A brief note to our readers

Due to many other work-related commitments, this blog will not be updated anymore. Instead I’ll continue to post links to what I think are interesting articles on Twitter. Visit http://twitter.com/legalift or follow me @legalift.
This blog published 3370 posts in 77 different categories between January 2008 and June 2011, and received a total of 300,000 views. It was featured on the sites of Le Monde and The Guardian, and quoted by academics in their work.  My current views don’t necessarily reflect some of the content of my previous postings, but I will leave the site up as an archive for counter-terrorism related news. Thanks for reading!

Privacy International launches ‘Big Brother Incorporated’ project on sale of surveillance tech to authoritarian regimes

I’m happy to announce that Privacy International has launched its new big project called ‘Big Brother Incorporated’, which will (among other things) investigate the sale of surveillance technologies to authoritarian regimes. Read all about it here.

PI has now put together a comprehensive online database of companies that sell surveillance products. It also added some opinion pieces about the topic (including one by me on the need to strengthen due dilligence and export licenses for tech companies) and a handy guide to the technical jargon that is being used in the surveillance industry. PI is also in the process of building strategic litigation against some of the Western companies complicit in human rights abuses by governments and intelligence agencies across the Middle East and North Africa.

The Washington Post has just published a big article on this topic here  and Wikileaks today has released a bunch of documents (“the Spyfiles“) related to this issue as well.

I will host an open roundtable on some of these issues in Brussels on the 27th of January in Bozar (Ravensteinstraat 23). Everybody’s more than welcome.

Don’t be evil – Technology companies’ role in supporting and suppressing human rights activists
Mathias Vermeulen (VUB – chair)
Marcel Rosenbach (Der Spiegel – moderator)

Marietje Schaake (ALDE Member of the European Parliament)
Ben Roome (Nokia Siemens Network)
Chris Soghoian (ACLU)
Ahmed Ghappour (Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights)
Eric King (Privacy International)

2011 EHHR Special Issue on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism a Decade after 9/11

The Essex Human Rights Review has issued a ‘Special Issue on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism a Decade after 9/11’, which  focuses on the practical implications and challenges of the changing landscape of counter terrorism measures since 9/11 and their impact on human rights. All articles can be downloaded from the website.


You Can’t Always Get What You Want: The Kadi II Conundrum and the Security Council 1267 Terrorist Sanctions Regime

Unilateral Exceptions to International Law: Systematic Legal Analysis
and Critique of Doctrines to Deny or Reduce the Applicability of Human
Rights Norms in the Fight against Terrorism

An Interview with Jeremy Sarkin, Chair-Rapporteur of the United Nations
Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, on the Study
on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention

Kafka, Sisphus, and Bin Laden: Challenging the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Regime Rights

Limits to Counter-Terrorism: Comparing Derogation from the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on

The Margin of Appreciation and Human Rights Protection in the ‘War on
Terror’: Have the Rules Changed before the European Court of Human

Section 44: Repeal or Reform? A Home Secretary’s Dilemma

Narco-Terror: Conflating the Wars on Drugs and Terror

State Secrets, Impunity and Human Rights Violations: Persecution Restricted in the Abu Omar Case

Torture Papers, Never Again. Guarantees of Non-Repetition for the
Torture Committed by the Bush Administration during the ‘War on Terror’

Parliamentary oversight of security and intelligence agencies in the EU

One of the reasons for the lack of posts on this blog the past months is that I co-authored this large study (446 pages), together with Aidan Wills, for the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE). The study came out today, and also includes a number of attachments written by national intelligence oversight bodies.

Abstract: This study evaluates the oversight of national security and intelligence agencies by parliaments and specialised non-parliamentary oversight bodies, with a view to identifying good practices that can inform the European Parliament’s approach to strengthening the oversight of Europol, Eurojust, Frontex and, to a lesser extent, Sitcen. The study puts forward a series of detailed recommendations (including in the field of access to classified information) that are formulated on the basis of indepth assessments of: (1) the current functions and powers of these four bodies; (2) existing arrangements for the oversight of these bodies by the European Parliament, the Joint Supervisory Bodies and national parliaments; and (3) the legal and institutional frameworks for parliamentary and specialised oversight of security and intelligence agencies in EU Member States and other major democracies.

We will present the study at the LIBE Committee at 15h on Monday the 3d of October. An Interparliamentary Committee Meeting on  “Democratic Accountability of the Internal Security Strategy and the Role of Europol, Eurojust and Frontex” will be held on Wednesday 5 October from 15.00 to 18.30 and on Thursday 6 October from 9.00 to 12.30 in the Hemicycle of the Paul-Henri Spaak building of the European Parliament as well, which is open to the public. You can register for this meeting until the 29th of September.

New book by Kent Roach – The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism

The 9/11 Effect – Comparative Counter-TerrorismKent Roach, University of Toronto

Publication date: August 2011

448 pages


This book critically and comparatively examines the responses of the United Nations and a range of countries to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. It assesses the convergence between the responses of western democracies including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada with countries with more experience with terrorism including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Singapore, and Indonesia. A number of common themes – the use of criminal law and immigration law, the regulation of speech associated with terrorism, the review of the state’s whole of government counter-terrorism activities, and the development of national security policies – are discussed. The book provides a critical take on how the United Nations promoted terrorism financing laws and listing processes and the regulation of speech associated with terrorism but failed to agree on a definition of terrorism or the importance of respecting human rights while combating terrorism. It also assesses the failures of the American extra-legal approach and departures from criminal justice and the challenges of transnational cooperation and accountability for counter-terrorism.

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator on the Arab uprisings and the need for security sector reform

“The current situation in North Africa is one of great potential risk, but also great opportunity. The success of The European Union post Lisbon will be judged by the effectiveness with which we respond to these extra-ordinary opportunities, and this means successfully managing the risks involved. The way in which the autocratic regimes of the Middle East behaved in the past, including their repressive and unaccountable security services, non-respect of rule of law and human rights, in practice created conditions very much conducive to the spread of terrorism and contributed to radicalization. Responsive, representative government based on the rule of law and respecting human rights is the best way in which to address the grievances which can create the ground on which terrorism can grow. However, democracy on its own is not enough. Crime, terrorism and sectarian tensions all exist in long-established democracies. Violent extremist groups still exist in the region and beyond, which will continue to act against Europe and European interests. Already arrests have been made in Tunisia apparently linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

There is clearly a dilemma in deciding at what moment the institutions in these countries have gained sufficient legitimacy for it to be right for us to begin discussing these questions of hard security. This is a dilemma for our Arab partners in the reform process, as much as it is for us. (…) It is too early to go into detail, but over the next few months we need to plan a comprehensive model of support to reform of the security sector, and parallel reform of the judicial sector, together with the emerging democratic Governments of the Arab World. I welcome the inclusion of reform of the security and law enforcement sector under “Supporting Deep Democracy” in the joint communication of the Commission and High Representative “A new response to a changing neighbourhood”, and I look forward to the policy dialogue envisaged later this year on Justice and Home Affairs under the Stockholm Programme.”

Read more here.

Former Guantanamo detainee who was resettled in Slovakia arrested upon arrival in Egypt

Egyptian security forces arrestedAdel Fotouh Ali al-Gazzar on Monday as he returned to Egypt for the first time in more than 10 years. al-Gazzar was resettled in Slovakia by the Obama Administration in January 2010 due to fears of persecution or imprisonment in Mubarak’s Egypt, where he was sentenced in absentia in 2001 by an Egyptian State Security Court to three years in prison for participating in an alleged plot to overthrow former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime and infiltrate Palestinian territory. The case was widely condemned as an attempt by Mubarak to suppress his Islamist opponents. More than half of the suspects were subsequently released. Following his arrest, the officers allowed the defendant’s wife and four children to meet with him and check up on him at the airport after his lengthy absence from the country. The authorities then proceeded to begin the legal paperwork needed to send Gazzar to the prosecution so they could determine their position regarding his case.Al-Gazzar’s US based lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, said:

“I think there is a bigger picture here, to be honest. The question is how will the transitional regime receive him considering that the prosecution was based on a political crime of dissent,” said Ghappour. “Does Mubarak’s departure mark a game change for the post-9/11 cases? Will he be treated differently because he was in Guantanamo bay?”

9/11 Ten years on: Detection Technologies and Counter-Terrorism in Europe Conference – Brussels, 7 September 2011

DETECTER (Detection Technologies, Terrorism, Ethics and Human Rights) is an EU-funded FP 7 Security Research project which examines ethical and legal norms governing the use of detection technology in counter-terrorism. The project began in December 2008 and comes to an end in December 2011.  The project has carried out original research on controversial topics, like counter-terrorism data mining programmes, monitoring of Internet activity and the role of technology in pre-entry screening of foreign migrants.  It is also making contributions to debates on how privacy should be viewed in the counter-terrorism context. The project has pioneered private exchanges of views between technology developers, police, intelligence personnel, ethicists and human rights lawyers. These have produced constructive proposals for the modification of detection technology design and use.

On 7 September DETECTER are presenting their findings and recommendations – with responses from key policy makers and industry representatives, including Jeff Jonas, the Chief Scientist of IBM entity analytics group, and Sir David Pepper, former head of GCHQ.
If you are interested in attending or would just like more information please get in touch at detecter@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

Al-Qaeda, Taliban sanctions committee approves “most comprehensive set of updates” to sanctions list

The chair of the UN Security Council’s “Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee” on Monday said the committee has “approved the most comprehensive set of updates” to their sanctions blacklist, as well as the largest group of narrative summaries for added listings in its history.The statement came as the chairman of the Security Council Committee established under Resolution 1267 on sanctions against Taliban and Al-Qaeda members, Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the UN, briefed the 15-nation Security Council in an open meeting.

“Today, I am pleased to report that the committee, building on these efforts, has approved the most comprehensive set of updates to the Consolidated List and the largest group of narrative summaries of reasons for listing in its history,” Wittig said.

Specifically, he told the Council that the committee has agreed to 78 list amendments and to make publicly available almost 200 additional summaries of reasons for listing.

“In particular the additional narrative summaries will further facilitate the implementation of the sanctions,” he said. “They mark an important step to close an information gap and further enhance fair and clear procedures.”

Currently, the Consolidated List has 488 entries — 258 Al- Qaeda individuals, 138 Taliban individuals and 92 Al-Qaeda entities, he said.

Since the last briefing, the committee has added the names of six individuals to the list, and removed six other individuals from the list in addition to amending 37 entries based on additional information gathered.

Despite his death, Osama Bin Laden was not removed from the list.

European Commission Operational Guidance on taking account of Fundamental Rights in Commission Impact Assessments

Read it here.