Africa

BLACK EXPERIENCES OF POLICING IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

Exploring the Nexus of Race, EU Law and Criminal Justice
Seminars: May and July 2012

The recent convictions in Britain for the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 brought into sharp focus the problematic interaction between racial discrimination and criminal justice. However this is not just a British problem: there are young black men and women living throughout the EU whose lives are significantly affected by the negative interaction between racial discrimination, criminal justice and – increasingly – EU law. Very little attention has been paid to the inter-relationship between these areas. The purpose of these seminars in 2012 is to launch a dialogue on the policing experience of black Union citizens and residents. It is hoped that the seminars will facilitate a discussion between experts, activists, policy makers, academics and legal professionals from a range of member states. The events will focus on listening to the expert voices of those directly affected and offer a platform for sharing experiences of policing from different EU member states. Exploration of such experiences is especially important given the evolution of the ‘Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ in the EU, the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and the development of a European judicial area.

When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957 five of the six founder states held colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean and persons from the colonies were living in all six. Neither race nor protection from racial discrimination were mentioned in the original Treaty – this became a core value of the EU only fifty years later in 1997, when Article 13 TEC (now Art 19 TFEU) gave the EU competence to take action to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. This competence was activated in the form of the Directive on Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, which applies to treatment of all persons in the public and private sector in relation to employment, occupation and vocational training, working conditions, membership of organisations, social protection and advantages, education and access to goods and services.

The Directive does not cover policing. Policing first became an EU policy competence in 1992, when the Treaty of Maastricht created the tripartite pillar structure of the European Union. Issues concerning policing fell into the third pillar on ‘Justice and Home Affairs’. They came to the fore in 1997, when visa and asylum matters were ‘communitarised’ and the third pillar was re-focused on ‘Policing and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters’ (PJCC). A new EU-wide ‘Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ was declared to provide a context for such co-operation. The Lisbon Treaty has integrated this area of freedom, security and justice into the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as set out in Articles 67 to 89 TFEU. These provisions provide the EU with powers to act in a wide variety of fields including immigration and asylum, cross-border crimes such as trafficking of humans, drugs or arms, computer crime, and money laundering, as well as a framework for co-operation among the judicial authorities of the Member States in both civil and criminal matters, where appropriate through the European Judicial Co-operation Unit (EUROJUST).

Integral to this is the development of a European judicial area with common standards and a high level of access to justice for Union citizens. Article 87 empowers the Union to establish ‘police cooperation involving all the Member States’ competent authorities, including police, customs and other specialised law enforcement services in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences.’ Article 88 gives Europol the mission ‘to support and strengthen action by the Member States’ police authorities and other law enforcement services in their activities to tackle serious crime, terrorism and ‘forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy’. Yet under Article 276 TFEU, when the EU exercises its powers relating to the area of freedom, security and justice, the judicial institutions of the EU ‘shall have no jurisdiction to review the validity or proportionality of operations carried out by the police or other law-enforcement services of a Member State’ or their internal practices to maintain law and order.

What does the omission of policing from the Race Directive and national autonomy under EU action on internal and external policing mean in relation to freedom, security and justice for black Union residents and citizens? What impact will this have, for example, on freedom of movement? These larger questions will assume ever greater importance as new policing and migration control initiatives are pushed through at a European level. Studies on black experiences of policing and racial profiling over the last few years have recorded racist treatment by national authorities, resulting in death and the abuse of human rights.

The seminars will therefore explore the meaning of an area of freedom, security and justice from the perspective of black Union residents and citizens. Given the ever-increasing action at national and EU level, there remains significant scope for empirical examination, theoretical elaboration and further intervention. It is hoped that they will help to build an academic domain that will sustain scholarly, policy and legal attention on lives lived at the nexus of race, EU law and criminal justice. The first seminar is planned for May 24th 2012. It will be hosted by Matrix Chambers in London. The second seminar will take place in July 2012, hosted by the School of Law at the University of Leeds.

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