View Full Version : The Erosion of Human and Civil Rights in the United Kingdom

C. Flower
26-04-2013, 11:41 AM
So many serious issues, and all of them affect this island. Best perhaps to discuss them in one sticky thread. Today's issue - The UK Government says it is considering denouncing the ECHR - temporarily removing civil rights protections from all in the UK - in order to deport Abu Qatada.

http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/04/26/denounce-the-echr-to-deport-abu-qatada-you-cannot-be-serious-richard-a-edwards/ (http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/04/26/denounce-the-echr-to-deport-abu-qatada-you-cannot-be-serious-richard-a-edwards/)

The Guardian reports (http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/apr/24/european-rights-convention-abu-qatada) that Prime Minister Cameron is considering denouncing the ECHR on a temporary basis in order to facilitate the deportation of Abu Qatada. As tennis legend John McEnroe might have put it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY) ‘you cannot be serious!’ In order to remove one man from the jurisdiction the government is contemplating removing the protection of human rights for all. One suspects that this announcement by Downing Street was little more than ‘dog-whistle’ politics with the local elections looming next week. But what if the government is really serious?

C. Flower
05-06-2014, 08:50 PM
Britain's first secret trial. "Justice, to be done, must be seen to be done"

The Guardian, disturbingly, does not permit comments on this article "for legal reasons"

The Daily Mail and the left don't often find themselves on the same side, but when they do it is worth paying attention. The Daily Mail is absolutely right (not a sentence you will catch me typing on a regular basis) to splash on "Britain's first secret trial (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2648832/First-trial-held-secret-Closed-terror-case-branded-outrageous-assault-open-justice-thanks-free-Press-know-happening.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490)". It's an affront to basic principles of justice, and a frightening precedent to boot. At risk of sounding like a Mail columnist myself: where will it end?
Two men, known only as AB and CD, have been charged with terrorism (http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jun/04/major-terrorism-trial-secret-first-time-legal-history); journalists were forbidden from disclosing even this simple fact until newspapers overturned a gagging order. But for the first time in centuries – and in a direct challenge to the Magna Carta of 1215 – the entire trial will be held in secrecy.
A basic principle that democrats of all hues should surely champion is that justice is done, and is seen to be done. As Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti has put it: "Transparency isn't an optional luxury in the justice system – it's key to ensuring fairness and protecting the rule of law. (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/05/secret-trials-judges-trusted-make-right-decisions-chris-grayling)" But it is the precedent that should disturb us. It isn't one of the authoritarian anti-terror laws passed by New Labour or the coalition responsible for this assault on justice, it is being justified with provisions under common law. Yet once this precedent is established and a centuries-old tradition of justice broken, it will be much easier to hold trials in total secrecy in future.
Indeed, this government's Justice and Security Act (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/18/contents/enacted), passed last year, allows for the extension of secret courts, or "closed material procedures" to use the proper legal jargon. Instead of judges, ministers will be given powers over evidence in court, risking the principle of a fair trial. Liberty has suggested it could be used to keep "dirty state secrets" away from victims and the public, and 700 legal experts signed a letter condemning it as "dangerous and unnecessary (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2285603/Scrap-dangerous-unnecessary-secret-justice-hundreds-lawyers-QC-urge-Government.html)". Sadly, to no avail.
When the state asks for more power, it invariably justifies it as being for our own good, to protect our security. We are fed seductive lines about such powers only being used when strictly necessary, with cast-iron promises that they will not be abused.
When Margaret Thatcher introduced the Public Order Act (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64) in 1986, it was not explained that criminalising words or behaviour causing "harassment, alarm or distress" would be used against groups ranging from gay rights activists to Christian street preachers. When the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40/contents) was passed, it was not clear it would be used against activists protesting outside US intelligence bases or Oxfordshire villagers protesting about turning a lake into a dump for fly ash. Neither did proponents of the Terrorism Act suggest that the sorts of people on the receiving end would include an octogenerian refugee called Walter Wolfgang who had fled the Nazis who had the temerity to heckle a minister (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/sep/29/labourconference.labour).
Many of the freedoms and liberties we have today were won at huge cost and sacrifice by our ancestors. If we allow them to be discarded without a fight, then what is to stop the powerful coming for other rights? This is how freedom is eroded, when we accept the comforting rationale of a state that will quite happily amass power at the expense of individual liberties until it is prevented from doing so.
Yes, let's have a debate about preserving our security. If the state wishes to provide terrorists with ready-made propaganda, then flaunting its attacks on civil liberties is one way of going about it. Our governments have served as highly effective recruiting officers for terrorism in other ways, too – whether it be backing the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s, backing various hellish regimes such as the witch-beheading gangsters running Saudi Arabia, or the invasion of Iraq which handed vast swathes of the country to al-Qaida. These are actions that imperil our security. But if we want to ensure our safety, cracking down on civil liberties is as counter-productive as it is wrong-headed.
• Comments on this article will remain closed for legal reasons

Political freedoms aren't needed by those who are part of the establishment. Britain, once thought of as the cradle of democracy, is fast moving towards a police state.


First trial to be held in secret: Closed terror case branded 'outrageous assault' on open justice... and it's only thanks to a free Press you know it's happening at all

Two men accused of terror plot are to appear at the Old Bailey in London
Identity and alleged crimes not made public 'for reasons of national security'
Trial disclosed because Daily Mail, Press and broadcasters fought for reporting restrictions to be lifted
Critics have described the move as an 'outrageous assault on British justice'
Decision on whether to restrict secrecy order expected within days

By CHRIS GREENWOOD (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=&authornamef=Chris+Greenwood)
PUBLISHED: 21:21 GMT, 4 June 2014 | UPDATED: 08:44 GMT, 5 June 2014

A trial is to be held entirely in secret for the first time in British history.
Two men accused of a terror plot will go into the dock at the Old Bailey in weeks.
For undisclosed reasons of national security their identities, as well as details of their alleged crimes, will not be heard in public.
The very existence of the trial can be disclosed today only because the Daily Mail fought with other media groups to have the reporting restrictions lifted.

05-06-2014, 09:33 PM
I'd agree it's worrying... But I'm not a fan of Abu Qatada.. Hard to know who to side with there. As for the terror plot, I'm guessing the secrecy is so as not to tip off co-conspirators? I'm no fan of the UK police state, but Islamic extremism is toxic too. Sigh

Count Bobulescu
05-06-2014, 09:39 PM
Britain's first secret trial. "Justice, to be done, must be seen to be done"

The Guardian, disturbingly, does not permit comments on this article "for legal reasons"

Political freedoms aren't needed by those who are part of the establishment. Britain, once thought of as the cradle of democracy, is fast moving towards a police state.



I know I'm like a broken record here, but it bears repeating.........

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

05-06-2014, 10:09 PM
True, Count, but there's an awful lot the US govt. considers classified, and the Gitmo trials weren't all that transparent either. However, at least someone could fry them legally for being unconstitutional, whereas the UK doesn't have a constitution. Convenient, that.

Count Bobulescu
06-06-2014, 04:15 AM
All governments maintain classified files, and the US may be amongst the most egregious classifiers, but the US was also only the 2nd country after Sweden to introduce a FOIA in 1966. The issue CF highlighted was the "prior restraint" on commentary that the Guardian felt necessary to implement. That's not to say that you can comment on all US newspaper articles, NYT makes about 20 a day available for comment, but the 1stA removes a lot of constraints.

It's doubly ironic because when the Guardian was investigating the phone hacking they had reached the end of the line in what they could legally publish, but were in possession of other info not yet in the public domain. So Alan Rusbridger persuaded Bill Keller editor of NYT to send a team to London to investigate and publish in the US. Had Rusbridger been unable to persuade Keller it is believed that several important details would not have come to light.