Eurofile: Danes in leg-lock trouble

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The Independent Online
DENMARK has been castigated by Amnesty International for allowing the systematic ill treatment of detainees by police to go unpunished and for permitting the use of a painful and degrading form of restraint known as the 'leg lock'.

The human rights organisation accused Copenhagen of giving the police the green light to act with impunity, by failing to investigate allegations of the ill-treatment of detainees. Hundreds of people allege they were unjustifiably searched, detained and arrested during a 1992-93 police crackdown on cannabis dealing in Copenhagen.

In May last year during a violent incident police in riot gear and plain clothes shot directly into a crowd in Copenhagen, injuring at least 11 people, mostly bystanders. More than a year later the reasons the police resorted to potentially lethal force remain unclear.

Many of those arrested say they were restrained by the leg lock, which involves being handcuffed behind the back, with one foot wedged against the opposite knee and the other foot pushed under the handcuffs. The Danes are believed to be the only police force in Western Europe to use this method of restraint. Many victims have suffered nerve damage as well as abrasions or swelling of the wrists or hands.

THE RACE for President of the European Parliament has hardly attracted the same attention as that to succeed Jacques Delors, but it is already underway. The incumbent, German Christian Democrat Egon Klepsch, followed Enrique Baron Crespo, a Spanish Socialist, and a similiar arrangement is likely this time, with a leading figure from the left and one from the right splitting the five-year term. Jean-Pierre Cot, former leader of the Socialist bloc, has been nominated by French members; the European People's party, the centre-right bloc, is likely to put forward Leo Tindemans, a Belgian Christian Democrat.

MOBILE telephones have yet to make their mark on the brasseries of Brussels. The rest of Europe has been slower off the mark than Britain because its telecommunications sector remains highly regulated. But the European Commission has now forced Belgium to open its market and allow a second operator to compete with Belgacom, the state telephone company. Mobile phones would be a boon for many Eurocrats, who commute between offices and countries, but only if deals can be worked out to allow them to function across Europe.

AS Europe's centre of gravity shifts from south to north, attempts are being made to keep a focus on the Mediterranean. This week the Algerian Prime Minister, Mokdad Sifi, visits Brussels to ask for greater support. He has the backing of France, which has privately upbraided Britain and Germany for their lack of interest in what happens on the southern shore. Greece, the outgoing President of the EU, is also trying to get Mediterranean issues recognised at the Corfu summit, including the thorny questions of membership for Malta and Cyprus. But with Germany about to take the Presidency, eastern Europe on the agenda and new entrants from Scandinavia and central Europe, the process of northern drift seems impossible to combat.

GERMANY has said it will try to remove European barriers to Chinese imports when it takes over the EU Presidency in July. Bonn's growing interest in Asian markets, especially China, has been signalled by a series of top-level visits to the region earlier this year. British officials regard the moves with suspicion: they think Germany is trying to build a special relationship with China, to the detriment of its EU partners.