Police: EIO – anything to be alarmed about?

29 July 2010 – Presseurop EUobserver.com

“Long a refusenik in the realm of European cooperation on justice and home affairs,” Britain has opted in to negociations on the European Investigation Order (EIO), reports the EUobserver. UK home secretary Teresa May has hailed the controversial directive proposal, which gives foreign police forces the right to request that UK police search for and share evidence on suspects in Britain, as an “invaluable tool” in the fight against trans-border crime.

The Brussels based website notes that civil liberties groups are far from happy with the development, arguing that the current draft proposal does away with pre-existing arrangements based on territoriality and “dual criminality” – i.e. “that the act for which information is sought must constitute a crime punishable in both states.”

The EUobserver explains that, “This would now mean that a person who committed an act which is legal in the member state where the act was carried out could, according to critics, be subject to body, house and business searches, financial investigations, and some forms of covert surveillance, if the act is regarded as a crime under the law of another member state.”

According to Fair Trials International, “The proposals are also completely one-sided. If you are under suspicion you will have no right to demand information from overseas police to prove your innocence.” The human rights charity predicts a Europe-wide scenario where inadequately protected citzens have sensitive personal information – such as recordings of bugged conversations, banking records and DNA – bandied around while national police are "powerless to refuse" information requests.

With the European Commission to give an opinion on the proposed directive in two months time, the EUobserver provides a provocative instance of how eventual legislation could be used. While Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany and 12 other EU countries, it does not constitute a crime in the UK, Sweden or Spain. “The EIO could thus in theory be used by Germany against someone who denied the Holocaust in a country where to do so is legal.”

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