Thanks to the Tory Government choosing to opt in to the European Investigation Order, we can now be subjected to investigations by other countries for crimes which aren’t even illegal in this country. A classic example is denying the Holocaust, something which is illegal in Germany, but not here in the UK. The EU Observer says (my emphasis):
In particular, Statewatch, the UK-based civil liberties monitor, says there is no longer a basis for refusal on the grounds of territoriality and what is called “dual criminality” – that the act for which information is sought must constitute a crime punishable in both states.
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.
For example, Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany and 12 other EU countries but not in the UK, Sweden or Spain – each of which back the new proposals. The EIO could thus in theory used by Germany to someone who denied the Holocaust in a country where to do so is legal.
Use of EU powers like this to prosecute people for actions not illegal in other EU states already has a precedence. In 2008 UK Police arrested an Australian, under the European Arrest Warrant in order to deport him to Germany for denying the Holocaust:
A leading holocaust denier who runs a website insisting the Nazis did not murder millions of Jews will face an extradition hearing tomorrow after being arrested as he flew into Britain.
Dr Fredrick Toben was seized at Heathrow at the request of the German authorities for publishing ‘anti-Semitic and/or revisionist’ material between 2000 and 2004.
Dr Toben – who claims to be facing a ‘witch-trial’ – has committed no crime in Britain, where Holocaust denial is not an offence.
But, under the terms of a European Arrest Warrant designed to fast-track extraditions, the Australian citizen can be held in the UK pending possible deportation to Germany – where he faces five years in prison.
The EAW already has well documented abuses attached to it, the EIO will add to this, especially with its lack of safeguards, as Tory MP Dominic Raab points out:
…that there are no proper limits on the nature of the crimes involved – so they could be trivial, or not even offences under UK law…the Order even provides legal authority for European police to carry out investigations on British soil.
It’s also not beyond the possibility that other member states could pass legislation that bars criticism of the EU which then could be applied to other member states via these instruments. Don’t believe me? Here’s yesterday’s EUObserver regarding a proposed Italian ‘gag law’:
Bloggers, podcasters and even anyone who posts updates on social networks such as Facebook all face being slapped with fines of up to €25,000 for publishing incorrect facts, if a bill that journalists’ organisations are calling “authoritarian” currently before the Italian parliament is passed.
A provision within the government’s Media and Wiretapping Bill will extend Italy’s “obbligo di rettifica”, or rectification obligation – a law dating back to 1948 that requires newspapers to publish corrections – to the internet and indeed anyone “responsible for information websites”.
According to the draft law, bloggers and other online publishers – which lawyers believe includes users of Facebook and Myspace – will be obliged to post corrections within 48 hours of any complaint regarding their content.
If authors do not comply, they face fines of up to €25,000.
Should the Italian Government pass this legislation, then it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see where this could logically end up using EU instruments.
And the Tories have opted in to only the draft version of the EIO, the final version can end up being much much worse, with no exit being possible. I hope anyone who voted Tory feels pleased with themselves.