New EU anti-terror laws target Muslims, Amnesty International says

A raft of new counter terrorism laws across Europe discriminate against Muslims and refugees, spreading fear and alienation, Amnesty International said in a report published on Tuesday (January 17).

The human rights group sounded the alarm over security measures adopted over the past two years in 14 European Union nations, including expanded surveillance powers. During that period, militant attacks have killed some 280 people in France, Belgium and Germany.

The attacks, mostly claimed by the Islamic State group, have fanned tensions over immigration, fuelled the popularity of right-wing parties and made security a key theme in upcoming French, Dutch and German elections.

“Governments looking at a person and saying: ‘You look really suspicious to me. You visit community centres. You go to a specific mosque, and so I’m going to restrict your behaviour cause I think in the future, you might commit a crime,’ and this is one of the most troubling aspects of the report and the information in the report. And we see governments that have already adopted these types of measures and we see other governments contemplating them,” said Julia Hall, the Amnesty International’s expert on counter terrorism who authored the report.

She warned that “draconian” surveillance measures and powers of search, detention and arrest like those introduced in France since November 2015, when attacks killed 130 people, could be abused to target activists or minority groups that did not pose a genuine threat.

“For every measure that is reflected in it, there is a discriminatory element to it, and the discrimination does disproportionately impact Muslims, people perceived to be Muslim, foreigners, migrants and refugees. And what we see in Europe right now is it’s not a debate, it’s more of a narrative. And the narrative right now is that if you are Muslim, or if you are a refugee or a migrant, you are a threat. And what we’re trying to say with this report is that the measures that have been implemented by governments contribute to that narrative,” Hall said.

The report said new measures following a 2014 United Nations Security Council Resolution to crack down on foreign fighters and criminalise apologising or glorifying terrorism shrink space for freedom of expression.

Amnesty called on EU states to limit surveillance measures to individuals based on a strong suspicion of wrongdoing.

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