Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The increasing repression of the British state

According to the Independent, it would appear that the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed what many of us knew all along. The police powers rendered by the Terrorist Act are a violation of basic liberties;
Police stop and search powers under UK terrorism laws were declared illegal by human rights judges today.

The right to question people without grounds for suspicion - granted by the Terrorism Act of 2000 - violates the Human Rights Convention, said the European Court of Human Rights.

The ruling came in a case brought by two Londoners who were stopped and questioned by police near an arms fair in the city in 2003.

Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton were both searched on the same day in the area of the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition at the Excel Centre in Docklands, where there had already been protests and demonstrations.

Nothing incriminating was found on either of them and they went to court questioning the legality of stop and search powers.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal said the powers were legitimate given the risk of terrorism in London.

But the human rights court disagreed.

The judgment said: "The (human rights) court considers that the powers of authorisation and confirmation as well as those of stop and search under sections 44 and 45 of the 2000 Act are neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse.

"They are not, therefore, 'in accordance with the law' and it follows that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention."

Article 8 says "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life".

It adds: "There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security... or the prevention of disorder or crime... or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

Today the human rights judges said that, although Mr Gillan and Ms Quinton were each stopped and searched for less than 30 minutes, they were "entirely deprived of any freedom of movement" for the duration.

The judgment said: "They were obliged to remain where they were and submit to the search and if they had refused they would have been liable to arrest, detention at a police station and criminal charges. This element of coercion is indicative of a deprivation of liberty."
At the same time, via the Devil's Kitchen, we discover this article by the Guardian;
The first criminal trial without a jury to take place in England and Wales in more than 400 years begins on Tuesday after lawyers' legal challenges were exhausted.

John Twomey, 62, and three other defendants face trial over a bungled robbery at Heathrow airport in 2004.

Robbers allegedly tried to steal more than £10m from a warehouse but had misread a flight document and only £1.75m was there at the time, most of which has not been recovered.

Twomey and his associates face the historic trial in the absence of a jury after the court of appeal examined secret evidence and ruled that "the danger of jury tampering and the subversion of the process of trial by jury is very significant". It is the first trial of its kind under provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

In the last 400 years, trials without juries have taken place only in Northern Ireland, where the Diplock courts were set up to provide justice in the intimidating atmosphere of the Troubles.

The case is being heard at the high court in London and is expected to last three months. The judge, Mr Justice Treacy, will act as judge and jury during the case. Unlike a jury, he will see all the witness statements in the case.

Lawyers for Twomey say the evidence of alleged jury tampering has never been presented to them; instead it was made in court by senior police officers under public interest immunity.
In both the aforementioned cases, it is the police who have been complicit in these erosions of freedom, gaining increased powers in the process. As DK notes, "these cunts are not your friends."

And for political activists and dissidents, the same is true a thousand fold. It has long been common knowledge that the Security Services view those who speak out against the state as "extremist groups" who "pose a threat to public order." Hence, the news that the police were compiling a database of such "domestic extremists" came as little surprise. On its own, it was an affront to a free and open society, but combined with recent trends it is an outright threat to even the limited democracy we enjoy today.

Yesterday, Home Secretary Alan Johnson invoked counter-terrorism laws to outlaw Islam4UK. The day before, five Muslims who protested a military homecoming parade in Luton were "convicted of being abusive." And the day before that, the Times warned that BNP leader Nick Griffin faced jail for failing "to comply in time with a court order forcing him to change the BNP’s constitution to admit Asians, blacks and members of other ethnic minorities."

Although, in all of the above instances, the victims are reactionaries of the far-right, the fact remains that they suffered or were threatened with a gross violation of their liberties. Freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and freedom of movement are all threatened by these developments, which also increase the right of the state to monitor, harrass, and crack down on dissidents whilst denying them the right to a jury trial. Freedom that is not universal is not freedom at all, and history teaches us that repression never confines itself to one group.

It is a considerable irony that, in this instance, "they" first came for the fascists and religious bigots. But, if we do not speak up now, there will be nobody left to speak up when they come for us.