December 2008

Politics must not derail Israel's participation in EU projects

As part of its 'neighbourhood policy' the EU offers nearby countries in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean the opportunity to take part in EU research cooperation and exchange programmes.

MEPs are set to vote on such participation by Israel which has an association agreement with the EU and whether it should be made conditional on 'respect for commitments towards a comprehensive political settlement.' This is the aim of the Socialist group (to which Labour MEPs belong) and the Green group.

London MEP Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman is strongly opposed to the conditionality move:

Dalai Lama's visit provides inspiration and boost for democracy

The Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso spiritual leader of the Tibetan people has addressed a formal sitting of the European Parliament as part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

Commenting on his visit London MEP Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman said:

"The Dalai Lama's non-violent approach and his determination to engage in dialogue with China is an inspiration to all who care about peaceful routes to democracy human rights and justice."

"Unless the Chinese authorities open up to the possibility of such dialogue over Tibet the chance of a peaceful outcome that meets the aspirations of the Tibetan people for their identity and rights to be recognised cannot be guaranteed."

Human rights court damns UK fingerprint and DNA storage

In a judgement today the European Court of Human Rights (which is not the EU court) has ruled that the UK government's refusal to delete the fingerprints and DNA of 2 British people not convicted of an offence one of them 11 years old was a breach of the privacy provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights as the policy 'could not be regarded as necessary in democratic society'.

London MEP Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat European justice and human rights spokeswoman has recently led a successful campaign to set 12 - rather than 6 as many governments wanted - as the minimum age for fingerprinting for visas and passports in Europe. Commenting on today's judgement she said:

60 years of universal rights declaration but so much still to do

December 10th marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) signed in 1948. Motivated by the experiences of the Second World War the declaration was the first expression of the rights to which all humans are entitled.

London MEP and Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman Sarah Ludford said:

"Celebrations will be tempered by the recognition of how many challenges remain from developed countries which still practice execution to failed states where life is cheap and full of fear."

Conservatives and Socialists block search for rendition truth

The Socialist (PSE) and Conservative (EPP) groups which together have a majority in the European Parliament have allied to deny a request made by the Liberal Green and the Communist groups for a debate on Guantanamo and the CIA extraordinary rendition programme in next week's European Parliamentary plenary session in Strasbourg.

London MEP Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman was vice-chair of the enquiry by MEPs 2 years ago into European governments' collusion with illegal rendition and CIA flights the programme of kidnap torture and secret prisons that broke all norms of international and domestic law. She said:

Fear of EU secret sell-out to Bush's surveillance society

Leading EU justice and home affairs ministers are meeting in Washington tomorrow

with their counterparts in the Bush administration. High on the agenda are data-sharing for fighting crime and terrorism and what data protection safeguards should accompany it.

Already the US has successfully demanded the transfer of booking information on all air passengers flying the Atlantic and from January will require that all travellers (including Britons and other Europeans who do not need a visa) fill out a prior online application called an ESTA. They are now seeking access to European countries' DNA and fingerprint databases.

London MEP Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights

spokeswoman said:

EU plays Santa Claus on toy safety

Just ahead of Christmas MEPs are expected to pass new EU legislation this week to make toys safer by toughening the regulations.

The new law will require clearer 'warning' labels expand the list of banned substances to include allergenic fragrances sometimes found in playdough and seek to reduce the risk of suffocation or strangling from small detachable parts of toys. Also this week MEPs will strengthen controls to tackle the illegal trade of counterfeit goods which can include toys.

London's Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford said:

"The festive season is good timing for the EU to act as Santa Claus by improving child safety. This adds to the long record of action that the EU has taken to protect both the consumer and our children over the years."

Sarah speaking about torture and the resettlement of Guantanamo Bay detainees

Madam President may I first of all endorse what my colleague Marco Cappato has said applauding the action at the UN to try and achieve the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world. I also support that strongly.

I wanted to say a word - and I agree here with Hélène Flautre - about the absolutely scandalous absence of the Council and the presidency this morning at the Sakharov Prize ceremony. It was a great pity that the presidency was not present to hear the moving and courageous message from Hu Jia's wife. I think it might have led to certain thought-provoking reassessments of our relationship with China.

Europe to enforce driving penalties across borders

MEPs are set to endorse legislation approved by the European Parliament's Transport Committee which would enable cross-border enforcement of penalties for the serious driving offences of speeding drink driving failure to wear a seat belt and running red lights.

Currently tickets for traffic offences incurred in states other than the driver's home country mostly get ignored. This means impunity for irresponsible driving that puts safety at risk. The new legislation would mean that the authorities in the offender's home state will be notified that he has failed to pay within the specified period and they will then recognise and enforce the penalty whether criminal or administrative.

MEPs call for redress of torture flights wrongs

MEPs will today call for an end to what a report by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee describes as a 'high number of violations' in EU countries of the European human rights convention.

The report includes a specific demand for a frank response and pledge of 'never again' by EU states to the European Parliament's 2007 report on 'extraordinary rendition' The report found that up to a dozen European countries colluded with CIA kidnap torture and secret prisons in the 'war on terror'.

Sarah Ludford MEP Liberal Democrat European Justice and Human Rights Spokeswoman said: