Letter: Europol treaty causes concern

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The Independent Online
Sir: The decision by the Home Secretary to postpone the ratification of the Europol treaty is to be applauded (report, 20 May), albeit that this decision was made only to retaliate against the EU ban on British beef and beef products.

The Europol treaty, once in force, will pose real concerns to all within the EU in relation to data protection and the use and storage of sensitive information. There are genuine concerns as to the treaty's lawfulness both under English law and that of the European convention on Human Rights. However, there has been no detailed review of the treaty for its compliance with long established common-law traditions or international human rights standards.

At the same time, the insistence of the UK that jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice is not to be extended to the treaty will mean that it will not be possible to have an overall, European-wide determination of the treaty. As a result, the guarantee of an effective remedy for the treaty's breach is unlikely. Leaving the resolution of disputes to domestic law, as is currently envisaged, will result in a "hotch potch" approach. This will inevitably mean that within one jurisdiction a remedy might be forthcoming, whereas in another, where there is not the same level of data protection, an individual will get no redress.

The Europol treaty is of direct relevance to everyone in the EU, yet there has only been modest scrutiny of the treaty by national parliaments in member states. The treaty was signed in December 1995 without any debate in Parliament or in the media. However, as the Home Secretary appears intent on delaying the treaty's ratification, this rekindles the possibility of a debate on the floor of the House.

JONATHAN COOPE

Director of Law & Policy

Liberty (National Council

for Civil Liberties)

London SE1

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