Friday, May 25, 2007

A state of emergency?

Since 2001, the British government has introduced a series of increasingly draconian anti-terrorism laws, introducing new crimes and search powers, allowing suspected terrorists to be subjected to detention without trial or control orders amounting to such, or to be deported to countries (such as Algeria and Syria) where they face a substantial risk of torture. Some of the most odious provisions have been overturned by the courts as gross violations of both UK law and its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Now the Home Secretary, the reliably authoritarian John Reid, has gotten sick of having to comply with the rule of law, and is threatening to declare a state of emergency, allowing him to derogate from the ECHR and so punish suspected terrorists without trial.

Quite apart from being wrong, this would be an unprecedented move. In case people need reminding, the UK suffered through a thirty-year campaign of terrorism from the IRA, which saw regular bombings in major cities (including attacks which gutted the hearts of Manchester and the London Docklands) as well as attacks on MI5, the military, the BBC and the Prime Minister and Cabinet, without any need of derogation. Law - as opposed to lawlessness - was considered a sufficient response. If that didn't qualify, it's very difficult to see how the current "war on terror" can.

Finally, the Home Secretary's desire to undermine human rights and the rule of law should leave people in now doubt: To paraphrase Lord Hoffman, the real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from John Reid.


It's not true that the UK government did not derogate from the UK's obligations under the ECHR in relation to the troubles in Northern Ireland. It did so several times, and on at least two occasions, the derogation was found to be valid by the European Court.

Posted by Unknown : 5/25/2007 03:23:00 PM