Monday, March 31, 2008

42 days: NO

Today's spit-coffee moment number one: the Guardian reports today that the Government's own human rights watchdog has vowed to mount a legal challenge to this latest frightening attempt to make it legal to hold people and question them repeatedly for 42 days without charge - without even telling them why they are being held . The Equality and Human Rights Commission says it goes against human rights law and may breach the Race Relations Act.

And number two: Geoffrey Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands Police and HM inspector of constabulary says passing the law will be a PR coup for Al Qaeda. Which is more or less what I said in the Sunday Times, and in the Guardian last November, and said again when giving evidence at the Home Affairs Committee, with David Davis and Nick Clegg. (You can watch all three of us getting worked up about the subject on video here, or read the transcripts or full report).

The Home Affairs Commitee agreed with us by the way: they don't support 42 days either.

Meanwhile, yesterday Nobel peace prize-winner Desmond Tutu and top intellectual chap Noam Chomsky also urge people to vote against the bill, amidst mounting international pressure to drop the clause. Shami Chakrabati from Liberty continues to do her inimitable thing in the tearooms of Westminster, helping MPs see the big picture - and I wish her, and Amnesty and everyone else opposed to this nonsense - which will not make us any safer - every success.

Having spent most of last week working on an interview with a Muslim man - a father of five who was detained for a week in Paddington Green police station, then slammed into Belmarsh jail with most of the U.K's terrorists and terror suspects, before being found not guilty of all charges by a jury, I am clearer than ever about the nature of the threat we face - and what it is like to be suspected of being part of that threat. More on that soon.

This next fortnight you will see and hear a lot about terrorism in the news. The trial of the alleged airline plotters is about to start and the trial of four men alleged to have conspired with the 7/7 bombers. You will hear chilling details from the prosecution's case. You will probably feel afraid. Please, try not to be. The chances of you or your loved ones being affected by a man with a bomb is very, very small. You, and I are most likely to die of heart disease, stroke or cancer, in a bed, not in a terrorist atrocity.

There are undoubtedly angry men planning wicked things who walk amongst us. You do not have to explain that to me: I know, I have seen the damage they do.

They are fuelled by a monstrous, paranoid sense of grievance that the 'war on terror' is a war on Islam and that Muslims are oppressed here, and all over the world. They feed off conspiracy theories - which are not mainstream - and they also feed off news headlines, which are mainstream. They seize on reports of the suffering of Muslims at home and abroad to make their case and recruit others to their cause.

Their unelected spokesmen oblige the cameras with blood-curdling soundbites - which make excellent copy and are duly publicised by the media. This in turn hardens the attitudes of the public, which makes politicians think draconian laws are what will play well with the electorate. It also infuriates Muslims, who see the excessive coverage being given to the extremist fringe, and who wonder why.

And so anger hardens and polarisation begins and we all lose our freedoms, we all become less safe, and nobody wins. Nobody at all.

We can win against this tiny minority of people who wish us evil. We have already made some great strides into discrediting and disrupting them. They are extremely vulnerable to good intelligence operations. They can be infiltrated, tracked and arrested and stopped. They know this, and it makes them even more paranoid. They know that were they to stand for election, they would never win any votes. They know they are weak; that one of their best weapons, indeed, their only real weapon is FEAR - and the knee-jerk anger that divides and splits us neighbour from neighbour, colleague from colleague, family from family, along racial and religious lines. They need PR and horrifying headlines to sustain them and give them cover and legitimacy.

This latest law will help them and it will not help us. We must not let this law through, we must not allow our fear to enfeeble us and drive our responses - that's setting the debate on their terms, the terms of making us afraid. That's what terror is - the art of making us terrified.

We need to cut off their oxygen, we need people to speak out against them and name them for what they are: murderous death-fetishists who shame their religion and their communities. This law, this unnecessary, unfair and dangerous law will not help people do that.

What you can do:

1. Write to your MP. It has never been easier to do this - this website sorts it all out for you.
2. Visit LIBERTY and AMNESTY for ideas and suggestions
3. Sign the 'Not a Day Longer' petition and pass it around.
4. Write to your newspaper
5. Write about it on your blog and I will link you ( let me know if you do)

Say no to terrorism, no to terror and no to fear. We need to act like winners, not like losers. There is no need for this law, it is shameful, it is harmful, and it is not needed . It's time to speak out, if you love freedom and want justice and if you want to feel proud.

BLOGGERS FROM ACROSS THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM SPREAK OUT
Tom Paine's The Last Ditch
Looking for a Voice
Chicken Yogurt
Ten Percent
UK Liberty
Pixelisation
SKY NEWS blog
Letters from a Tory
Coming up for air
Chicken Yogurt again
Heresy Corner

News media comment and coverage
Rachel Sylvester in the Telegraph
The Independent
Guardian Leader

The rebels, Lib Dems and Tories won't show their hand yet: the bill will go into a Committee hearing, and the real fight will kick off in May.

Worth making a fuss early though - before the cavalry charge and full-on assault at vote stage.
Let your MP know the score NOW so they can be in no doubt what you, who elects them, wants.

UPDATE: David Mery adds '42 days is only one of the several unjust proposals of the Counter Terrorism Bill 2008. You may want to add a link to CAMPACC as it has published good background on the CT Bill and material to help write to one's MP. See www.campacc.org.uk/CTB08_260208.html. I've republished the summary in html at Creating a climate of fear: counter-terrorism and punishment without trial.

Justice has also recently published a briefing on the Counter Terrorism Bill.
(More slightly older links in Oppose any extension to the pre-charge detention period - lobby your MP)

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8 Comments:

Blogger Tina - omme i London aka teeweewonders said...

How the heck did someone come up with the idea of arresting someone and not telling them what for? The mind boggles!

March 31, 2008 2:47 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

have signed the petition
will write to our MP when I get a chance to draft something properly

hope all is well x

March 31, 2008 3:09 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks!

Tina - people usually are told why they are being held. But they don;t have to be.

DAY 34: Interview tape 67.

'So, are you ready to tell us why you think you're in here, Mr Hussein?'

'I've no idea, I'm an IT consultant who was asleep with my wife at 4am when you came and hauled me out of my bed'.

'Right, well, we're going to leave you to think about it a bit more then'.

*DOOR SHUTS*
*muffled sobbing*

March 31, 2008 4:06 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

"How the heck did someone come up with the idea of arresting someone and not telling them what for?"

Well, I don't know where it came from originally, but I would imagine that our lot got the idea from our brothers on the Continent...

DK

March 31, 2008 5:23 pm  
Blogger David Mery said...

42 days is only one of the several unjust proposals of the Counter Terrorism Bill 2008. You may want to add a link to CAMPACC as it has published good background on the CT Bill and material to help write to one's MP. See www.campacc.org.uk/CTB08_260208.html. I've republished the summary in html at Creating a climate of fear: counter-terrorism and punishment without trial.

Justice has also recently published a briefing on the Counter Terrorism Bill.

(More slightly older links in Oppose any extension to the pre-charge detention period - lobby your MP)

br -d

March 31, 2008 11:26 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

thanks David - now linked in post

April 01, 2008 2:41 pm  
Blogger Henry North London said...

Ah I see the political blogosphere has been buzzing in my absence... Im back at my home for a quiet weekend and therefore have no life for a couple of hours and have time to read and digest blogs but I looked at the article in the Torygraph about how these guys were going to blow up planes using Lucozade bottles, and thought, how incredibly silly and what was it really going to do?

One bottle would not have done more than a quick pop, no worse than a champagne magnum. Incidentally you can actually kill someone with the cork of one of those if you aim it correctly.

I don't see the first class cabin banning those any time soon somehow

Still such is life you have more risk crossing the road than you do of being blown up on the tube or any other form of transport and I'm sure Rachel would agree with me there... ( well at least I hope you would)

I have been in many situations that if they had gone wrong I would now be dead as a doornail(mostly car accidents and near misses), the upshot of which is: If its your time to go then there is not a jot of stuff you can do to avoid it, if it isn't then just relax, Him, Her or the Faceless One above is in control so don't panic. Remember Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

April 05, 2008 10:05 am  
Blogger Thud said...

I don't feel safe at all thanks to the work of organisations such as liberty and amnesty.

April 06, 2008 4:20 pm  

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