For this assignment I will be discussing the amendments to British legislation in response to the new wave of world terrorism in the after math of the September 11th attacks. It has been claimed by many academics in many fields that the actions conducted by Domestic security services under the new bill are in breach of suspect’s human rights and a draconian reaction in response to a moral panic throughout the population.
When in the summer of 2000 the Terrorism Act received royal accent that original piece of legislation was seen by many of the public to be a great infringement on the publics civil liberties, there was no definite term for terrorism put forward so David Blunkett (Home secretary) was able to label many categories of people under this broad term of terrorism.
Then only four months after this bill was passed as law in the United Kingdom the events in America caused for Britain to reassess it newly imposed legal guidelines.
The anti terror, crime and security act 2001 set in place the order that authorities can detain foreign nationals indefinitely on suspicion of being international terrorists, also the legislation contained many other plans for action that are believed to be contrary to the European convention of human rights bill.
It proposed 129 new clauses with a number of hidden measures; these measures include enabling the police to access confidential information held by government departments and public bodies for the purposes of any criminal investigation include passing the details on to other police forces round the world. This breaks the civil rights of people under the data protection act, data being passed between agencies when it was confidentially given.
Other main articles in the legislation include giving Ministry of Defence police jurisdiction over the whole country as opposed to military property, and the Home secretary has given orders for all communications companies to store records of their customers communications and to hand them over in the event of an investigation.
But by a long margin the largest attack on the liberties of the British public is the fact that the home secretary can extend criminal justice and anti-terrorism legislation via secondary legislation and without prior parliamentary approval (Section 124), thus allowing the government to legislate on criminal justice matters by decree, a power normally reserved for dictators. This means in the world of domestic anti terrorism policing the government does not have to present legislation before parliament in the usual manner and pass their reforms at will to fit with a current investigation.
In passing this new legislation, the government have ignored the fact that the bill infringes on several protocols of the European convention of human rights, after a preliminary review I have determined that the bill contravenes statutes 5, 6, 9 and 10.
These statutes cover both human and civil rights in all of the countries who have ratified the agreement. It is unimaginable that what is considered to be a developed moral power can incorporate a utilitarian policy, in dealing with the fight against terrorism.
Article five of the human rights convention covers the right of all people to liberty and security, and despite listing many cases for which a persons liberty can be removed, what still remain are key points which I feel are hindered upon by the anti crime terror and security act. The first statement the convention makes is that “Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and the charge against him”. Under the new legislation a foreign national can be detained indefinitely on the mere suspicion of being an international terrorist.
Secondly everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of the article has to be brought promptly before a judge shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. For any nation in agreement with the convention, failing to co operate with the above is at risk of the defendant being entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.
So from the above we can see the suspects rights in custody are ignored under such legislation. Especially as the government has written into the act that courts can not help particular individuals detained, section 29 prevents courts from challenging the legality of the detention of foreigners under sections 21 – 26, effectively removing the protection of the rule of law for foreigners who fall foul of these measures.
The definition of terrorism includes the threat of computer hacking and causing damage to property, where performed for a political cause in order to influence a government. Thus anti-GM crops campaigners who tear up GM crops would be legally regarded as terrorists. Furthermore, any action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation is regarded as terrorism, and it is now an offence to be a member of a proscribed organisation. Should anyone have joined before the organisation was proscribed, a member would have to prove that they did not take part in any of its activities since proscription. In addition to the above breaches of freedom of association it is also an offence to invite support for a proscribed organization, to arrange/ assist in arranging or managing, or to address a meeting of more than three people with the reason of supporting a proscribed organization.
What makes the above points more extreme is the government can make any organisation a proscribed one with approval through a single parliamentary vote without actually having to prove that they have committed any offences, let alone any acts of terrorism. In summary this would mean if anyone were to join for example an anti fox hunting group, they could be branded a terrorist for merely lending support in the terms of membership funding. This is a clear breach of the freedom of association and right to a peaceful protest. Also it is no longer just a threat to be a it is an offence to wear, in public, an article or piece of clothing in circumstances which arouse “reasonable suspicion” you are, or may be, a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, these draconian policies although some being unenforceable are a threat to the British public’s way of life.
What is more of a confusion is that Britain has fought a battle with terrorists for the best part of forty years against the Irish Republican Army, without having the need for imposing such extreme legislation on the public, so what is so different from the threats faced today than those faced during the 70’s and 80’s. Although the advent of the internet age has made information and contact between parties easier, the type of threat still remains the same, foreign nationals or some domestic parties will possibly commit a terrorist attack generally in the form of a bombing.
After looking at all of the new legislation put forward and passed by David Blunkett and the government it is clear that the 2001 anti terrorism crime and security act infringes on the civil and human rights of the population as set for ward by the European convention of human rights. These actions taken by the government in response to changes in the international political climate are rash at best; the best term that can b used to describe it is utilitarianism, the government are with these legal propositions are overlooking the rights of the individual in favour of common good for the majority of the population.
Such actions are performed without the general public being made fully aware of what they are now subject to, this alone has an impact on the right s of United Kingdom nationals, but we are not the only nation to impose such policies, the United States has imposed the Patriot Act which in principle contains almost identical legislature, but in some areas it goes beyond the terrorism act.
Despite all the good the oppressive act may have in deterring terrorists or aid the security authorities in apprehending such criminals, they have managed for years without using such tactics, now permitted under the new act. The Home Offices justification is that if a person has nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear and the legislation is merely in place for their protection.