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Mr. McNamara: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that backhanded compliment.
My point, which is important, is that until we wrestled with the problems of reform in Northern Ireland, until we saw that people there had an unaddressed grievance, we would not succeed.
At the time of internment without trial, there was a song in Northern Ireland with the chorus "Armoured cars and tanks and guns". The song included the words:
So we're guilty one and all."
Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): Another part of the song that the hon. Gentleman quoted is:
In the eyes of honest men."
Mr. McNamara: Not for a member of the Irish community living in west Belfast, South Armagh, the
Jeremy Corbyn: To take things slightly further forward, after the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 was introduced, about 10,000 people were arrested. Few were charged and hardly any were convicted, but as far as I am aware they were all Irish people, so the Act had a huge effect on the Irish community. I am sure that my hon. Friend has read the briefing that Liberty sent out for the debate. It makes the point that, small though the numbers might be, all those currently held in Belmarsh are Muslims. Exactly the same arguments are going on throughout the Muslim community as those that went on throughout the Irish community 25 years ago.
Mr. McNamara: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I was about to make a comparison with
Relaxing the rules, as we did, on evidence and on charging did not defeat terrorism, but it did help to create the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and a whole series of monstrous miscarriages of justice. As that happened, the actual victims of terrorism were forgotten. How did we break the law? On Bloody Sunday, the Government permitted the unlawful use of lethal force and killed 13 civil rights protestors. In Gibraltar, the Government permitted extrajudicial assassination that was countenanced at the highest level and the SAS gunned down three IRA volunteers in cold blood, for which we were condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The British Government encouraged the creation of disinformation and dirty tricks units, allowed loyalist groups to be armed, and ran agents who committed murder with impunity. What did that achieve? Nothing; it prolonged the war and delayed the peace. When one teaches disrespect for human rights, changes the rules and breaks the law, where does it end? It ends in condoning terror, and in the murder of people such as Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. My conclusions might be unacceptable to the Government, but we might have a bit more faith if they published the Cory report and established the inquiries that the Prime Minister promisedI strongly suspect that we will not have the separate public inquiries.
When the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill was first presented to Parliament, we were acutely aware of the risks of that sort of legislation. That is why the oversight regime is so important. The provisions of the Act must be renewed each year and it has a sunset clause that does not permit renewal beyond 2006. A special committee of Privy Councillorswe are indebted to all the Privy Councillor members of the committee who have spoken todaywas charged with reviewing it.
The Home Secretary can take comfort in many of the positive things that have been said about his attitude to some of the cases. However, he should listen carefully to
Derogation from the European convention on human rights and the use of powers to detain indefinitely has given rise to almost universal concern. I am gravely concerned about the position of 14 non-British nationals who are being held indefinitely in high-security prisons. Given the length of time for which they have been there, I believe that there may be a case for arguing that there could be a violation under article 3 of the convention because the detainees, who have no prospect of release, are the victims of a cruel or unusual treatment. The Government must remember that there can be no derogation from article 3.
I would also like to draw the House's attention to the fact that, when some of the cases were at SIAC, one of the witnesses giving evidence and who was hidden from the rest of the court, had dragged out of them the information that some of the evidence given in the cases may wellwe cannot say positivelyhave been obtained by people interrogated abroad, who have been subject to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Such evidence would never be allowed in a British court, but it has been used as part of the intelligence summaries to keep people detained. The problem is that evidence obtained under torture has always been suspect. Those who are tortured or subjected to harsh and cruel procedures are human beings like the rest of us. Which of us here would not necessarily agree with an inquisitor subjecting us to torture, whether of a psychological or physical kind? However, it has been used to keep people behind bars. It is my considered view that part 4, providing for indefinite detention, is unacceptable and should not be renewed.
Several weeks ago, I was approached by the legal representatives of nine men currently held in Belmarsh, conveying to me a request from them that I should undertake a prison visit prior to today's debate to hear at first hand their views on the legality and the conditions of detention under which they are being held. I am awareand I was aware when I made the applicationthat a number of individuals and agencies have undertaken visits in pursuance of their statutory obligations, but this was to be the first and only proposed visit sought by a Member of Parliament in response to a request from the prisoners themselves. I
I am familiar with security restrictions and difficulties posed by prison visits of a political nature. When Northern Ireland was beset by terrorist violence, I was able to visit both loyalist and republican prisoners in high-security wings without any obstacles being put in my way by the Prison Service in either Northern Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom. That was the case under both Conservative and Labour Administrations. As a member of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe, I was appointed rapporteur on the imprisonment of the detainees at Guantanamo bay. In June last year, the Parliamentary Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed my report finding their imprisonment to be unlawful.
I am concerned about unlawful detentionwhether it is in a United States naval base in Cuba or in Belmarsh prison. Whatever the fig leaf provided by SIACit is a diminishing onethat justifies holding people at Belmarsh, the general principle is the same. The Foreign Secretary has rightly condemned what has happened elsewhere: people should either be put on trial or returned to the United Kingdom. We do not accept the same principle for people in Belmarsh. There is a degree of hypocrisy about that that I find particularly unacceptable.
We have been asked about the alternatives. Other speakers in the debate have given a range of alternatives, so I shall not rehearse the whole package again. However, one thing is certain. Whether we hold 20 men or one man in the conditions in Belmarsh and insist on having the derogation, we are lowering standards in our country, lessening our position in the world and will be unable to argue actively and promptly for human rights to be observed in other countries. More importantly, we are dealing unfairly and cruelly with the men who, at present, are behind the wire.