Foreign terror suspects no longer to be treated differently from native suspects


February 3, 2004, 08:57 AM
As in the US, foreign terrorism suspects are granted fewer leagal rights than own citizens accused of the same offence or other criminals.

Understandably, this has caused a lot of complaints about civil rights, lack of fair trials, rule of law, etc.

And now, good old David Blunkett has decided to do something about it.

Now he wants everyone accused of terrorism to be tried in secret, without a jury, by judges with "special security clearence", with secret intelligence (not available to the defence) used as evidence, and with the standard of proof reduced from "beyond all reasonable doubt" to "balance of probability".

From the Telegraph:

And the Guardian:,12780,1137839,00.html

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February 3, 2004, 08:59 AM

Blunkett attacked over secret trials for terror suspects
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
(Filed: 03/02/2004)

Civil liberties groups and Muslim community leaders lined up yesterday to denounce plans from David Blunkett to conduct secret trials of suspected terrorists.

The Home Secretary found himself at the centre of renewed controversy after proposing legal changes that would make it easier to convict potential suicide bombers.

He said the threat from extremists was now so great that the burden of proof in criminal trials should be reduced from "beyond reasonable doubt" to "the balance of probabilities".

He also wants a debate over whether intelligence information against suspects should be given in camera to avoid compromising security.

Mr Blunkett's ideas - to be proposed formally in a Home Office paper later this month - are intended to address what the Government sees as a serious threat from Islamist fundamentalists.

Speaking in India, where he is on a six-day visit, he said "global suicide terrorism" meant it might now be necessary to adopt new court procedures. These could include keeping evidence secret from defendants and vetting defence counsel to ensure that they did not pass on sensitive information.

Mr Blunkett said: "We need to debate how we deal with these delicate issues of proportionality and human rights on the one hand and evidential base and the threshold of evidence on the other.

"That is quite a challenge because we are having to say that the nature of what people obtain through the security and intelligence route is different to the evidence gained through the policing route."

He added: "It needs to be presented in a way that doesn't allow disclosure by any of the parties involved which would destroy your security services."

Lady Kennedy, QC, a Labour peer, compared Mr Blunkett to Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe.

"He really is a shameless authoritarian," she said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "We can be confident that many of his colleagues in the Cabinet, including particularly the Attorney General, will sit on this, because it really is an affront to the rule of law."

Lady Kennedy described the proposals as "a classic Blunkett tactic". She said: "You suggest all kinds of outrageous and awful things because then you get away with half of them."

Mark Littlewood, the campaigns director of Liberty, said: "Simply introducing more laws, greater powers and stiffer penalties will go a long way to undermining British justice and will not make our country any safer."

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, said: "You have to try and strike the balance between giving the British people the proper protection against terrorism and not depriving innocent people of their liberty."

However, David Winnick, a Labour member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said concerns over civil liberties should not blind people to the threat of terrorism.

He said: "If it is absolutely necessary to extend the powers that exist, then of course the House of Commons must listen carefully and make up its mind accordingly."

But Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Islam Human Rights Commission, said: "This sort of legislation in Germany led to concentration camps."


In terror of Blunkett's security measures

The home secretary's proposals to combat terrorism are more in tune with dictatorship than the "free" society they are supposed to defend, argues Shami Chakrabarti

Tuesday February 3, 2004

What bitter irony. Messrs Bush and Blair begin to react to widespread concerns about the intelligence that led us to war. Simultaneously, Mr Blunkett contemplates criminal convictions and endless incarceration on the basis of secret intelligence alone.
What is to be left of democracy or the rule of law in such a topsy-turvy world? No juries? No presumption of innocence? No defence lawyers or trials held in public? Phrases such as "pre-emptive detention" and "vetted judges" are chilling indeed. All this in a "war against terror" waged in the name of our freedom.

Not that any of what the home secretary is suggesting is original. It used to be standard procedure in the communist regimes of eastern Europe and was copied by, amongst others, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Whenever the British press reported on one of these trials the word "show" invariably appeared.

Let us remember that we already have the broadest and toughest special terror laws in Europe. There is extended pre-charge detention in terror cases and security service evidence may enjoy public interest immunity. The home secretary has powers to proscribe organisations (whose members may be prosecuted). There are offences covering funding, inciting and conspiring to terrorism and offences relating to possessing material with terrorist intentions.

Chief constables (with the home secretary's approval) designate whole cities and counties for stop and search without even suspicion (if "expedient to preventing terrorism"). The entire Metropolitan police area appears to have been so designated on a rolling basis since February of 2001. These designations are made in secret (with no judicial or even parliamentary warrant) and the powers used to harass peace protesters.

Further, the home secretary has led the United Kingdom to derogate from the right against arbitrary detention (Article 5 of the Convention on Human Rights). The UK is the only European country to have done this. Under his 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, in a poignant echo of the law-free zone that is Guantanamo Bay, 14 foreign national suspects have been detained with neither charge nor trial for well over two years.

The Home Office has conceded that this detention may be based on intelligence obtained by torture around the world.

Mr Blunkett argues that his proposals will make us more secure. But we tried something similar during the 1970s when special courts were introduced in Northern Ireland. Suspects were interned without benefit of jury trial or independent legal representation. The terrorist threat did not go away; it grew as new recruits flocked to sign up with the Provisional IRA.

The battle against terrorism is, of course, about security, but it is also about winning hearts and minds. If we start treating British Muslims in the way the home secretary is suggesting, we can be sure that the "winners" will be extremist Islamic groups, who will have a propaganda field day.

Mr Blunkett is no lover of lawyers and he may not be alone in that. He should stop confusing his resentment for the legal establishment with contempt for the rule of law, however. Some of us have met a few unpleasant politicians in our time. Still we cherish the value (however tarnished in recent times) of parliamentary democracy. He should also remember that democracy without fair trials and respect for the rule of law is little different from mob rule.

One final irony. Are we entering an age when the prime work of lawyers and judges will be in manning public enquiries into essentially political scandals? Are we similarly entering an age when criminal convictions are to be obtained at the will of politicians?

ยท Shami Chakrabarti is the director of human rights group Liberty

February 3, 2004, 09:11 AM
Scary huh? I'm no great fan of all the provisions of the 'patriot act' myself, but I'm awfully sick of being beaten about the ears with it by euro-lefties who are parroting the 'democratic underground' (Ameri-lefties), blissfully unaware of civil rights issues within their own system.

Maybe this will shut them up. Nahhhh.

February 3, 2004, 02:50 PM
Awful, just awful.

February 3, 2004, 03:01 PM
Throughout all of human history runs at least one continuous thread:

People come to want their government to do everything for them.

Then they squeal like squished cats when their government decides what it will do to them.

The continuous thread is that they always get exactly what they deserve.

Cheers! :banghead:

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