Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

12.  Submission from Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) to the JCHR's inquiry into counter-terrorism policy and human rights

  We regard the government's proposed "anti-terror" legislation as totally incompatible with basic human rights, especially the rights to free association, free speech and liberty from unfair detention.

  These new proposals would extend the current powers based on the Terrorism Act 2000, which redefined terrorism more broadly to include simply the threat of violence to property in an attempt to influence a government, anywhere in the world. That broad definition encompasses many normal political activities in this country and any resistance to oppressive regimes abroad. The Terrorism Act 2000 and its two successors have been used to suppress domestic dissent against oppression, by intimidating, detaining and even criminalising many people as "terror suspects", sometimes simply for a vaguely defined "association" with so-called terrorism. The current powers have already been designed and used for a political agenda—suppressing human rights to free association, free speech and liberty from unfair detention.

  The latest proposals would intensify and extend the injustice of the current powers. In particular:

    1.  Two new crimes: any statements which amount to the "direct or indirect encouragement" of terrorist acts or statements which "glorify, exalt or celebrate" such acts. Reasons: The ordinary criminal law already prohibits efforts to incite violent crimes or conspiracy to organise crimes. The new "terrorist" crimes would be used to intimidate, silence and persecute merely verbal support for resistance against oppressive regimes—or even verbal support for domestic political activities which may fit the broad definition of terrorism. Such statements may include, for example, mere expressions of support for legal defence or "solidarity" statements for peace protestors accused of damage at military bases.

    2.  Banning groups which "glorify" terrorist acts. Reasons: The Terrorism Act 2000 has already been used in a politically biased way, by banning many groups abroad which resist oppressive regimes, wherever those groups' activities fit the broad definition of terrorism. The new power would help extend the current bans to UK-based organisations which "glorify terrorism" as broadly defined under the 2000 Act. Overall this would mean further criminalising political dissent against UK foreign policy, for example, opposition to the Iraq War or to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Of course, regimes allied to the UK government are never classified as terrorist, much less UK military activities abroad.

    3.  A new crime of disseminating "terrorist publications". Reasons: Already the Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to prosecute a Turkish-language magazine as "terrorist property", even though it is legally sold in Turkey and simply reports on political developments there. This prosecution illustrates how current "anti-terror" powers are used to promote UK foreign policy objectives, not to protect us from violence. The new crime would further suppress dissent, without needing to demonstrate any link with a banned organisation. It is a serious attack on freedom of speech; even if unsuccessful in court, prosecutions could be highly disruptive to political dissent.

    4.  Detention without charge (of terror suspects) would be extended from 14 days to three months. Reasons: Already the 14-day maximum detention period has been used as a substitute for a proper criminal investigation, instead intimidating and stigmatising people as "terror suspects". An even longer period would amount to internment in all but name, thus violating the principle of habeas corpus. Such long detention would be used to extract real or imaginary "information" to justify detention of yet more "terror suspects".

  For all those reasons, we oppose renewal or extension of any "anti-terror" powers, especially those newly proposed by the government. The new powers would extend the already excessive "anti-terror" laws and their inherent injustice. The ordinary criminal law is adequate to protect us from violence. "Anti-terror" laws designed and used mainly to protect oppressive regimes abroad and UK foreign policy objectives.

7 October 2005

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