Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Defending western values

I listeneed to an alarming interview on radio 4 this morning with british defence lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith who is involved in helping to defend some of the Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Aparantly another batch of detainees have been charged, including a british refugee who has been charged with 'conspiracy to commit war crimes'.

The US Government:

Kidnapped a british resident, incarcerated them without charge, plans to put them on trail before a military tribunal of judges handpicked by the US government, is allowing evidence gained after torture, will not allow the accused or his lawyers even see all the evidence aginst him, and will then only allow appeal to another appointed tribunal.

If any country other than the US was doing this wouldn't our Government be going up the wall?

And this is apparantly all in the name of 'defending western freedoms and values'.

It is an utter disgrace. Blair, Straw and the lot of them should be hanging their heads in shame.

90 days detention - but why?

I have been thinking about why my reaction against the Government's plans for 90 day detention without charge is so instinctive.

Apart from all the arguments about how devastatingly life-wrecking such detention would be to the individual concerned (usually an 'innocent victim' that Blair and co are supposed to be concerned about), I think it comes down to the fact that they are simply not putting forward a case.

Blair's argument simply seems to come down to 'there are nasty terrorists about and the security services assure me that they need these measures to fight them'.

But there is no real explanation of how these powers would actually help prevent terrorism, no examples have been given from recent times to illustrate the difference they would make, and no clear explanation of why the alternatives being proposed by politicians couldn't do the job as effectively.

Which means that basically they are back to the same justification that was used for invading Iraq: trust us and trust the security services.

The problem is that on Iraq they got it wrong. And on previous attempts to change the law they got it wrong too (eg. the Walter Wolfgang incident)

So I don't trust them, and I don't trust the advice of the security services, and I feel dreadfully sorry for those who end up being the innocent victims of this unecessary and draconian proposal.

Monday, November 07, 2005

My advice to Charles Clarke

Charles Clarke apparantly wants to know our views on how we can fight terrorism http://www.labour.org.uk/yourviewsonfightingterrorism

In his rush to find out our views the answers to the questions he has come up with could be misinterpreted. I doubt it is likely, for example, that many people will say that the Police shouldn't have the time and opportunity to fully investigate suspected terrorists!

Unfortunatelt the survey form didn't provide an opportunity to add explanatory comments.

I have therefore, being the helpful chap that I am, sent an additional email adding some detail to the YES or NO options available:


Dear Labour Party,

I have just filled in a rather simplistic survey about my views on
fighting terrorism.

The questions were extremely simplistic and the answers will be completely
open to interpretation.

Most online surveys of this type have a general comments box. I would
recommend this in the future.

As I am sure Charles Clarke is interested in arriving at properly thought
through solutions to the threat of terrorism, I therefore thought it would
be helpful if I sent more detailed comments:

Do you think that our laws should be updated to cope with the current
security threat?

I answered NO because there are already more than enough legal measures in
place for the security services to take on terrorism and because I believe
that if we keep changing our laws every time there is a heightened threat
from terrorism then we have already let them win. There are perhaps a few
things the Government could do such as changing the rules on evidence to
allow phone tap evidence etc.

Do you think police should have the time and opportunity to complete their
investigations into suspected terrorists?

I answered YES (and frankly who is going to say NO to such a question?)
and as far as I know no-one is stopping them do this. The security
services do not have a very good track record on this. During the past
four years they have arrested nearly 1,000 people under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act 2000 yet only 23 have been convicted. There are clearly
major problems with the standards of evidence gathering which they need to
improve. Perhaps if they spent more time gathering real evidence and less
time arresting and holding innocent people the results would be better?

Do you think the government should make sure there are new safeguards to
protect innocent people?

I answered YES.

There are three things in particular I would like the Government to do to
protect innocent people:

1 Drop the plans to increase the length of time suspects can be held
without being charged. This is an affront to justice and will do untold
harm to innocent people whose lives will be wrecked.

2 Urgently review the code of practice for police use of firearms.

3 Admit that the basis for invading Iraq was completely wrong and
commit to not making the same mistake again so that thousands of innocent
people don't die again.

I hope Mr Clarke finds these comments helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Fawcett.