Highlights

 
Quotable
I hate it when they say, ‘He gave his life for his country.’ They don’t die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.
Rear Admiral Gene R. LaRocque
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
February 4, 2004

Britain: Tories, Civil Rights Groups Lead Strong Opposition to Secret Trials


by Sanjay Suri

A proposal for secret trials for suspected terrorists has run into a wall of opposition in Britain.

Civil rights groups, lawyers, the opposition Conservative Party and even Labour leaders have strongly opposed new proposals outlined by Home Secretary David Blunkett towards the end of a six-day visit to India last week.

Under these proposals British terror suspects could be tried at least partly in secret. The burden of proof would be lowered from the requirement of "beyond all reasonable doubt" at present. A suspected could be convicted "on the balance of probabilities."

A pool of security-vetted judges would hear evidence, and terror suspects would be defended by security-vetted lawyers. The lawyers would not be given sensitive evidence.

The judges would be able to rely on confidential information from security and intelligence sources, rather than the usual police charges presented in open court by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The proposals are aimed particularly at stopping suicide bombers. They seek to give the police the right to take "preemptive action" which would amount to detention based on intelligence information.

Britain introduced the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ACTSA) following 9/11 to hold secret trials and detain foreign citizens indefinitely. Fourteen men have been in detention without trial for close to two years now under this Act.

Some elements of that legislation would also now apply to British subjects if Blunkett has his way.

"This is the law of the jungle," chief executive of the independent Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) Habib Rahman told IPS. "This kind of thing is simply not on in any democratic society. Draconian measures were introduced earlier, and now there are more. We do not know where this is going to end."

The new powers are hardly likely to stop suicide bombers, he said. "There is no shortage of strong laws in Israel, but these bombings are only on the rise."

Britain's reputation as a country with civilized laws is bound to be tarnished by such measures, Rahman said. "There is no shortage of despotic regimes, and if Britain has such laws, with what face can it talk to the others?"

Labour member of the House of Lords and leading barrister Helena Kennedy told the BBC Radio 4's Today program: "It is as if David Blunkett takes his lessons on jurisprudence from Robert Mugabe (president of Zimbabwe). He really is a shameless authoritarian."

The Conservative Party which has traditionally been seen as the party of the right in Britain joined civil liberty groups in challenging the proposal by a Labour minister. Shadow home secretary David Davis said that the move to lower the burden of evidence behind closed doors was hardly "an advance in our justice system."

Davis said terrorists wanted to target the west because they "hate our civilization." He added in an interview on BBC: "What are we fighting for if we throw away the very freedoms we are fighting for?"

Amnesty International said that if implemented, these measures would "dispense with justice, the rule of law and human rights in the UK."

Amnesty said: "Instead of further undermining the rule of law and human rights, the UK authorities should start to pay attention to the concerns currently being expressed by people and organizations from many different walks of life."

The detention of 14 foreign nationals has "already created a small Guantanamo Bay in the UK," Amnesty said. "Any measures to extend these measures to UK citizens must be resisted."

While outlining his proposals, Blunkett had spoken in India on the need to "deal with these delicate issues of proportionality and human rights on the one hand and evidential base and the threshold of evidence on the other."

He said: "That is quite a challenge because we are having to say that the nature of what people obtain through the security and intelligence route is different to the evidence gained through the policing route."

The timing of Blunkett's proposal is being seen by many commentators as particularly unfortunate because it came only days before Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced to order an inquiry into intelligence reports that seem to have gone badly wrong.

These reports had suggested that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes. That intelligence was cited as the justification for invading Iraq.

Now Blunkett wants laws to make allegations from discredited intelligence agencies admissible as evidence in secret court proceedings.

(Inter Press Service)


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • Israeli Claims Over Abused Journalist Challenged
    7/18/2008

  • Amnesty: US Sets Standards, Fails to Meet Them
    5/29/2008

  • UK: Once Again, Stop the War
    10/31/2006

  • Iraq: Little Brother Poses a Problem
    10/15/2006

  • UK Officer: Afghanistan Policy 'Barking Mad'
    9/26/2006

  • Watch That Box for al-Jazeera, and More
    9/22/2006

  • Report: Taliban Taking
    Over Again
    9/6/2006

  • UK Foreign Policy Hangs Above Terror Threat
    8/29/2006

  • UK Muslim Leaders Begin to Doubt the Plot
    8/18/2006

  • A Story Left Incomplete
    7/7/2006

  • Taliban Regaining Influence, Report Warns
    6/7/2006

  • War Provoking Terror, Amnesty Says
    5/24/2006

  • Rights Group: Iraqi Women Worse Off Under Occupation
    3/30/2006

  • Afghan Farmers Feel Pinch of Poppy Eradication
    2/6/2006

  • Iran Air Strikes 'Under Consideration'
    1/14/2006

  • Two Sides to a Withdrawal
    8/18/2005

  • London: Last Police Lie Blown Off
    8/18/2005

  • Police Response More Frightening Than the Killing
    7/27/2005

  • UK Cleric: 'Reclaim Islam From Terrorism'
    7/19/2005

  • Iraqi Shadow Seen Over Train Attacks
    7/16/2005

  • Iraq Clouds Blair Victory
    5/7/2005

  • 78 Journalists Killed Last Year
    3/24/2005

  • Torture and Oppression of Kurds in Syria
    3/11/2005

  • Palestine Peace Move Could Be the Kiss of Death
    3/2/2005

  • UK: Torture All You Want, but Leave the Cameras at Home
    2/25/2005

  • Proposed UK Law Makes Guantanamo Look Liberal
    2/24/2005

  • In Iraq, It Could Be Getting Worse for Women
    2/23/2005

  • For UK Troops, Abuse Only Happens if Photographed
    1/20/2005

  • Child Soldiers Still on the March
    11/18/2004

  • Glass House Weakens US Case in Darfur
    9/22/2004

  • In the UK, a 'Terrifying' Judgment on Suspected Terrorists
    8/14/2004

  • Athens Goes 'Rambo' on Security
    7/31/2004

  • Where the Taliban Once Tread
    7/19/2004

  • Report Reveals Lies, Not the Liar
    7/16/2004

  • Palestinians Run Into Another Wall
    7/14/2004

  • Palestinian Win Rises Higher Than Israeli Wall
    7/10/2004

  • Blair's Troubles Multiply
    7/9/2004

  • Saddam Could Call CIA in His Defense
    7/3/2004

  • Britain's Guantanamo
    6/24/2004

  • Amnesty: Abu Ghraib Cases Not Isolated
    5/27/2004

  • Report: US Needed 500,000 Troops to Pacify Iraq
    5/26/2004

  • Foreign Firms Continue to Try to Do Business in Iraq
    4/29/2004

  • What Becomes of Brits Released From Guantanamo to Become Test Case
    2/22/2004

  • Britain: Tories, Civil Rights Groups Lead Strong Opposition to Secret Trials
    2/4/2004

  • Rights Group: Iraq War Was 'Not Humanitarian'
    1/26/2004

  • New Effort Launched for Guantanamo Detainees
    1/21/2004

  • Another Son Rises in the West
    1/17/2004
  •  

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2014 Antiwar.com