The Nether-World

May 28, 2007

Ihre Papieren, Bitte!

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, John Reid — netherworld @ 7:27 am

john_reid_stop_and_question.jpg

Courtesy of Beau Bo D’Or

Warning: Swear blogging alert

So, here I am trying to recover from this awful flu bug which has incapacitated me somewhat, and thinking that as it’s a bank holiday weekend it might just be possible to get through it without without Blair or any of his minions managing to enrage me to the point where I have to write something. Fat chance! Anyway, this has pissed me off enough to go into swear blogging mode so apologies for the language, normal service will resume once I calm down.

Before we have digested John Reid’s latest attack on the European convention on human rights (ECHR) the stupid cunt has to go even further and try to bring back the racist Sus law. It didn’t work then why should it work now?

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Blair has to put his ten pence worth in, turning my incandescence into apoplexy. Look guys, I’m not feeling well and it’s supposed to be a holiday. Is it really too much to ask for both of you political has-beens to shut the fuck up at least until Tuesday? Apparently it is. It’s hard to know where to start, but seeing as the return of the Sus law has been covered very well here, here, and here we may as well move on to the insane rantings of Blair. Before we do though I’d just like to repeat an important point that Devil’s Kitchen rightly makes:

Er… Does anyone remember that Identity Cards were not going to be compulsory to carry? You know, various Home office ministers pooh-poohed the idea that Britain was going to become some kind of jack-booted, totalitarian police state because you wouldn’t actually have to carry your ID Card with you?

I think this is what DK is referring to:

The bill made no difference to police stop and search powers, he [Charles Clarke] said, and there would be no requirement for people to carry ID cards at all times.

Right, moving on to Blair:

The absconding of three people on control orders because of suspicion of their involvement in terrorism has, once again, thrown into sharp relief the debate about terrorism and civil liberty. Within the next few weeks we will publish new proposals on anti-terror laws. Our aim is to reach a consensus across the main political parties.

Well, if they had been tried for their alleged connections with terrorism using phone tap and other currently disallowed evidence, they would, if found guilty, be behind bars now. The debate about terrorism and civil liberty exists because you are doing the terrorist’s job for them by removing the civil liberties we want to defend. Your aim is to push through even more Draconian legislation with the minimum of debate as usual using a relatively minor event as an excuse.

But at the heart of these new proposals will lie the same debate: the balance between protecting the safety of the public and the rights of the individual suspected of being involved with terrorism.

And where exactly is the “balance” here if everyone is now a suspect?

First let us clear away some of the absurd criticism of the police and security service over the three individuals who absconded.

As far as I’m aware no one is criticising the police and security services over this incident. The criticism has been leveled at you and your government for these ridiculous control orders.

After September 11, 2001, in common with many other nations, we passed new antiterror laws. In the aftermath of such an outrage it was relatively easy to do. We gave ourselves the ability, in exceptional circumstances, to detain foreign nationals who we believed were plotting terrorism but against whom there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. It was an important power. They were, of course, free to leave Britain. But we wouldn’t let them be free here. The ability to detain foreign nationals gave our services the ability to focus even more resources on the surveillance of British nationals who were a threat. It also sent out a strong signal of intent.

It sent out a strong signal of shoddy law making. If there was insufficient evidence to prosecute foreign nationals then there was no need to incarcerate them without trial, and when that was declared illegal to put them under house arrest. If there was a justifiable suspicion of malicious intent then they should have been kept under surveillance until there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.

In December 2004 these laws were struck down by the courts. In his famous judgment Lord Hoffmann said there was a greater risk to Britain through the abrogation of the foreign suspect’s civil liberties than through terrorism.

That’s right, a judge with a far better knowledge of the law than you possess realised that indefinitely imprisoning people without trial is fundamentally wrong in a free society. Not too complicated is it?

So we were forced to opt for the much milder remedy of control orders, applicable to both foreign and British nationals. These do not involve detention. They impose some limits on the individual’s freedom. They are better than nothing and have utility – because otherwise the individuals would have to be subject to even more intensive surveillance.

You were forced to do no such thing. You had the option to attempt a prosecution using phone tap and other surveillance evidence as other countries do. You just didn’t like the humiliation of a judge telling you you were wrong so you appealed the judgement and lost that too. The control orders were your sour grapes.

They were, however, much weaker than we wanted, perpetually diluted by opposition amendments, constantly attacked on civil liberty grounds.

Yes, there is a good reason they were attacked on civil liberty grounds. House arrest is still a form of imprisonment and there was still no trial to justify such an action. Are we learning yet? Obviously not.

In addition, after September 11, and again after July 7, we have tried continually to deport foreign nationals who were either engaged in or inciting extremism. Again and again in court judgments we were forced to keep them here. The important point is that although of the hundreds we keep under surveillance, many are UK citizens – as with these three individuals – many are not and in any event their influence and the ideas they import from abroad have a significant and radicalising effect. And, of course, we lost the crucial vote on 90 days’ precharge detention, despite offering a week-by-week court hearing throughout the 90 days.

If inciting extremism is illegal, then those who do it can and should be charged, tried and locked up if found guilty. Simple no? If someone is deemed dangerous or suspicious by the security services then surveillance seems the obvious course of action. I don’t see what difference it makes whether they are foreign nationals or UK citizens (like the July 7 bombers). Yes, you did lose the vote on 90 days detention without trial and you haven’t stopped sulking since. Hopefully, if you try to reintroduce it, you’ll lose the vote again because it’s damaging to civil liberties (even with a week-by-week court hearing) and completely unnecessary as we have seen.

So when there is an outcry about the three absconding, we should remember that consistently over the past few years, and even after July 7, attempts to introduce stronger powers have been knocked back in parliament and in the courts. Indeed recently it was said, again in a court case, that unless the British government could prove that a foreign national suspect would not be at risk of mistreatment in his own country, we were obliged to keep him here.

Er…outcry? The only outcry I heard came from you and that odious thug John Reid. You just don’t get do you Blair? The reason Parliament and the courts knocked back your attempts to introduce stronger powers is because Britain has a strong tradition of protecting civil liberties, and as Prime Minister you have a duty to do that also. Your dismay that the British government should prove that a foreign national suspect would not be at risk of mistreatment in his own country before you deport him is not a great surprise to anyone because we are all too familiar with your ambivalence to torture, whether it’s calling the American Guantanamo gulag an “anomaly” or pretending that extraordinary rendition doesn’t happen. The fact is, you couldn’t give a flying fuck if people are tortured even if they are innocent.

So the fault is not with our services or, in this instance, with the Home Office. We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first.

Yes, the fault is with the Home Office and you. Who else is at fault if your dodgy legislation fails? As you say, we have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. This is what makes us different from the terrorists and from the totalitarian regimes that you support. Strange as it may seem to you Mr Blair, that’s how we like it.

I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong. If a foreign national comes here, and may be at risk in his own country, we should treat him well. But if he then abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country.

Oh, fuck off! Civil liberties are not “misguided and wrong” you wanker. If foreign nationals abuse our hospitality we can either deport them (if we know they won’t be tortured or worse) or we can imprison them. We just need to prove in a court of law that they have indeed abused our hospitality. I can’t believe I have to explain this to a barrister.

As for British nationals who pose a threat to us, we need to be able to monitor them carefully and limit their activities. It is true that the police and security services can engage in surveillance in any event. But this is incredibly time-consuming and expensive, and even with the huge investment we have made since 2001, they simply cannot do it for all suspects. Over the past five or six years, we have decided as a country that except in the most limited of ways, the threat to our public safety does not justify changing radically the legal basis on which we confront this extremism.

You should monitor anyone, foreign or British, who the security services believe pose a threat to us, and activities shouldn’t be limited unless a good reason to do so can be shown. Time and money shouldn’t be a constraint on justice. What a bloody daft thing to suggest. With that logic you might as well bang everyone up up and dispense with courts all together… Oh, wait a moment… Of course, if your America’s foreign policies didn’t have half the world wanting us dead then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have such a terrorist threat to confront.

Their right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment. This extremism, operating the world over, is not like anything we have faced before. It needs to be confronted with every means at our disposal. Tougher laws in themselves help, but just as crucial is the signal they send out: that Britain is an inhospitable place to practise this extremism.

Anyone’s right to civil liberties comes first. What is dangerous is departing from that stance. The tougher laws don’t seem to help. You keep introducing more and more and yet we are constantly being told of ever more numerous heinous plots against us. Saudi Arabia has even more Draconian laws and yet extremism is still practiced. Go figure.

This is part of a bigger picture, in which a considerable part of media and public opinion continues to blame us for causing the extremism.

Hmmm, I wonder why the media and public opinion would think such a thing. Could it be they have a point? Anyway, not all the media do think along those lines. Your masters at The Scum and The Daily Mail certainly don’t.

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

Er, yes…?

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

You remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes. In both countries the civilians are being bombed to smithereens by British and American forces. Iraq has been utterly destroyed and is now in the grip of terrorism that didn’t exist before the illegal invasion. You lied to the world about Iraq’s non-existent WMD because regime change is illegal. The various civil wars are tearing what’s left of Iraq to pieces, you made no plans whatsoever for the aftermath of the illegal invasion. There are two million refugees and a further two million internally displaced people and over 600,000 dead. The country is now divided along sectarian lines with a government that seems almost as brutal as Saddam’s…but at least they got to vote for the candidates you put forward – Whoop di doo!! And you wonder why Muslims feel angry? You deluded idiot. Oh, and you are losing in Afghanistan too.

What’s more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us? Why aren’t’t they angry about the people doing the killing? The odd thing about the conversation is that I could tell it was the first time he had even heard the alternative argument.

Words fail me. So, the British army aren’t doing any of the killing, is that what you’re saying? Have you asked the family of Baha Musa why they might be angry? You might, by luck or design, managed to have a conversation with someone who perhaps wasn’t as well informed as he might be, but I bet there are opponents of your policies who could wipe the floor with you.

This extremism can be defeated. But it will be defeated only by recognising that we have not created it; it cannot be negotiated with; pandering to its sense of grievance will only encourage it; and only by confronting it, the methods and the ideas, will we win.

I think one way of defeating this extremism is by recognising that we have at the very least contributed to causing it, whether in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine or Lebanon. I don’t know whether or not it can be negotiated with but we have to acknowledge that there are legitimate grievances that need to be addressed even if we rightly condemn and try to counter the violence, because by dismissing the grievances you are provoking further extremism. Your confrontational attitude has made things worse not better and you seem to have run out of ideas (I’m not sure you had any to begin with). Fortunately for all of us, both here and abroad, you will be out of office soon and we can only hope that your successor is a bit more pragmatic (a forlorn hope I fear). The continuation of your policies will lead to even more defeat. Your conviction that your bankrupt policies will lead to victory remind me of the claptrap Mussolini came out with during the second world war… Vincere e vinceremo! (To win and we will win!). Well, we all know what happened to him. Here’s a reminder. What isn’t widely known is that when the bodies were taken down the children of Milan were invited to piss on the corpses (I cite my father as a source for that nugget). You Mr Blair deserve nothing less for your crimes.

*UPDATE*

More bloggage on this from Not Saussure and Obsolete

 

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