At meeting held on Wednesday 29 march at the House of Lords on 'The nightmare of control orders', lawyers, family members and supporters spoke about the psychological and emotional damage the orders were inducing.
The meeting was organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities and hosted by Lord Rea. Although the meeting was on the issue of those subjected to control orders, the men involved were not allowed to attend - many of the men being warned that they faced arrest if they attended. Lord Rea, the host, told the meeting, that he had received a phone call from Black Rod, an official at the House of Lords, reprimanding him for hosting a meeting to which control order detainees were invited. He had also had a personal email from Charles Clarke about the meeting.
Despite those interventions, the meeting went ahead and was well attended. One of the recurring themes from those who spoke was the enormous damage being done, not only to those subjected to control orders but also their families.
Jeremy Croft, the senior policy advisor of Amnesty International's UK section, told the meeting that Palestinian refugee Mahmoud Abu Rideh, who is presently under a control order, has been made the subject of an urgent action appeal. "There are 200,000 Amnesty International members in this country and 1.8 million across the world. The message has gone out to members to write to the Home Secretary on this case," said Mr Croft.
Solicitor Gareth Peirce, who represents Abu Rideh, told how he had received a letter warning him that were he to attend the Lords meeting he would be put back in prison. She said he had told her " the meeting in the House of Lords is about my case, I should be there." In the event, only his wife and daughter attended the meeting.
Abu Rideh had previously made an appeal for the release of hostage Norman Kember, kidnapped in Iraq last year. Gareth Peirce told the meeting that on that occasion, "there was a letter from the Home Secretary lifting the control order so he could make the plea." She said that "when it suits them they act and when not they don't."
Gareth Peirce said that what is happening under control orders and detention generally "is an experiment in how to drive people out of this country it is perilously close to working."
The meeting also heard a statement from Ann Alexander (SACC) about three control order victims she has been in touch with. She said one of them was living with his family under "unimaginable stress and hopeless despair"; another hadn't eaten fro 48 days. A third man - a young Iraqi Kurd - had said to her "I feel just like I am a dead body. I don't know what will happen to me next day."
Adrienne Burrows of Peace and Justice in east London, who has visited a number of the men under control orders, described control orders as a rebranding of detention without trial. Les Levidow of CAMPACC said that control orders are converting homes into domestic prisons. "They have circumvented the law lords decision on detention without trial," said Mr Levidow.
Based on reports Families speak out on control orders - by Harmit Athwal, Institute of Race Relations and
Amnesty appeal for letter writing campaign over British detainee by Paul Donovan in the Morning Star (you'll need to subscribe to read the article).
- Imprisoned in their own homes Ann Alexander's message to the meeting
- JCHR report on control orders - appendices include extensive accounts of live under control orders from SACC, Gareth Peirce, Peace and Justice in East London and others
What you can do
Please support Hhugs, (Helping Households Under Great Stress), an organisation set up in September 2004 to help the familes of people detained and arrested in Britain's War on Terror