Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/412/4684
Come to Socialism 2005 - defend democratic rights
Ejecting Walter Wolfgang from Labour Party conference for daring to heckle Jack Straw is one thing but then to subject him to a search under the Terrorism Act Section 44 does more than just add insult to injury.
Over 500 people were searched under Section 44 in Brighton, during Labour Party conference. Their crime? Wearing an anti-war T-shirt or carrying a banner.
Not only is this New Labour control-freakery gone mad but a full attack on democratic rights. The example of Labour Party conference alone shows that the raft of new anti-terror laws and strengthening of state powers are being used to intimidate and harass those opposed to the war in Iraq and the policies of Blair and New Labour.
What more graphic illustration do you need that an increase in state and police powers leads to innocent people being targeted than the tragic shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes? In this post 7/7 climate people are understandably worried about terrorist attacks but anti-terror legislation will not stop terrorism, what it does do is trample over the democratic rights of all of us.
An appeal by ten foreign nationals, mainly Algerians, opens in the House of Lords. They are appealing the Court of Appeal decision to allow evidence gathered under torture in British courts. "When it comes to torture, the rules of the game must not change. You can't accept torture evidence without condoning torture," says Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Allowing torture evidence from the prisons of some of the worst dictatorial regimes in the world to be used in British courts means the government is condoning that method of obtaining evidence. It is outrageous and must stop.
In this climate of fear of terrorist attacks, how do we ensure that our democratic rights are defended? How do we stop the passing of unjust laws like the 90-day rule where terror suspects can be held for 90 days without charge?
At Socialism 2005, the forum How we can defend democratic rights (Sunday 1pm), featuring Louise Christian, human rights lawyer, will look at these issues and attempt to answer these questions. Other speakers include Lois Austin, one of the defendants in the May Day trial who attempted to sue the Metropolitan police for false imprisonment and maintained that being held in Oxford Circus for nearly eight hours was unlawful. How can we stop the criminalisation of protesters and defend the basic democratic rights of protest?
This is just one of the topical and very important sessions you can attend at Socialism 2005, to discuss how to defend democratic rights and civil liberties. Make sure you come!
In The Socialist 20 October 2005: