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Oppose Clarke's dictatorial plans
THE LABOUR government is prepared to erode civil liberties using the excuse of "fighting terrorism". Since 11 September 2001 the British government has used this to bring in measures that could potentially be used not just against terrorists but also to repress the rights of others who oppose the government's policies.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke proposes new powers to detain people indefinitely, under house arrest, without trial. Gareth Pierce, lawyer for some terrorist suspects detained in Belmarsh prison, says Clarke is "giving himself the powers of a dictator."
The Home Secretary himself will impose "control orders" on people whom he believes he has "reasonable grounds to suspect" have been involved in terrorism. The "orders" will include other measures such as electronic tagging, restrictions on access to phones and the Internet, on contact with named individuals etc. They will be imposed without trial, or giving the individual the right to know what evidence there is against them.
These proposals are a response to the government's defeat in a Law Lords ruling over the indefinite detention without trial, in British prisons, of a number of foreign nationals suspected of terrorism. This power was included in the anti-terrorism law rushed through after 11 September.
The Law Lords said this contravened human rights laws, was "discriminatory" because it only applied to foreign nationals, and "disproportionate" because it was indefinite imprisonment. The government is getting round the discrimination by threatening everyone with it, British citizens as well!
Dictatorships frequently use similar powers to control political opponents. If you don't know the evidence against you, and there is no need to prove it in court "beyond all reasonable doubt", how can you defend yourself?
It comes after four Britons, held by the US at Guantanamo bay for three years without charge, were released. The imprisonment of foreign suspects in British jails, mainly Belmarsh, has been described as "Britain's Guantanamo."
Ian MacDonald QC, appointed by the government to represent detainees at the "Special Immigration Appeal Tribunal" but who has since resigned, criticised suspects' lack of rights to know the evidence against them.
He said: "Take the Tipton Three who were supposed to have met Bin Laden in a camp. It turned out that on that date they were all in Tipton and one of them was working on the checkout in Currys. Under this procedure they wouldn't get the information and wouldn't be able to contest it."
CLARKE TOLD the Daily Telegraph that family and friends of 'terror suspects' held under house arrest could also be subject to sanctions such as restricted access to phones.
Already there has been talk that these orders could be used against "animal rights extremists and others", giving the police the power to force protesters to leave the vicinity of an area and not return for three months.
Workers should beware of what happened under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This legislation, brought in during the 1970s supposedly in response to the IRA, was used also against trade unionists. This is a slippery slope. Who can say that in the future a politically motivated Home Secretary couldn't define all sorts of opponents - such as striking trade unionists - a "threat to security".
The new powers would, it seems, be based on a "trust me" principle. But how can we trust a government that lied about weapons of mass destruction to take us into a war?
Wide use of these powers would undoubtedly increase anger against the government, for example if they were unjustly used against Muslims in Britain.
It is important that trade unionists, socialists and civil rights campaigners build opposition to these proposals and campaign for the scrapping of repressive laws already brought in under the guise of "the war on terror".
In The Socialist 5 February 2005: