'April Fool's Day' in Commons- one more step to grave injustices
How appropriate that on 'April Fool's Day' Jacqui Smith will launch the long awaited second reading of The Counter Terrorism Bill 2008. We should not be fooled. For the last six years the Labour government has created a climate of fear and deceived us that we face a permanent emergency as a nation. Hence the most fundamental principles of justice such as 'habeas corpus' and the right to a fair trial have to be mutilated in the name of national security.
Although the extension of pre-charge detention from 28 to 42 days has been aired widely, the draft bill has many proposed police powers which are equally pernicious particularly when the definition of terrorism under the 2000 Terrorism Act is so broad that people are being jailed for possessing DVDs and downloading web pages.
Extra powers - for surveillance, pre-charge questioning and legal obligations to disclose 'suspicious' financial transactions - will further encourage arbitrary arrests. Information 'which could be useful for terrorism' can mean nearly anything and would generally be linked with politics activities in order to justify prosecutions, as well as to harass activists. Restrictions could be imposed on travellers to international demonstrations.
Sinister also are the attempts to extend 'secret' court procedures to confiscation of property and to inquests, partly or wholly held in camera, a move to avoid accountability when we have the next Jean Charles de Menezes.
A new offence making criminal the failure by volunteers in charities or NGOs is an attack on the right to silence. The Bill would also criminalise the collection of information on armed forces by investigative journalists, thus attacking free speech.
We, the 27 civil society organisations listed hereunder, call on MPs to hold the government to account and not let this unjust bill through Parliament without serious challenge. Yes, the government has a duty to protect the public against terrorists but Parliament has a duty to protect the public from draconian measures that violate the most fundamental principles of justice.
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST ANTI-TERROR POWERS
- 1990 Trust
- Baluch Human Rights Group.
- Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC);
- Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF);
- Centre for the Study of Terrorism (CFSOT);
- Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Index on Censorship;
- Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRD);
- Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC);
- July 7th Truth Campaign
- Justice not Vengeance (JNV);
- Kurdish Federation UK;
- London Guantanamo Campaign (LGC);
- Muslim Parliament
- Panjaab National History Society; Peace & Progress;
- Peace and Justice in East London;
- Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC);
- Sheffield Muslim Association (MAB)
- Sheffield Guantanamo Campaign
- Solidarity (Scotland's Socialist Movement)
- South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG);
- Stop the War Coalition (STWC);
- Tamil Campaign for Truth and Justice;
- Tamil Centre for Human Rights;
- Westbourne Grove Church