A Co Tyrone man who served a prison term for weapons offences has won the legal right to challenge new powers aimed at cracking down on terrorist activity.
Damien McLaughlin was granted leave at the High Court to seek a judicial review of legislation police can use to obtain search warrants.
Lawyers for the 43-year-old claim his right to privacy is being breached by a regime which also means he must inform the authorities about any foreign travel arrangements.
In 2011 McLaughlin, from Kilmascally Road in Ardboe, received a four and a half year sentence for having rifles and possessing articles for use in terrorist purposes.
Seven years later he was cleared of separate charges linked to the November 2012 killing of prison officer David Black.
But at one stage, while on bail, McLaughlin went missing for nearly four months.
He was detained again in Co Donegal in March 2017, and extradited back to Northern Ireland for a trial which ultimately collapsed.
McLaughlin is now challenging the PSNI and the Home Secretary over provisions contained within the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.
His legal team contend that police can obtain a warrant to search property without having to show reasonable suspicion.
Issues have also been raised about a requirement to provide personal details and information on any planned trips.
The new regime is unfair and incompatible with McLaughlin’s human rights, it was claimed.
Counsel for the authorities under challenge, Neasa Murnaghan QC, insisted the powers were aimed at “frustrating” terrorism.
But following submissions Mr Justice McAlinden ruled that an arguable case had been established.
He granted leave to apply for a judicial review, with a full hearing listed for later
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story
G4S is in charge of running our prisons in the UK. They also work within the UK Police Forces and are employed by the British government in various positions
Sovereign wealth fund cites risk of company contributing to ill-treatment of migrant labour in Qatar and UAE
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has blacklisted shares in British security company G4S because of the risk of human rights violations against its workforce in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Norway’s Council of Ethics, which monitors investments in the country’s £860bn Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), said there was an “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to systematic human rights violations”. Up to 30,000 staff, mostly working in security and construction, could be affected.
‘Historic breakthrough’: Norway’s giant oil fund dives into renewables
The council said it had not officially considered whether G4S had used forced labour – a form of modern slavery – but it said “the company’s practice – in the worse cases – could place workers under constraint”.
At the end of 2018, the GPFG owned 2.33% of G4S’s shares, worth around £66m, but has since sold most of them.
G4S, which is listed on the FTSE 250, provides security services in more than 90 countries. The Council of Ethics focused on its “extensive use” of migrant workers from India, Pakistan and Nepal for contracts across the Middle East.
The company is one of the world’s largest private employers, with 570,000 staff in 90 countries. It earns about a fifth of its revenues from governments.
The council said G4S was aware of the issues but had not done enough to stop alleged abuses. It said many of G4S’s 18,000 migrant workers in Qatar and the Emirates could be affected, as well as another 11,100 people employed in Saudi Arabia, which has a similarly restrictive labour practices.
The wealth fund said many workers had their passports taken from them and were paid less than agreed. Interviews with G4S workers found that some had to take out loans in order to pay fees of as much as $1,800 (£1,400) to get their jobs, and were then paid salaries between $130 and $170 a month. They were often unable to quit as a result of “debt bondage”.
The council said its investigations showed “that workers have paid recruitment fees to work for the company, and that workers have taken out loans in their home country to be able to pay the fees. When the workers arrive in the Gulf, they must spend a significant part of their salary to pay off this debt, and therefore have little chance of leaving.
“Many also received far lower wages than agreed, and in the Emirates, the workers got their passport confiscated.”
The investigation also revealed long working days, a lack of overtime payment and harassment, including threats to sack workers, dock their wages or deport them.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund blocks investment in more than 150 global companies, mainly on environmental or other ethical concerns. Other companies blacklisted include those involved in nuclear weapons manufacture, such as BAE Systemsand tobacco companies like Altria and British American Tobacco.
Only 12 other companies are banned on human rights concerns, and none of them are listed on either US or westernEuropean stock markets. The other 12 include a number of Far East shipping lines, a Taiwanese shipbreaker, and a Polish property developer.
Vaidehee Sachdev, a senior research manager at ShareAction, said: “This is an unprecedented move by one of the world’s largest pension funds. More than just a slap on the wrist, this signals to G4S and the wider market that the absolute protection of workers’ rights is non-negotiable.
“The question now is what are our pension funds and asset managers in the UK going to do? They should have this as a top priority in their engagements with G4S management.”
Invesco, a US investor with significant London operations, is the largest shareholder in G4S, followed by US firm Harris Associates and London-based fund managers Mondrian and Schroders.
G4S said in a statement it agreed that migrant workers deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, and said it had hired a migrant worker coordinator to address the issues raised by the council.
A spokeswoman said: “We carried out a robust investigation into the issues raised by the Council on Ethics into G4S’s employment practices in Qatar and the UAE. We are making good progress on our action plan to reinforce our high standards in relation to employee recruitment and welfare provisions in the Middle East.”
With many thanks to: The Guardian and Jasper Jolly for the original story
Follow these links to find out more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/G4S
Human rights groups challenge extent and legality of powers to commit crimes such as torture
MI5 operates a partially secret policy that allows agents to participate in serious crimes including torture and killing, a security tribunal has heard.
In a challenge to the intelligence service’s handling of agents, lawyers for a coalition of human rights groups have questioned the legality and extent of the powers.
Some elements of what is known as “the third direction” – guidelines permitting agents to become involved in criminal conduct – have been published. Crucial details specifying whether there are limits on such criminal activity, however, remain secret.
Ben Jaffey QC, representing Privacy International, Reprieve, the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre, said the policy in effect meant that MI5 was granting immunity to its agents.
Addressing the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which hears complaints about surveillance and the intelligence agencies, Jaffey said that if there were any limits on the type of criminal behaviour MI5 authorised they remained secret.
Because MI5 does not tell the victim of any crime, police or prosecutors about such incidents, Jaffey argued, they were in practice concealed and no public interest prosecution was considered.
The issues raised were not hypothetical, he stressed. Collusion between officials and agents inside terrorist organisations had led to grave abuses, he said.
Police have recently recommended that more than 20 people, including senior officials, should be prosecuted for murder, kidnap, torture and perverting the course of justice following an investigation by Operation Kenova into the handling of agents inside the IRA during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.
Jaffey told the IPT that “the practical effect of the policy is therefore for the executive to grant itself the power in secret to dispense with the criminal law enacted by parliament”.
He added: “The criminality is kept secret within MI5 so police and prosecutors do not find out about it. So for practical purposes MI5 are granting immunity, the strength of which depends on the ability of MI5 to keep a secret.”
The hearing is expected to last for the rest of the week. Some evidence will be heard behind closed doors without the media or lawyers for the claimants being present.
MI5’s policy was drawn up following the murder of the Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries who had been working as informants for RUC’s special branch.
In a skeleton argument submitted by Sir James Eadie QC, who represents the government and intelligence agencies, agents, also known as CHIS (covert human intelligence sources), are described as “indispensable” to the work of the security service.
His submission to the tribunal is heavily redacted with many key passages blacked out. Eadie argues that “the security service does not, and does not purport to, confer immunity from criminal liability” to its agents.
MI5 does not authorise breaches of the Human Rights Act, Eadie maintains. The agency’s “Participation in Criminality (PiC) forms”, he said, ensures that the law is not broken.
A number of PiC forms have been opened up to the IPT, Eadie’s submission reveals, although they have not been made public.
Eadie has told the tribunal: “The security service does not purport to, and could not, offer immunity from criminal liability … The ‘authorisation’ will be [MI5’s] explanation and justification of its decisions should the criminal activity of the agent come under scrutiny of [police or prosecutors].
“The authorisation process and associated records may form the basis of representations by the service to the prosecuting authorities that prosecution is not in the public interest.”
A similar public policy of discretion not to prosecute, Eadie added, appears in Crown Prosecution Service guidelines covering how to deal with relatives of the terminally ill who accompany them to Swiss-assisted suicide clinics such as Dignitas.
Eadie said the tribunal has been given “information about all crimes ‘authorised’ since 2000”. The IPT has selected a number of PiCs (Participation in Crime) forms. “This will allow for the case-specific complexities for each individual instance of authorisation to be considered.”
In none of them has MI5 breached any human rights, Eadie said. Indeed, under its obligation to uphold the right to life, under the European convention on human rights, MI5 has a duty to counter threats from espionage, terrorism and sabotage.
Commenting on the case, Maya Foa, the director at Reprieve, said: “Our intelligence agencies play a vital role in keeping this country safe – but this does not mean that there should be no limits on UK activity when MI5 agents become involved in crime. The government must make clear what limits – if any – they place on agents committing serious crimes like torture or murder.”
The hearing continues.
With many thanks to: The Guardian and Owen Bowcott Legal Affairs Correspondent for the original story@owenbowcott
Assembling at Writers’ Square in Donegall Street, Belfast at 1pm. We will march to Belfast City Hall for speeches, before marching to the International Wall in Divis Street. This year’s march seeks to highlight internment via remand, miscarriage of justice and by revocation of licence. In addition, themes this year will also include the continued use of the Diplock/Special non-jury courts against Republicans, and draconian bail/licence conditions imposed. All Republican, human rights, socialist, community, youth and sporting organisations are hereby publicly invited to what is the only annual march that takes place in Belfast City Centre to highlight injustices inflicted on Republican Prisoners. Political Prisoner related placards, banners, flags, posters, etc only are welcome in order to maintain the focus on the intended issue. Let’s put feet on the street in order to demonstrate our support for Republican Prisoners and all those affected globally by internment and draconian conditions inflicted on political prisoners, while proving that Belfast is our city too!
With many thanks to: Anti Internment League for the original posting
Agency has been obtaining surveillance warrants based on false information, high court told
MI5 has lost control of its data storage operations and has been obtaining surveillance warrants on the basis of information it knows to be false, the high court has heard.
The security agency has been accused of “extraordinary and persistent illegality” in a legal challenge brought by the human rights organisation Liberty.
The failures have been identified by the official watchdog, the investigatory powers commissioner, Lord Justice Fulford, and admitted in outline by the home secretary, Sajid Javid.
The full extent of the problems within MI5 became apparent in disclosures made public at the hearing on Tuesday. The revelations relate to bulk interceptions of data acquired through surveillance and hacking programmes and downloaded to its computers.
The agency has a duty to ensure such material is not held longer than required or copied more often than needed.
Ben Jaffey QC, for Liberty, said there were “ungoverned spaces” in MI5’s operations where it did not know what it held.
In written submissions, Jaffey said: “Fulford’s generic warrant decision notes that warrants were issued to MI5 on a basis that MI5 knew to be incorrect and the judicial commissioners [the watchdogs] were given false information.”
An MI5 letter sent to Fulford and released to the court showed the agency did not know what material it held.
The letter said: “We are about to commence further scanning of [its computers] to ensure we have a full understanding of the data.
“The full scan had been challenging to action … We have also been seeking to understand working practices … so that we can take comprehensive action to improve assurance of our compliance with relevant safeguards.”
Julian Milford, counsel for the Home Office and Foreign Office, told the court: “We accept that this is material that discloses compliance risks with MI5.”
Correspondence between Fulford and MI5 released at the hearing showed he concluded the way the agency was holding and handling people’s data was “undoubtedly unlawful”.
He said: “Without seeking to be emotive, I consider that MI5’s use of warranted data … is currently, in effect, in ‘special measures’ and the historical lack of compliance … is of such gravity that [the watchdog Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office] IPCO will need to be satisfied to a greater degree than usual that it is ‘fit for purpose’.”
Awareness of the problem within MI5 dated back to January 2016 but ministers were not informed until earlier this year. Fulford said MI5’s description of the problem as “compliance difficulties” was a “misleading euphemism”.
In the absence of improvements, he said, future applications by MI5 for interception warrants “will not be approved by the judicial commissioners”.
A response sent by MI5 to Fulford earlier this year explained: “In 2016, as part of a wider review of legal compliance in anticipation of new legislation, the … problem led the team conducting the compliance review to identify, at a high level, that data might be being held in ungoverned spaces in contravention of our policies.”
Megan Goulding, a lawyer with Liberty, said: “These shocking revelations expose how MI5 has been illegally mishandling our data for years, storing it when they have no legal basis to do so. This could include our most deeply sensitive information – our calls and messages, our location data, our web browsing history.
“In addition to showing a flagrant disregard for our rights, MI5 has attempted to hide its mistakes by providing misinformation to the investigatory powers commissioner, who oversees the government’s surveillance regime.”
The Green party peer, Jenny Jones, said: “This report [on MI5] has confirmed what we’ve known for some time, that the security services, as well as the police, are operating their surveillance systems without accepting that they have to operate lawfully, and in a properly targeted manner.
“I know from my own experience of being put on the domestic extremism database that valuable security time and energy are wasted on the wrong targets.”
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said the case “highlights the failure of government legislation, which only facilitates more and more public bodies having access to and gathering information. Without proper scrutiny and oversight, the unauthorised handling and retention of data puts all our information at risk.”
Some of the material is thought to include exchanges between lawyers and clients that should have been protected by legal privilege. The National Union of Journalists has joined the legal challenge, which is due to be heard in full at the high court next week.
The hearing continues.
With many thanks to: The Guardian and Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent for the original story@owenbowcott
Brexit risks all of the progress that has been made and also risks the potential change that the Good Friday Agreement promised in terms of a society based on equality and parity of esteem – ie rights – and a pathway to a new independent Ireland.
FOR centuries the rights and interests of the people of this country, nationalists and unionists, have been subject to the interests of the British government, irrespective of the collateral damaged caused to the people here.
The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was supposed to be the beginning of a new era where both the North of Ireland was the shared responsibility of the Irish and British governments and free of the malign and prejudiced influence of the British government. The GFA promised all-Ireland institutions with expanding horizons and equality and parity of esteem between the people of the North. Much has changed since the introduction of the GFA and Ireland has changed for the better on many fronts.
But Brexit risks all of the progress that has been made and also risks the potential change that the GFA promised in terms of a society based on equality and parity of esteem – ie rights – and a pathway to a new independent Ireland. Brexit has introduced, through the front door, a double veto over that promised by the GFA, the dead hand of the DUP in collaboration with the Tories and fanatical Brexiteers, in the ERG. Due to the Brexit needs of the British government, the DUP – which is a minority voice – has had its status and influence elevated to the point where it is effectively running the British government’s Brexit policy.
Before Brexit, the DUP had effectively blocked the full implementation of the GFA and created an immovable unionist veto inside the North’s institutions – immovable because of the failure of the British government, to act. The North’s institutions were doomed long before the heating scandal (RHI) led to their collapse. Since the collapse of the institutions the situation has deteriorated to the point where the DUP’s influence, through Brexit, is set to damage, not just northern society in terms of its economy and people’s rights, but the economy of the rest of this country. Northern nationalists – ever mindful of the limitions placed on their national and cultural rights by the confines of a unionist dominated state – have moved to achieve their rights beyond the six counties and are now begaining to shape a new political framework, within an all-Island setting, with the Irish government the principal focus and with the primary objective being reunification.
That is what ‘Ireland’s Future’ conference in Waterfront Hall publicly signalled. The context of the shift was the realisation by northern nationalists, after 10 years of government, that the DUP was opposed to power-sharing and fully working, to their maximum, the all-Ireland institutions of the GFA. In fact, the DUP was using the institutions to block progress, including the modernisation of northern society on human rights issues such as access to the truth for grieving relatives, marriage equality, abortion reform, an Irish language act, Irish citizenship and a Bill of Rights.
The shift was also influenced by a new and younger nationalist middle class who had experienced the war years; had been politicised by their experience, we’re confident and assertive and seeking, not a reformed north, but a new independent Ireland, where a reformed north could have an institutional place in a transitional arrangement. The first signs of the shift were the north’s nationalist electorate turning its back on Westminster and voting for Sinn Féin abstentionist MPs. The other element, in my view, the most crucial in the shift is the reality that nationalists will be a voting majority in the not too distant future and under the terms of the GFA could vote for a United Ireland in a border poll.
But shifts are not confined to the nationalist population. Brexit is impacting on the broad unionist community as well. We saw that in 2016 when a section of unionists voted with nationalists to Remain in the EU and a few months later stayed at home resulting in the unionist parties losing their majority in the north’s assembly for the first time in 100 yeas.
Add into this fast-evolving situation the possibility of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in Downing Street after the next election and we have the ingredients for a transition to a new independent Ireland triggered by Corbyn implementing the GFA in all its parts, including a provision for a unity/border poll.
With many thanks to: Jim Gibney and The Irish News for the original posting.
THE Policing Board has admitted that it can no longer carry out its statutory obligations after a key adviser’s contract was not renewed.
It is understood the former human rights adviser Alyson Kilpatrick (pictured above) left her post last month. The Policing Board has a responsibility to monitor the performance of the RUC/PSNI in complying with the Human Rights Act. Human rights oversight is regarded as one of the most important functions of the board. Appointed in 2012, Ms Kilpatrick regularly provided expert legal opinion to the board and helped produce an annual human rights report. Regarded as an expert in her feild, she was appointed as a part-time special adviser to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation last year.
In February this year senior board figures, including chair Anne Connolly, were delegated authority to take decisions across a range of areas. These include ensuring the RUC/PSNI can continue to draw down funding, to approve high value compensation requests and approve RUC/PSNI secondments. However, the adviser’s contract has been allowed to lapse. While independent members continue to meet in privite, a spokeswoman for the board last night said it has no authority to appointment a new adviser. “In the absence of a fully constituted Policing Board, it was not possible to extend the appointment period of the Human Rights Advisor as there was no authority to do so,” she said.
“A new appointment process to fill this role will be initiated when the Board is fully constituted.” Political representatives were not appointed to take their places on the board after the March assembly elections due to the ongoing political crisis. Former board member and SDLP representive Dolores Kelly voice anger at the development last night. “It’s a complete lack of understanding of their role at best,” she said. “At the end of the day these people are still getting paid.” Ms Kelly also voiced concern with regards to oversight of the National Crime Agency and a special task force involving that group, the police and customs officers recently set up to tackle paramilitary activity. The SDLP MLA said the matter needs to resolved quickly. “I call on the board and other independent members to immediately address this serious situation.” “Who made this decision? They need to come clean.” A spokesman for the RUC/PSNI said: “This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Policing Board.”
Irish News Editorial: Another casualty of Stormont impasse IN today’s edition we report that the Policing Board has become nothing more than a ‘talking shop’ because of the inability to appoint a human rights advisor due to the absence of a functioning assembly. Other side-effects of the failure to reestablish a government at Stormont have been the lack of ministers to oversee financial arrangements at the various departments, with under pressure health and education often quoted. Yesterday Secretary of State James Brokenshire again stated that he would have to put a budget to finance North of Ireland departments before Westminster. As he pointed out himself, this is not what the electorate voted for. It is critical that locally elected representatives do all they can to bring about a resolution to the problems which are holding back the reestablishment of an executive. The sooner the better.
With many thanks to: Connla Young The Irish News for the original story.
This reads that the police stopped me on grosvenor road & asked me for my license, they then say they stopped me on Stanley street (inside grosvenor police station)
The truth of this is that on that day, I was dragged from my car, arrested/detained under section 43 of the terrorism act & made to go grosvenor road psni where I was searched & my car was searched for 1 hour 40 mins where my phone was seized & car damaged
Then after I left the same officer approached me & proceeded to stop me from moving claiming road traffic order
They are now claiming that my car was full of tools & I was working as an aerial installer & are charging me with having inappropriate insurance
Not once during this whole fiasco was this mentioned nor does it mention the truth anywhere in this statement
With many thanks to: Ciárán Daly.
Red Cross to chair forum seeking solution to Maghaberry dispute.
THE International Committee of the Red Cross has agreed to chair a prison forum involving republican inmates in a bid to ease tensions at a Co Antrim jail.
The Red Cross took on the role after being asked by justice minister David Ford and receiving the backing of republican prisoners in Maghaberry. The involvement of the internationally recognised humanitarian organisation comes after years of conflict at the high security prison. The establishment of the forum was recommended by an independent ‘stocktake’ published last year. However, republican inmates refused to take part in the forum after a former member of the prison’s Board of Visitors, Tom Millar, was appointed as chairman without consultation. It is understood both prisoners and senior jail officials will take part in the forum which will discuss the stocktake. Republican prisoners are currently held in the prison’s Roe Four and Roe Three landings. The forum will be chaired by Geoff Loane, who is the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head of office in Belfast. “The ICRC believes such a role fits within the organisation’s humanitarian mandate and is compatible with its fundamental principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality,” he said.
“After having consulted on this matter, the ICRC accepted the position of chair for a six-month period on the basis that all parties to the forum agree to the ICRC taking up the role. He said the forum is “now addressing substantive issues on the basis of an agreed agenda.” In the past Mr Loane has overseen ICRC visits to the US-run Guantanamo Bay. He has also worked in conflict zones including the Balkans, Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The Red Cross has been active in the North of Ireland since the 1950s and undertook prison visits until 1999, a year after the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was signed. The Geneva-based organisation set up a full-time office in Belfast in 2011. Last year’s stocktake was carried out by an independent assessment team appointment by justice minister David Ford to look at a deal struck in 2010 to relax strip searches and controlled movement in the prison. Republicans claim that authorities have failed to implement the 2010 agreement. They also say that prison chiefs have failed to act on the last year’s stocktake. In 2012 republican prisoners ended a no-wash protest weeks after prison officer David Black was shot dead by the ‘IRA’ as he travelled to work at Maghaberry prison along the M1 Motorway. Tensions in the jail boiled over earlier this year after prisoners claimed that movement was restricted during building work. Last week republicans held protests after claims that two inmates were forcibly moved from their cells. A spokesman for the DoJ said: “The minister of justice has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to act as independent chair to the prisoners forums for separated prisoners. “The ICRC has agreed to this request in its neutral and impartial role.” Mandy Duffy from the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA) said: “Republican political prisioners will not be drawn into a situation which is all process and no progress even if it is chaired by an independent body such as ICRC.” Connla Young, The Irish News. For the oranginal story.
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