Thu, 30 Aug 2007
The ACPO is asking
for a form of internment, with the power to lock up terror suspects
indefinitely without charge. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, has stated
One proposal we cite in the consultation document
from Liberty - and we
are grateful to them for engaging so constructively in the debate - is
that if the risk materialises we should declare an emergency under the
Civil Contingencies Act and allow for a period beyond the 28 day limit,
for up a further 30 days.
But this would require the declaration of a state of
We are also proposing for consultation - and this would not require a
state of emergency - an extension of the current limit for up to 28
days more or a lesser period --- but only if, in addition to the
requirement that a judge must approve every single seven day extension,
the case is itself is notified to Parliament and subject to a timely
report to Parliament of all circumstances, with the option of a later
Justice succinctly and effectively explained
that the case for an 28
days (or longer) pre-charge detention as not yet been made and the
that it entails:
At 28 days, the UK already has the longest period of
detention of any western country. While we welcome the government’s
continuing efforts to consult and seek consensus on this important
matter, it should strive to work within existing limits instead of
pushing to achieve ever-longer maximums.
In particular, the government should be under no illusions about the
possibility of additional safeguards for those held beyond 28 days.
No amount of additional scrutiny by the courts and Parliament can hope
to prevent the injustice of an innocent person detained without charge
for over a month.
The Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC
Centre for the Study of Terrorism (CFSOT
and Cage Prisoners
a public meeting on the topic of ‘Detention Without Trial: Lives in
limbo in Britain’, which demonstrated many examples of some of the
happening in the UK. You can listen to a recording
of highlights of the meeting made by the London Sound Posse or read the
following report by Paul Donovan:
War on terror repeating the mistakes of past in Ireland, by Paul Donovan
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg has told how Sinn Fein
Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness told him not to be dejected about
present situation with the Muslim community in the UK.
The incident came just a couple of weeks before McGuinness stood in the
Stormont buildings with Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Tony
Blair to recommence the Assembly. “Martin McGuinness said don’t feel
dejected, I know what it is like to be part of a criminalised demonised
community,” recalled Begg, who drew parallels with the way in which the
present war on terror is being conducted against the Muslims and the
Irish experience over 30 years.
Begg was one of a number of speakers from across communities to address
a meeting on detention without trial held at the London Muslim Centre
in Whitechapel on 11 July.
“I’ve met in person with people who did the bombing, shooting and
fighting in Northern Ireland and in the end it was with these same
people who took part in the negotiations that led to peace.”
“The Northern Ireland conflict was solved by politics, which is the
only way that any conflict can be resolved,” said Begg, who criticised
the knee jerk reaction to any terrorist incident today that saw
politicians reaching for more draconian laws like 90 day detention
Begg recalled two words that were at the heart of the Northern Ireland
conflict that resound down to the years today’s conflict – “troops
out.” The people of Northern Ireland wanted troops out of Ireland and
today people want troops out of Iraq, said Begg, who said that had the
government listened to those millions who marched against the war in
Iraq the threat of terrorism would not exist in this country today.
Solicitor Gareth Peirce picked up on the Irish theme, recalling how the
mistakes of the past 30 years were now being repeated. “The British
state acted in a way that caused and fuelled the conflict for 30 years.
It was the actions of the state and delivery of injustice that caused
the reaction,” said Mrs Peirce, who recalled how before Bloody Sunday
the IRA had been struggling to recruit members but after it people were
lining up to join. The actions of the British state then in sending
Lord Chief Justice Widgery over to conduct a whitewash inquiry,
vindicating the army and blaming the IRA, indicated only that the law
had been subjugated and no longer offered a refuge. “That set the scene
for the next 30 years of conflict,” said Peirce. “Evil flourished.
People served time in prison for things they had not done. One woman
served 18 years for something she hadn’t done. Then there was the
Birmingham Six case – 25 high court judges played a role in keeping
them in prison.”
Peirce recalled how today the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
was being used to destroy the rule of law, with evidence heard in
secret without those accused being party to it. Some of the evidence
had also been obtained in breach of international obligations,
sometimes under torture.
She recalled how the mistakes of the past in Northern Ireland were
being repeated with internment without trial – the cause the march on
Bloody Sunday – was being practiced again. “This is an experiment and
all these people are guinea pigs. People are quick in Britain to object
to experiments on animals but less concerned about this experiment on
people and their human rights,” said Peirce.
Liberty director Shami Chakrabati said she sensed a change in public
attitude on both sides of the Atlantic. “People have had enough,” said
Chakrabati, who recalled the inalienability of human rights. “It is
only tyrants and terrorists who believe in torturing and locking people
up without trial.”
Solicitor Muddassar Arani raised the question as to whether Muslim
prisoners should claim prisoner of war status.
Responding to the point, Begg told how in the early days of Guantanamo
Bay the prisoners had been given prisoner of war status which brought
them within the Geneva Conventions. When it was realised this gave them
protections the status was withdrawn.
Another angle I found interesting, that is not already captured in Paul
Donovan's very good notes, is an intervention by Frances Weber
commented ‘it's not about guilt and innocence anymore; it's about risk.
Are you a risk?’ (I.e. if you are a risk then you can get a control
order, an ASBO, etc. without the need and fairness of any trial.)
The Joint Committee on Human Rights looked into the pre-charge
detention issue in its ‘Counter-Terrorism
Policy and Human Rights: 28
days, intercept and post-charge questioning
’ (in PDF
report. Here's its summary (the links are my additions):
The Committee has published several Reports dealing with human rights
concerns raised by counter-terrorism policy. Although very critical in
the past of aspects of Government policy, the Committee welcomes the
recent significant change of approach and tone in Government
pronouncements on counter-terrorism. This report focuses on the
Government's main new proposals and a number of other issues
(paragraphs 1- 13).
Recent Ministerial statements envisage an increase from 28
pre-trial detention limits. The Committee is not convinced of the need
for this and recommends thorough scrutiny of the evidence, stronger
judicial safeguards and improved parliamentary oversight. The Committee
considers that there should be an upper limit on pre-charge detention
and that Parliament, not the courts, should decide that limit after
considering all the evidence (paragraphs 14 - 57).
The Committee recommends improved conditions of pre-charge detention,
including a better-designed replacement for Paddington
(paragraphs 58 - 98).
The Committee welcomes in principle the Government's review of the use
as evidence. It remains convinced that the ability to use
it would help bring more prosecutions against terrorists. It makes
recommendations on implementation and considers that the law of public
interest immunity would protect the public interest in non-disclosure
(paragraphs 99 - 155).
The Committee makes recommendations on other alternatives to extending
pre-charge detention, notably post-charge questioning (paragraphs 156 -
The Committee believes that the Special Advocate system does not afford
the individual a fair
hearing and recommends changes (paragraphs 176 -
The Committee may return to its concerns over control
orders once the
House of Lords gives judgment in cases pending. Following her
predecessor's reference to the possibility of derogation from the right
to liberty, the Committee awaits a response from the Home Secretary to
its request for clarification of the Government's view of the level of
threat from terrorism (paragraphs 206 - 210).
Any extension of pre-charge detention may apply only to individuals for
whom the Police has strong presumption of terrorism... but we are all
terror suspects in the eyes of the Police. A document, seen by the
, produced by Met commander Peter Broadhurst during a
legal hearing at the high court, when BAA attempted to prevent the Climate
demonstration next to Heathrow, stated:
"Should individuals or small groups seek to take
action outside of lawful protest they will be dealt with robustly using
terrorism powers. This is because the presence of large numbers of
protesters at or near the airport will reduce our ability to
proactively counter the terrorist act [threat]," the document says.
Consider how you show your opposition to this further criminalisation
of innocents and serious threat of further increase of the pre-charge
. If you want to demonstrate
in front of the Parliament
, if you just go there it's
unlawful, if you request prior authorisation from the Police it is
further distracting them from their ability to deal with threats. If
you thought of arranging to meet your MP at Portcullis
, you can now be arrested for trespass. Just stay home
and write - if you feel safe enough to do that.