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Year 2005 No. 119, October 11, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Oppose the Hysteria that “The Rules of the Game Have Changed”!

Government Unveils New “Anti-Terrorist” Legislation

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Oppose the Hysteria that “The Rules of the Game Have Changed”!
Government Unveils New “Anti-Terrorist” Legislation

For your information: The main points of the new Bill

Muslim Organisations Take Stand against Blair Hysteria

There Is No Justification for This ... Blair Is Showing Arrogance of Charles I

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Oppose the Hysteria that “The Rules of the Game Have Changed”!

Government Unveils New “Anti-Terrorist” Legislation

On Wednesday, October 12, the government is due to publish a new Terrorism Bill. In a mid-September letter to his counterparts in the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties, Home Secretary Charles Clarke unveiled the government’s draft proposals for this fresh “anti-terrorism” legislation. The letter revealed that the main draft clauses include new offences of “encouraging and glorifying terrorism” and “disseminating terrorist publications”; changes to the grounds for proscription to make it possible to “proscribe organisations which glorify terrorism”; an extension of the maximum period of detention without charge from 14 days to three months; amendment of the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to “extend the offence of criminal trespass to cover licensed civil nuclear sites” and the establishment of powers to “deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship” if they “act in a way covered by the list of unacceptable behaviours”. 

            The extent of the assault on basic democratic rights enshrined in the draft Terrorism Bill reflects the sentiments expressed by Tony Blair in his recent speech when he declared that “the rules of the game are changing”. Therefore, the draft bill makes it clear that the offence of “encouraging terrorism will have been committed” if someone publishes or causes to be published a statement which they have reasonable grounds to believe is likely to be understood by others as a direct or indirect inducement to committing “acts of terrorism”. The draft had made it clear that in terms of establishing guilt under this provision, “it is irrelevant …… whether any person is in fact encouraged or induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate any such act or offence”. Therefore, under the proposed bill, an individual can be found guilty of “encouraging terrorism” on the basis of a statement they make regardless of the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that this statement encouraged anyone to participate in “terrorism”. The maximum penalty for such an offence is 7 years imprisonment, a fine or both!

            Similarly, the offence of “glorification of terrorism” will have been committed if an individual publishes or causes to be published a statement which “glorifies, exalts or celebrates the commission, preparation or instigation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of acts of terrorism” in circumstances where “it would be reasonable for members of the public …. to assume that the statement expresses the views of that person or has his endorsement”. The maximum penalty for such “an offence” is five years imprisonment, a fine or both. With regard to the offence of “the dissemination of a terrorist publication”, a “terrorist publication” is defined as a publication which “contains matter that constitutes a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. An offence of disseminating such a publication will have been committed if an individual distributes such a publication in any way or has it in his possession with a view to distributing it in any way. The maximum penalty for someone found guilty of this “offence” will be 7 years imprisonment, a fine or both.

            The opposition to this draft has been such that the government has already backtracked. On the offence of "glorifying" terrorist acts, Charles Clarke has now said that people would have to "intend to incite" further acts of terror to be convicted. But it is a well-worn method of the government to propose what are perceived as outrageous measures, only to retract them a little, and then these retracted measures become the norm to be further built on. Furthermore, it introduces the issue of “intent”, which is at the least problematic, making the matter of belief an issue of criminality as well as opening the door to the authorities to make discriminatory value assessments against the targets of the law. As it is, the Home Secretary has made it clear that the Bill will still create an offence to "make a statement glorifying terrorism if the person making it believes, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that it is likely to be understood by its audience as an inducement to terrorism". And Charles Clarke is refusing to retract the extension of detention by police of “terror suspects” from 14 days to three months.

            The measures outlined in the draft Terrorism Bill represent a further intensification of the government’s drive towards fascism and the suppression of any views which oppose its course of action. They once more expand the concept of “terrorism” without addressing the causes of the problems in society and firmly taking the defining of terrorism out of the hands of the public and placing it in the remit of those in authority.

            WDIE calls on the working class and people to take a stand in opposing the hysteria that “the rules of the game have changed”, which is being used to justify this attack on the right to conscience, particularly singling out the Muslim community, inciting suspicion and promoting unquestioning acceptance of the government’s authority. The people’s right to give opinions and organise in their favour must not be criminalised, even and especially where they clash with the values and ideology that the government is determined to impose on society for its own ends. This is the behaviour which is not acceptable to democratic people. Urgent discussion is necessary in a calm atmosphere on these issues among the working class and democratic forces. The people’s movement can have no illusions that the government has good intentions, but must strengthen its unity and step up its opposition to the Labour government’s drive to fascism and suppression of democratic rights.

Article Index



For Your Information

 

The main points of the new Bill will be (source – Liberty):

           Clause 19 extends the maximum period of detention prior to charge from 14 days to 3 months.

           There will be a new offence of indirectly inciting terrorism with a very broad definition.

           There will be a new power created to ensure that those who glorify terrorist acts may be prosecuted.

           There will be a proposal to change the grounds for proscription, so it will become possible to proscribe organisations which glorify terrorism.

           The Bill will make it an offence to tackle dissemination of radical written material by extremist bookshops. The offence will be one of publishing and possessing for sale of publications that indirect incite terrorist acts or are likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

           The Bill will make attendance at terrorist training camps an offence.

           The Bill would amend section 128 of Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCAP) to extend the offence of criminal trespass to cover licensed civil nuclear sites.

           The Bill would extend disclosure notice powers conferred on prosecutors under Chapter 1 of Part 2 of SOCAP to investigations into the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Intention is to ensure that if people hold information that is relevant to a terrorist investigation there is every incentive for them to divulge it.

           The power for the Security Service to carry out certain activities overseas has been dropped.

The Home Secretary has said he will be working with the CPS and intelligence agencies to see whether a change would be possible which would allow for more sensitive evidence – perhaps including intercept evidence - to be used while safeguarding sources and methods and the rights of the defendants. It is hoped to complete this by the end of the year.

List of Unacceptable Behaviours

The list of unacceptable behaviours covers any non-UK citizen whether in the UK or abroad who uses any means or medium including:
Writing, producing, publishing or distributing material
Public speaking including preaching
Running a website
Using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader
to express views which:
Foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs;
Seek to provoke others to terrorist acts;
Foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts; or
            Foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK

The list is indicative, and not exhaustive.

Article Index



Muslim Organisations Take Stand against Blair Hysteria

In a show of unprecedented unity, over 150 Islamic and Community-based organisations and individuals have added their name to a statement issued last month in response to the government’s latest “anti-terror” proposals.

            The original 38 signatories have now been joined by numerous community-based groups and individuals, including a number of Councillors, reflecting the mood of the Muslim community at a grassroots level. The growing number of signatories is a reflection of the growing unity, not only from Muslims but from the whole polity, irrespective of nationality, ideology or other beliefs, against the government’s draconian proposals.

            The large number of signatories is also evidence of the fact that Tony Blair’s “consultation” with Muslims has been virtually non-existent. The Chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Massoud Shadjareh, stated: “Consulting taskforces composed of a few unrepresentative individuals in the community will only further isolate the increasingly alienated Muslim masses. The Prime Minister must abandon his state of denial if he truly wishes to build a more secure and peaceful Britain.”

            In brief, the six points of the statement are:
The term extremism has no tangible legal meaning or definition and is therefore unhelpful and emotive.
The right of people anywhere in the world to resist invasion and occupation is legitimate.
Questioning the legitimacy of Israeli occupation is legitimate political expression.
The proposal to ban the non-violent organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir is unwarranted, unjust and unwise.
Arbitrary closure of mosques may prevent legitimate political discourse in mosques fuelling a radical sub-culture.
Deporting foreign nationals to countries known for gross human rights abuses is abhorrent.

Article Index



There Is No Justification for This ... Blair Is Showing Arrogance of Charles I

David Pallister and Sophie Kirkham, August 12, 2005, Guardian

Lawyers have condemned the government's plans to introduce legislation that would tell judges how to interpret the European convention on human rights. Designed to get around article 3 of the Human Rights Act, the legislation will mean judges will be told to consider national security above that of the individual, allowing them to deport detainees back to countries with a history of torturing prisoners.

            Richard Harvey, chairman of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, said the proposals were a "head-on attack" on Britain's constitution. "There can be no justification for this and the government will not succeed.

            "It can not tell judges what to do, it is an anathema to our legal system and I am very confident the judges will react to this with a very firm and lawyerly response. Tony Blair is showing all the arrogance of Charles I."

            Mr Harvey said that as detainees are brought before the courts in the next few weeks, senior judges would need determination to defy the government on the issue of deportations to countries such as Jordan on the basis of new assurances that the prisoners will not be harmed.

            "Some judges will bow and some will stand up, but in my 34 years at the bar I have never seen judges criticised by an elected government in this way and shown such disrespect."

            Francesca Klug, an academic who advised on the drafting of the human rights bill, said: "The Human Rights Act could be this government's greatest legacy and the strongest demonstration of the democratic values which the prime minister said are paramount in the wake of the July bombs."

            Ms Klug, professorial research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights in the London School of Economics, went on: "The drafters of the ECHR, led by British officials who knew all about terror and conflict, wisely made protection from torture an absolute right."

            Bill Bowring, a barrister and professor of human rights and international law, said even legislation would not change Britain's international obligations under the convention.

            "I don't see how they will do this, while the government is free to legislate to violate the European convention as it did with article 5 on detention, it cannot derogate from article 3 even in times of war. This is extremely dangerous and will lead the government into further conflict with Strasbourg."

            However, Lord Donaldson, a former master of the rolls, sought to dampen down hyperbolic talk of a battle between the judges and the government. Dismissing Michael Howard's accusation of "aggressive judicial activism", he said: "This is not a clash between the judiciary and parliament. The job of the judges is to administer the law according with the requirements of parliament. If parliament decides to amend or get rid of the Human Rights Act that is a matter for parliament."

            On the question of changing the act to prevent challenges under article 3 of the European convention - which forbids anyone being deported to face possible torture - Lord Donaldson said: "There is nothing to stop the government from scrapping the act altogether. As the convention would still stand it would then be open to someone to go to Strasbourg to seek damages."

            Lord Donaldson reiterated that judges cannot strike down legislation. In the case of the Belmarsh detainees, who the law lords found had been unlawfully held, he said the judges could only bring in a finding that the government's action had been incompatible with the Human Rights Act. Parliament was then at liberty to respond as it wished.

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