MEPs fail to hold Europol to account

Article by Fair Trials

Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of a proposal to extend Europol’s mandate. The proposal effectively gives Europol a blank cheque to use and further develop high risk artificial intelligence for policing.

The move comes just two weeks after MEPs voted in LIBE’s AI in Criminal Matters report, which underlined the fundamental harms caused by AI in law enforcement and criminal justice. These harms are already a reality for many people in Europe, as documented by our Automating Injustice report.

Fair Trials’ European Legal and Policy Director Laure Baudrihaye-Gérard said:

We are deeply disappointed and concerned by today’s vote to extend Europol’s mandate. MEPs have already recognised the serious threat that artificial intelligence in policing poses to fundamental rights. We cannot understand why they have now given Europol free rein to develop and use these same tools that reinforce discrimination and undermine human rights.

All law enforcement agencies must operate with accountability and meaningful oversight. There is no reason that Europol should be exempt from these obligations.

Today’s decision is particularly concerning when considering the upcoming debates on the EU’s AI Act. The European Commission’s proposal includes specific exemptions for Europol, which would mean that it is not subject to the safeguards in the proposal.

Laure Baudrihaye-Gérard stated:

This is a massive carve-out which would enable Europol to operate without further regulation than what is provided in its mandate, which will now be extended even further.

Considering today’s vote, we are going down a path in which Europol is allowed to operate with little accountability or oversight. No-one is asking questions. No-one is holding the agency to account. It is deeply worrying for fundamental rights, including the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.

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