Wednesday, January 26, 2005

It's for your own good, you know...

I'm not sure if I have words to express just how angry, exasperated, disgusted and terrified I am about our lovely Home Secretary Charles Clarke's latest wheeze.

Following the government's official pronouncement that anything they do is fine because WE SHOULD ALL CONSTANTLY BE SHITTING OURSELVES WITH FEAR, and the ongoing arguments that IF YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO HIDE YOU'LL BE FINE, our dear government have demonstrated that, despite the party dropping Clause Four, they still haven't forgotten all the lessons they learned from when they toed the line of the Soviets' Comintern.

Yep, having been told by the Law Lords that the detention without trial of foreign terror suspects is illegal, Clarke has interpreted their ruling in such a way as to justify the adoption of a truly wonderfully Stalinist policy. Because, hey - what the Law Lords were obviously objecting to most of all was the discrimination, right? So if you end the discrimination it'll all be fine!

Yes, if Clarke's plans go ahead, then ANYONE - including British citizens - whom the government suspects of having links to terrorism can be locked up, just like that. For ever. (Or put under house arrest to ease the strain on the prisons or some other guff to keep the Guardian readers voting the right way...)

I hate giving historical quotes out of context, especially from this man, but here's old Churchill from November 1943:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him judgment by his peers for an indefinite period, is in the highest degree odious, and is the foundation of all totalitarian regimes, whether Nazi or Communist... Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilisation."
And yes, I did leave a bit of that quote out - it is this:
"It is only when extreme danger to the State can be pleaded that this power may be temporarily assumed by the Executive, and even so its working must be interpreted with the utmost vigilance by a Free Parliament. As the danger passes, persons so imprisoned, against whom there is no charge which courts and juries would accept, should be released … Extraordinary powers assumed by the Executive with the consent of Parliament in emergencies should be yielded up when and as the emergency declines."
When exactly will the threat of terrorism decline? After we've finished "liberating" Iraq? After we've "liberated" Iran? Zimbabwe? North Korea? China? Russia? When Churchill said that stuff he was leading the country in a regular war. One that would one day - one way or another - come to a definite end. The war on terror will go on precisely for as long as those who wage and define it want it to. It could be declared over tomorrow; it could last another century. Considering how broad is the definition of terrorist, it could go on for ever.

What threat IS there, in any case? Since September 11th 2001 there has been precisely ONE terrorist attack in Britain - a failed car bomb in Birmingham on 3rd November that year, by the Real IRA. We've had fewer terrorist attacks in the last 40 months than any time in the last thirty years.

Of course, according to Clarke, this is falling into the trap. We're all underestimating THE DAILY THREAT OF IMMINENT DOOM THESE EVIL TERRORISTS POSE. He said as much, in almost those words, in an interview on Channel Four News this evening - including mentioning the possibility of the London Underground being "poisoned", explosions and the like. Because, hey - the government doesn't want to be alarmist, right?

As Clarke also said, we, the public, need to be educated about the INTENSE DANGER WE'RE ALL IN. That way we'll happily sign up for biometric ID, and be phoning the government to shop our suspicious neighbours, relatives and friends for their subversive, terrorist-supporting ways before you can say "oh, we'd better have a few show trials to make it look like we give a shit".

As Clarke also told Channel Four News presenter Jon Snow, it is the media's job to help the government spread "the truth" about the terrorists lurking around every corner, in the wardrobe, under the bed and behind the curtains (gotta love the Murdoch press). If the media carries on questioning the government, people might start to think that our wondrous leadership is doing things wrong. We can't have that now, can we?

Oh... Hey... Would you look at that? There's a General Election coming up! You don't think that - just possibly - the government might want to remind us of all those people who they say want to kill us so we vote for our brilliantly strong leader, dear Mr Blair, and his big, powerful buddy George, do you?

Come, come - as that nice Mr Clarke says, you can trust the government not to abuse its position... Those silly old ideas of "checks and balances" and "the rule of law" are so outmoded and quaint...

And if you say otherwise, you're effectively supporting the terrorists - so off you go and report to the nearest gulag police station so that they can lock you away for ever for the good of society, there's a good chap.

Update: More reactions - to be added to as I find 'em:

  • "there goes the scam folks. they get rid of one fascist law ending detaining terror suspects indefintely without trial and then add new fascist laws to replace them"
  • "fuck that for a joke"
  • "a rigorously legal recognised zone of indistinction between legality and illegality"
  • "If we're forced to surrender our own morals and humanity in the War on Terror - then what the bloody hell are we fighting to save?"
  • "The death-knell of democracy in the UK, as we have known it, was sounded today"
  • "The Home Secretary's proposal flies in the face of natural justice - the presumption of innocence, the right to challenge prosecutorial evidence, the right to fair trial" - Amnesty International
  • "According to normal principles of British criminal justice (built upon the presumption of innocence), 'reasonable suspicion' is the basis for initial arrest for a short number of days up to the charging of a suspect. It is not a foundation for a potential lifetime of incarceration." - Liberty
  • it is an abuse of power to place people under house arrest without evidence of criminal activity... The Government has said that prosecuting suspects is their preferred option. It should be the only option when individuals face losing their liberty." - The Law Society
  • "I don't care if it's in Belmarsh, my own home, or a fucking budgie cage... detention without trial is detention without trial."
  • "Who chooses these suspects? Will their evidence be as reliable as the fabled WMD?"
  • "Between the present Government and Michael Howard the general election is going to come down to who has the shiniest jackboots."
  • "The importance of this power of protective custody was set forth in Das Archiv, 1936"
  • "does anyone care about the safety of ordinary British people? Not Charles Clarke, apparently. He's too busy trying to please the a bunch of left-wing lawyers." - erm...
  • "Why are so few voices raised in defence of the principle of habeas corpus? Isn't it blindingly obvious that if the state has enough evidence against a man to incarcerate him, it must have enough evidence to put him on trial?" - Tory MP Boris Johnson
  • It's "a difficult issue" - 10 Downing Street
  • "I pay great attention to the civil liberties of the country. But..." - Tony Blair
  • "The whole point of having to go through a legal court procedure is precisely so that politicians and faceless petty officials cannot impose ever changing Kafakaesque rules and regulations which cannot be challenged by the defendant."
  • "Many less enthusaistic than [civil liberties groups] about the often spurious ‘human rights’ claimed today might well prefer to risk falling foul of arbitrary detention than risking becoming victim of some Islamist terror bomb." - Civitas' blog
  • "Oh my, the poor, let's-kill-everyone-in-sight terrorist babies, for the plight they are finding themselves in." - ...
  • "At this rate, we'll all become terrorists simply to reassert the fundamental freedoms we thought we had."
  • "David Blunkett’s hatred of judges was not an aberration, but a principle of New Labour. Soon they’ll be calling trials 'bourgeois' and 'reactionary'."
  • The BBC's "Have Your Say" - including the wonderful comment "If we have the slightest doubt about any foreigner they should be deported immediately"

  • 9 Comments:

    Blogger ken said...

    Stunning Post thank you!

    1/27/2005 07:22:00 am  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good luck for the satin pajam award!

    romain of www.socdem.net

    1/27/2005 09:05:00 am  
    Blogger Tim said...

    Hahahahahahahahahaha! I love the 'Charles Clarke trying to please leftie lawyers' chap. I note his blog links to 'Biased BBC', Instapundit and Little Green Footballs. All that's missing is a link to the freepers. You may also note that - like most RWCs on this matter - he bases his argument largely on the assumption of guilt.

    1/27/2005 01:59:00 pm  
    Blogger Nosemonkey said...

    The ability of people to be absolute fucking idiots never ceses to amaze me... I also particularly liked Civitas' use of inverted commas around "Human Rights". Because, you know, international law and stuff - load of old bollocks, innit?

    1/27/2005 03:23:00 pm  
    Blogger john b said...

    Given that this is precisely the kind of outrage the ECHR would protect us against if it had Supreme Court-style powers over UK law, I'd view Clarkie The Safety Elephant's latest wheeze as a reason to be pro-EU...

    1/27/2005 11:13:00 pm  
    Blogger Rob Jubb said...

    I know this is a really, really dull point, but the grounds of the Law Lords decision was discrimination, because there is a clause in Human Rights Act saying that these rights can be abrogated in case of national emergency, and the dull legal point is that if you’re going to detain anyone without trial, you have to detain everyone without trial. Not that I don't think that doing that is really f*cking terrible

    1/27/2005 11:25:00 pm  
    Blogger Nosemonkey said...

    John - you could indeed say that... I have a post loosely planned along those lines (bringing in a fair few other things to boot), but it'll have to be a good 'un and done soon - unfortunately it's looking like I'm going to be busy over the next few days. But it will, at some point, come.

    1/27/2005 11:28:00 pm  
    Blogger Nosemonkey said...

    Robert - yep. I think you may well be right. What I'm interested to know is whether we can use this as a precedent in other areas of the law. I mean, foreign citizens can't vote in General Elections, yet are bound by our laws and have to pay our taxes if they live or work here. Isn't that equally discriminatory? Perhaps we should remove the right to vote from British citizens to even up the odds...

    And hey, if it's a time of national emergency, surely holding General Elections isn't the best idea anyway? I'm sure we can do without voting for a while - after all, if we vote for the wrong people it could just encourage the terrorists, right? It'll only last for as long as the emergency lasts, after all...

    It is, as you say, fucking terrible. Somewhere nice and warm overseas where certain legal fundamentals are still respected is looking increasingly appealing...

    1/27/2005 11:38:00 pm  
    Blogger john b said...

    Let me know if you find one.

    1/28/2005 09:46:00 am  

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