Sunday, March 13, 2005

Farce based on lies

The UK's Prevention of Terrorism Act is barely 24 hours old, and it has already been used to impose control orders on ten detainees just released from Belmarsh prison, where they had been kept in solitary confinement for up to three years without charge or trial. But the detainee's release and the imposition of the orders has turned into a total farce:

On a day laced with high drama and farce, the police warnings came after one of the suspects had to be taken to the psychiatric wing of a London hospital. The police tried to transfer him to a secure flat, but had to break in because they did not have keys. A 24-hour hotline that was supposed to have been installed was also not working, meaning the man had no access to Home Office officials. Psychiatric social workers deemed it unsafe to leave him alone in the flat.

Another former detainee was released with no money or food and spent yesterday alone and hungry in his empty accommodation. He had been served with a control order which prevents him from making phone calls, inviting anyone into his accommodation or arranging to meet anyone outside unless he has prior permission from the Home Office.

The latter is particularly cruel. The penalty for violating a control order is up to five years in jail - a handy way around the need for actual proof - but people are being left in conditions where the conditions simply cannot be met, or where they must choose between eating or going back to jail, with no official support. You'd almost think the government wanted the orders to be violated...

The Guardian has more, as well:

Suspects must phone a private tagging company before they leave the house. But in one case, suspect P, who has no arms, was supplied with a phone that had not been adapted for his disability.

Lawyers acting for Abu Rideh, a Palestinian also held at Broadmoor said police had told him that they knew he was no danger to the public.

The mother of one former detainee visiting from abroad had been thrown out of the family house because she was not on a list of people authorised to visit the suspect under the terms of the control order.

So we have people being forcibly seperated from their families, being demanded to do the impossible, and being subjected to all of this because the government cannot admit it made a mistake. And to top it all off, we find out that - once again, Tony Blair lied about what he had been told by the intelligence services:

At Prime Minister's question-time last Wednesday, Tony Blair suggested intelligence chiefs had specifically warned against a Tory proposal to set a time limit on the legislation: 'It would be contrary to the strong advice given to us by our security services and our police and I am simply not prepared to do it.'

But a senior intelligence source told The Observer MI5 'was not driving this process', adding: 'They gave an assessment of the threat and allowed [the government] to decide what was to be legislated.'

This whole farce has been driven by one thing: politics. In the run-up to a general election, the British Labour Party is desperate to portray themselves as "tough" (and the opposition as "soft") on terrorism. And if doing so requires ramming an ill-thought-out law through Parliament with no debate or planning, pissing all over due process and the rule of law, and grossly violating the fundamental human rights of a few suspected terrorists, well, you don't win an election without breaking eggs.