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By: MarkJ - 22 October, 2009 (8:00 AM)
The European Parliament appears to have surrendered to pressure from Member States by abandoning amendment 138, a provision adopted on two occasions by an 88% majority of the plenary assembly, and which aimed to protect citizens' right to Internet access. The move paves the way for an EU wide policy supporting arbitrary restrictions of Internet access, such as customers being cut-off from the Internet by their ISP.

Under the original amendment 138 text any restriction of an individual could only be taken following a prior judicial ruling. The new update has completely removed this, meaning that governments and Rights Holders could now have grounds to force UK ISPs into disconnecting their customers from the Internet (i.e. such as when "suspected" of illegal downloading).

The Amendment 138 Update Text

"Any such measures liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be taken in exceptional circumstances and imposed if they are necessary, appopriate and proportionate within a democratic society, and shall be subject to adequate procedural safeguards in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and with general principles of Community law, including effective judicial protection and due process.

In particular, any measures may only be adopted as a result of a prior, fair and impartial procedure ensuring inter alia that the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned be fully respected. Furthermore, the right to an effective and timely judicial review shall be guaranteed."

Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net, said:

"Amendment 138 was in haste dissolved into useless legalese and soft consensus. The Parliament hurried to get rid of the safeguards of citizens' freedoms because it knew that with the imminent coming into effect of the Lisbon treaty, both institutions will soon share the legislative power in the field of judicial affairs. And the bad excuses we have heard these past few days to justify to abandon amendment 138 will then be totally obsolete. In the end, the Parliament was not brave enough to stand against the Council to defend citizens' freedoms.

Ministers of Member States, who want to be able to regulate the Net without interference from the judiciary, were rushing to kill amendment 138 and put an end to the negotiations. It is a shame that the Parliament's delegation, and especially rapporteur Catherine Trautmann, was not determined enough to use the political context to assert its authority in the European lawmaking process in order to protect European citizens. Even though it has been an interesting and constructive discussion, amendment 138 has turned, by the lack of courage of the delegation, into the emblem of the powerlessness of the Parliament."

Score 1 for Peter Mandelson.
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