarre to hear these police officers claiming to be alarmed by Ulla's gentle protest while just ten feet behind them in the leading truck, there was enough high explosive to obliterate everyone within 600 metres and enough plutonium to make Central Scotland uninhabitable." Go here for more












The United States is to build an Air Base on former Soviet Union territory close to Afghanistan. The Kyrguzstan government has given the go-ahead for an Air Base west of the capital Bishkek, according to mainstream sources including the BBC and USA Today.

Planes are set to arrive next week as part of a long term U.S. presence, a Pentagon official told the newspaper. The Base would be only 200 miles from the border with China and close to oil fields in Uzbekistan.

Commenting on the plans, a spokesperson for US peace group Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space said “Add this new base with U.S. planned Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) deployments along China's coastal region (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) and you begin to see the picture of U.S. military encirclement of China. This will of course force China to build more nuclear missiles (they only have 20 today capable of hitting the U.S.) and we are off to a new arms race and a new Cold War.”

For more go to http://www.space4peace.org

Too Early to Declare Hunger Crisis Averted in Afghanistan

Reports continue of Afghan villagers driven to eat grass in a desperate attempt to avoid starvation. NGOs active in the country insist that a humanitarian disaster is still on the cards. James Jennings, president of the humanitarian aid organisation Conscience International. which has been providing food, blankets and health care in Afghanistan since last spring, well before the start of US bombardments, said that, while World Food Programme emergency deliveries have largely replaced the needed grain tonnage lost or delayed by the war, this may not be enough to prevent widespread suffering and death.

 “The main concerns remain security and stability for the whole country,” Mr Jennings said, “not just the capital; delivery of large-scale food assistance to remote or inaccessible regions; and the scant nutritional value of the food basket.  Longer-term worries include the fact that people have eaten their seed grain, the irrigation system remains devastated, and farmers failed to  plant winter wheat during October and November because of the war and bombing campaign. I still expect preventable deaths to be very high, perhaps in the lower range predicted earlier, but a deadline of next spring is artificial. I don't think the higher numbers will be reached this winter, but even the lowest previous estimate of up to 1 million deaths is bad enough. What we are likely to see over time is a continuum, a slow ticking of the clock extending far beyond May, with death for many of the most vulnerable,  especially children, as a result. Severe malnutrition already exists among  a significant percentage of the population.

“The food budget for wheat purchases is adequate for the immediate emergency, but a bread-only diet is certainly inadequate for the neediest people. A complex emergency is just that: complex. People die because of  malnutrition, disease, inability to reach medical care, enforced migration,  exposure, and unhygienic conditions in the refugee camps.”

“Secretary Rumsfeld may think things are infinitely better in Afghanistan than before the war,” Jennings concluded, “but I doubt if most of the burka-clad beggars I regularly see there would agree.”

Afghanistan: Oiligarchy takes shape

The Bush junta has appointed a former aide to the American oil company Unocal, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, as special envoy to Afghanistan. The nomination was announced December 31, nine days after the US-backed interim government of Hamid Karzai took office in Kabul. Read all about it here

Mumia: fight for justice continues

Attorneys for death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal this week filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asking it to order Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe to hear the testimony  of  ex-mob hit man, Arnold Beverly. Mr Beverly has confessed to the killing of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 – the crime of which Mumia has been falsely convicted. He has testified that the murder  was committed on behalf of corrupt elements in the Philadelphia Police Department and organised crime, the motive being that the officer was an obstacle to the "protection racket" corrupt officers were running in the city.

According to Beverly's written and videotaped confession, recently featured on US TV network NBC's Today Show, Mumia Abu-Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting and did not arrive on the scene until after the officer was shot. Dembe refused to let Arnold Beverly testify, claiming that she lacked "jurisdiction" to stop the execution of an innocent man because of a previous Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in the case of Otis Peterkin which set strict time deadlines for presenting new evidence. Mumia's attorneys will ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the Peterkin decision in the wake of the major scandal which surfaced when a Federal Judge recently reversed Peterkin's conviction and death sentence because, not only did he not have a fair trial, there was not enough evidence to convict him in the first place.

Mumia's attorneys will argue to the Supreme Court, as they did in legal documents filed before Judge Dembe, that the delay in presenting Arnold Beverly's June 8, 1999, signed confession to the court was due solely to conflicts of interest by his previous attorneys, Leonard Weinglass and Daniel R. Williams, who suppressed the confession - and the lie detector test results which prove Beverly is telling the truth - because of death threats they received to deter them from going forward with any evidence or legal claims that might uncover the identities of the real killers.

Mumia's appeal is also based on Court Reporter Terri Maurer-Carter's testimony that she overheard Judge Sabo say, at the time of Mumia's trial, that he was "going to help 'em fry the nigger."

"Since Judge Dembe ruled that Judge Sabo's racism was irrelevant to whether Mumia got a fair trial, I suppose that means a Jewish defendant could get a fair trial before a judge wearing a swastika and a 'Hitler was Right' button on his robes," commented Mumia's Los Angeles attorney, Eliot Lee Grossman.

"Although Mumia's death sentence was recently overturned by a federal judge, and there is a mountain of evidence which proves that Arnold Beverly is telling the truth and Mumia  is innocent, the 'powers that be' in Philadelphia still want Mumia "Dead or Alive," according to Mumia's Chicago attorney, Marlene Kamish. "It's outrageous that the D.A. (District Attorney) is appealing Judge Yohn's overturning of the death sentence and is continuing to demand the blood of an innocent man, while nothing is being done to uncover the identity of those who planned and organised the murder of Officer Faulkner," attorney Kamish noted. "Just as bad is the Philadelphia Inquirer's scurrilous editorial demanding that Mumia be locked up for life for a crime he didn't commit," added attorney Grossman.

Un-American?

“There is something un-American about the treatment of US immigrants since September 11…targeted by law enforcement agencies, with the detention and interrogation of more than 1,600 aliens leading to the indictment of just one suspect…legislation permitting indefinite detention under conditions that could never be applied to citizens, while the much-criticised military tribunals are for non-citizens only…The constitution protects persons, not passport holders. It does not discriminate between citizens and aliens…”                                  -Financial Times, 4 January 2002

  These sentiments are to be applauded, and it is encouraging to read them in one of the world’s leading business newspapers. Objecting to people being locked up because of their ethnicity is, after all, not an exclusively left cause. However, though the FT does mention the treatment of Japanese-Americans in World War Two, its leader writers should really read a little more US history. Unconstitutional all of this certainly is, but un-American? Given that the occupant of the White House is there only thanks to a series of unconstitutional acts culminating in an unconstitutional ruling by the very body that is supposed to be responsible for upholding the Constitution, it’s tempting to wonder whether the document has any value at all. And a cursory glance through the history of immigration to the United States will show that the attitudes lying behind these latest violations of human rights are, in America, commonplace and dominant.

 Abbott Laboratories, Argenbright, Bayer, Coke, Enron, Exxon Mobil, Philip Morris, Sara lee, Southern Co. and Wal-Mart have been named the 10 worst corporations of 2001, in Multinational Monitor magazine's annual listing.

"These behemoths have ripped off the public, polluted the environment, abused their workers and debased our culture," said Robert Weissman, editor of Multinational Monitor. "They appear in our lives everyday, disguised as 'respectable members of the community.' They deserve public opprobrium, and, in many cases, government sanction." Find out why at this website