Saturday, May 17, 2008

Europe Considers Outlawing Pre-Crime Troublemakers

Discussions are currently taking place between the interior ministers of Europe to restrict the movements of individuals who "pose a potential threat to the maintenance of public law and order" by prohibiting them from attending large political, sporting or cultural events.

The idea has been on the table since at least June 2001 when violent protests took place near the EU Summit in Gothenburg. The EU has now created a working party that is looking into the issue. The proposed Schengen Information System would allow for the exchange of information between member states on the identities and activities of individuals who are regarded as "troublemakers".

As of April 2008, the working party was discussing a German proposal to define such would-be offenders as those

“whom certain facts give reason to believe that they will in future commit significant criminal offences using violence or the threat of violence. A 'significant criminal offence' is one which falls into a category higher than that of petty crime, noticeably disturbs the public peace and is likely to have a considerable effect on the public’s sense of security.”

Thus defined, a "significant criminal offence" could include one that "disturbs the public peace." In theory, such actions could include a sit-down protest, a mass rally, a human blockade or a number of other non-violent forms of direct action.

Individuals potentially identified under these proposals could include those "suspected, accused or convicted of a significant criminal offence."

These are really significant words. If enacted, these policies would mean that an individual would need only be "suspected" of a significant criminal offence in order to be restrained from attending a rally or demonstration in another European country.

The German proposal goes on to define significant criminal offences more precisely:

(a) Offences involving use of force against life and limb
(b) coercion
(c) aiding and abetting the escape of a prisoner
(d) material damage to property
(e) serious trespass
(f) breach of the public peace
(g) formation of or participation in an armed group
(h) formation of or support for a criminal or terrorist organisation
(i) robbery
(j) arson
(k) causing an explosion
(l) breach of the laws on weapons
(m) incitement to hatred (insofar as the nature of the act clearly shows that the perpetrator is liable
to be violent)

Commenting on these developments, Statewatch editor Tony Bunyan says

"We can now see a pattern emerging across the EU where people who exercise their democratic right to attend cross border protests are confronted by aggressive para-military policing, surveillance, preventive detention and expulsion. This is a reflection of the EU’s definition of “security” at international events which is now defined as covering both “counter-terrorism” and “public order”.

Don't like the sound of this? Contact your MEP, if you know who they are.

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