2nd April 2014: Yesterday afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked the following questions during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) after a presentation from three Greek ministers on the 'state of play' of the Greek Presidency of the Council*.
"The Minister of Justice mentioned the European habeas corpus** and referred to abuse of rights by state authorities. I must say that the European version of this instrument was something that had, until this afternoon, escaped my attention.
"Has he found any need to prevent member states from depriving their political opponents of their human rights and, in particular, their liberty?
"He mentioned the need to discuss the Rule of Law with the Commission. Did he have any country in mind? Have we seen people or perhaps parties punished, without, or in advance of, judicial processes?
"These issues are important because we would all deprecate people having their rights abused by state authorities. If it should happen in member states, that would be a matter of even greater concern.
"I am pleased to see that the Presidency of the Cradle of Democracy is of the same mind."
Reply from the Minister of Justice, Mr Athanassiou:
"Of course, we should protect the Rule of Law. I could not answer if I were aware of any state......... (that had broken the Rule of Law?)
The Rule of Law and Separation of Powers first started in in my country. In some countries, one branch (of government) interferes with the work of another branch. We cannot interfere with the Judiciary. Our guiding principle must always be the Rule of Law."
* A different member state takes over the Presidency of the Council ever six months for the following six months. The Greek Presidency of the Council began on 1st January 2014 and will last until 30th June 2014.
** Habeas corpus is a legal instrument (a prerogative writ) that might in England and Wales be sought from the High Court to force a person or institution to justify the detention of a person in custody
1st April 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) following a communication by the Commission (represented by Mrs Le Bail, Director General for Justice) on the Rule of Law.
"The Rule of Law means that people should not be punished except for a distinct breach of the law and that all people are subject to the law.
"However, there are loop holes.
"Laws can be devised so that only your political opponents run the risk of being caught by them. There are all kinds of incitement law - ethnicity, gender, disability etc. However, there are no laws preventing incitement to hatred on political grounds. Perhaps the wrong people would be prosecuted.
"Last year, we saw the leaders of a political party in Greece being detained on Sovietesque charges of heading a criminal organisation, following the appalling murder of a left wing activist, with whose death they were not charged. I know little about this party and I might not like what I have been told but that is not the point.
"In 2003, in Germany, there were attempts to ban a political party on the basis of incriminating speeches made by some of its members until it was discovered by the German Constitutional Court that the members in question were state agents. (Following the collapse of this case), there ought to have been a long and intensive inquiry into this case but there was none.
"We in AFCO have recently been discussing the hurdles for establishing European Political Parties, which will allow favoured parties to be registered and prevent un-favoured parties.
1st April 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked the following question during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the 2014 Work Programme of FRONTEX (the EU borders agency).
"Your procedures are, of course, subject to obligations and constraints established by EU law. Could you identify any of those legal obligations or constraints that made your job more difficult or less effective?
"I am not, of course, asking for your opinion on whether the restrictions are justified (I would not lead you into that minefield) but simply their effect on your work.
"For example, have the restrictions on the amount of time that people can be detained and the consequent reliance on voluntary return led to the failure of the returns policy?"
Andrew's comment on the response:
"Mr Gil Arias Fernandez, Deputy Executive Director of FRONTEX, claimed that once a migrant had entered a country in the EU he/she became the responsibility of the national authorities.
Whilst this might be strictly true, FRONTEX does co-operate with the member state concerned for a long time afterwards."
1st April 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the deaths in the Mediterranean of illegal migrants trying to reach Europe.
"The Task Force Mediterranean was set up to, 'take determined action to prevent deaths at sea'.
"Before something can be prevented, it is necessary to know why it happens.
"The deaths in the Mediterranean happen because people are prepared to risk themselves and others in inappropriate boats to reach Europe.
"Why do they take that risk? It is because, if they land in Europe or are rescued at sea and then taken to Europe, they might be granted asylum - not necessarily because they are personally in danger but because they come from a dangerous country and there are plenty of those in the world.
"If they are refused asylum and given a returns decision, they will have only about a 36% chance of being returned - 178,000 out of total of 474,000 in 2012.
"You will remember hearing that in the debate on Returns Policy yesterday, or no you will not remember, because I was the only member of the Committee in the audience. I became quite lonely at one point.
"So who is responsible for their deaths? The people who frame the asylum laws and allow people to stay. Secondly, those responsible for Returns Policy who fail to return most of them.
"Those who hold out the prize of asylum, attract people to take their chance.
"How can we prevent further deaths?
"We can announce loudly and clearly that no people who land in the EU or attempt to land in the EU without authorisation, are even considered for asylum. When that is understood, there will be no more deaths in the Mediterranean.
"Continue with the present and there will be more and more deaths- The choice is ours.
"We have been told this morning (by Mr Muschel, Director for Migration and Asylum) that we can cut down on illegal migration by increasing legal migration.
"You can reduce breaches of any law by allowing potential law breakers to do legally what they were going to do illegally!