Monthly Archives: December 2016

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. #2016

On 15 July 2016, I convinced myself to switch off from the world for an evening, ‘nothing ground-breaking would happen.’ That night, I switched on my phone to find the Turkish army had attempted a coup d’état against the government and President Erdogan.

And so is the story of the year that was 2016.

From Brexit and President-Elect Trump to Aleppo and Brussels, we have all followed the major news stories of the past year, through real and fake news.

But here are four stories you might have missed which show 2016 was not without hope.

1. Snooper’s Charter deemed unlawful

In November this year the UK government passed a law, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016, which gave them shockingly sweeping and unprecedented powers of surveillance. These included the right to retain all our communications data and internet history, as well as the right to hack our communications and devices.

The legality of surveillance laws was challenged in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ruled that Member States (including the UK until Brexit materialises) may not impose a general obligation on telecomms companies to retain communications data.

The CJEU did not specifically address the IPA 2016, but it means  parts of the IPA 2016 are no longer compatible with EU law and will need to be amended in line with the judgment:

  • governments have a duty to ensure communications data is kept confidential
  • this can only be interfered with for the purpose of safeguarding national security or fighting serious crime
  • national laws providing for general retention of communications data for everyone are unlawful
  • access to data should only be granted where individuals are suspected of involvement in crime
  • a court should review the request to access data

2. Bedroom tax deemed partly unlawful

A year of austerity, 2016 saw the introduction of many unfair measures including the bedroom tax. Introduced in April, the bedroom tax reduced the housing benefit of families with ‘spare bedrooms’ in their homes, to encourage people to move out of homes they are ‘under-occupying’.

A family with two parents, two teenage boys and two teenage girls, for example, are only entitled to three bedrooms. If each of the teenagers had their own rooms, these will be considered ‘spare bedrooms’.

The tax, however, was found to impact people with disabilities and children disproportionately. The UK courts decided the bedroom tax was unlawful for the following:

  • adults who needed a spare room for overnight carers
  • children with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms
  • adults with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms

3. Hillsborough victory for families

In 1989, 96 football fans were crushed to death at a Liverpool FC football match. The police and media unjustly blamed the fans for the tragedy, claiming they had broken an exit gate and forced their way into the crowded stand, causing a crush at the front.

For 27 years, their brave families fought for the truth about their deaths. Thanks to the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to life and imposes a duty on the police to investigate loss of life, an inquest jury was set up to investigate the Hillsborough Disaster.

The jury concluded the 96 were killed unlawfully based on the following findings:

  • the police owed a duty of care to the 96
  • they were in breach of that duty
  • the breach caused the deaths
  • the breach amounted to gross negligence.

4. UN resolution against Israeli settlements

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution calling on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Security Council declared Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 had no legal validity. These settlements constituted a ‘flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.’

The Council reiterated its demand that ‘Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.’

Full UN article here.

Weekly News Round-up 09/12/16

UK News

Brexit In The Supreme Court: Everything You Need To Know In Plain English

Source: RightsInfo.org

Full article here.


Private schools in England propose 10,000 free places

Independent schools in England have pushed to restart the assisted places scheme, by offering 10,000 free places to children at state schools in return for a government subsidy.

The move is a response from private schools to the government’s recent green paper on expanding the number of grammar schools, which threatens to strip charitable status from private schools that fail to help run state schools.

The Ofsted chief inspector, Michael Wilshaw, criticised the ISC’s new proposal as not going far enough. “I think they can do better than that and if I was government I would be asking them to do more as a quid pro quo for their tax privileges,” he told BBC Radio 4.

The ISC countered that the move would be the equivalent of building 10 new state secondary schools, and represented a considerable saving for the government.

Full article here.


Segregation at ‘worrying levels’ in parts of Britain, Dame Louise Casey warns

Segregation and social exclusion are at “worrying levels” and are fuelling inequality in some areas of Britain, a report has found. Women in some communities are denied “even their basic rights as British residents”, the Casey Review said.

She found “high levels of social and economic isolation in some places, and cultural and religious practices in communities that are not only holding some of our citizens back, but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws”.

Her report highlighted the plight of women in some Muslim communities, who she said were less likely to speak English and more likely to be kept at home. “Misogyny and patriarchy has to come to an end,” Dame Louise said, adding that public institutions must not fear being racist or Islamophobic.

Among her recommendations were that immigrants could take “an oath of integration with British values and society” and schoolchildren be taught British values.

Full article here.


Court rejects bid to halt Southern train drivers’ industrial action

The high court has rejected an attempt by the owners of Southern rail to prevent train drivers from taking industrial action.

The operators of Southern, Govia Thameslink Railway, had argued that the action by members of the Aslef union, which includes an overtime ban as well as impending strikes, was contrary to European law guaranteeing the rights of people to travel and of companies to invest, with GTR being partially owned by the French firm Keolis.

But the judge, Sir Michael Burton, turned down GTR’s bid for an injunction. The company has said the journeys of hundreds of thousands of commuters will be severely affected, with no trains at all expected to run during three days of strikes by drivers next week.

The overtime ban was overwhelmingly endorsed by a ballot of Southern drivers in Aslef. It is part of a long-running dispute about Southern’s plans to bring in more driver-only operated trains. A smaller but clear majority voted to strike as well.

Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, said the legal case by GTR was a waste of money: “Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport, said this strike was political. A line which has been parroted by GTR. But it’s not. It’s industrial. Driver-only operation is inherently unsafe.”

Full article here.


‘Prevent’ strategy to be challenged for first time in British high court

The British government’s Prevent strategy is set to face its first legal challenge in the high court on Tuesday. Salman Butt, who is a British-Muslim activist, launched the legal action after he was accused of being a “non-violent extremist” by the British government.

The Prevent strategy has been a cornerstone in the British government’s attempts to curb militancy and stop the “radicalisation” of young people. Despite being lauded as a success by the British government, the Prevent strategy has come under heavy criticism by the Muslim community and senior politicians.

His lawyers will specifically be challenging parts of the Prevent strategy that aim to stop people becoming or supporting terrorism. It will also challenge the definition of “extremism” used by the Prevent strategy and how the so-called Extremism Analysis Unit collected information about Dr Butt.

The case was allowed to proceed earlier this year, after a High Court judge ruled that Butt had a legitimate legal case against the home secretary.

A spokesperson for the British Home Office declined to comment on Butt’s case as the legal proceedings were ongoing.

Full article here.

 

World News

Legal experts say Turkey went ‘too far’ in coup response

Turkey went “too far” with emergency measures adopted following a failed July 15 coup attempt, a panel of constitutional law experts said in an opinion adopted Friday.

The Council of Europe, also known as the Venice Commission, said Turkish authorities had good reasons to declare a state of emergency in response to a “dangerous armed conspiracy,” but concluded that Ankara’s measures contravened the country’s constitution and international law.

The opinion took particular issue with the collective dismissal of “tens of thousands of public servants” on the basis of lists appended to emergency decrees rather than “verifiable evidence” in each individual case.

The panel observed that people were fired or arrested based on “connections” to a terror group that were “too loosely defined and did not require a meaningful connection with such organizations.”

The expert opinion, which will be made public in full on Monday, also expressed concern from the increase of pre-trial detention without judicial review from four to 30 days.

Full article here.

South Korea’s parliament votes to impeach president over corruption scandal

South Korea’s National Assembly voted by a huge margin Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her role in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, forcing her to immediately hand over the running of the country to a caretaker prime minister.

But despite the clear condemnation from both politicians and the general public, Park signaled that she would remain defiant even while being stripped of power and would wait with a “calm and clear mind” while the conservative-leaning Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the legislature’s impeachment motion.

That means that South Korea could be in for a long period of paralysis. The court now has six months to rule, creating a power vacuum in South Korea at the same time the United States is going through its own presidential transition.

The scandal centers on allegations that the famously aloof Park — the country’s first female president and daughter of military strongman Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s — took advice from a secret confidante on a wide variety of topics, including North Korean policy and her wardrobe.

Prosecutors said that the confidante, Choi Soon-sil, a lifelong friend and daughter of a shadowy cult leader, used that relationship to enrich herself by at least $70 million and gain advantages for her family. Choi has been indicted on charges, including abuse of power and extortion, and is in detention.

Full article here.


Uzbekistan is about to get its first new president in more than a quarter-century

Uzbeks went to the polls Sunday in the first election since the death of longtime autocratic leader Islam Karimov. In a sign of continuity with his quarter-century of authoritarian rule, the vote seemed to have only one possible outcome.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a veteran politician who has served as the nation’s prime minister since 2003, was poised to win Sunday evening, with the elections commission in the Central Asian nation of 31 million reporting more than 70 percent turnout by 5 p.m.

Mirziyoyev will become just the second president of Uzbekistan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Karimov, who died of a stroke in September, ruled the country virtually unopposed, and often brutally, for 27 years.

Mirziyoyev has made some tentative steps to show that his rule may not be as severe as under Karimov, who jailed his political opponents and in particular cracked down on Muslim groups under the pretense of battling Islamism. In one case, he was accused of ordering several prisoners to be boiled alive.

Mirziyoyev has indicated that he may relax tensions with Uzbekistan’s neighbors and will consider economic reforms for the country’s overregulated economy.

Full article here.