Lords urged to defend justice
By Louise Nousratpour
Morning Star, 6 July 2007
Civil rights campaigners urged Law Lords to “prosecute, not persecute” terror suspects on Thursday at the start of a six-day hearing into the legality of the repressive control orders regime.
A panel of five Law Lords headed by Lord Bingham began hearing appeals from 10 people placed under control orders – including “house arrest,” tagging, curfews and restricted access to phones and the internet – without charge or trial. They argue that the measures introduced under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 violate their right to liberty and a fair trial.
The hearing includes Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s appeal against a ruling last year by the High Court and Court of Appeal that control orders breached the European convention on human rights.
Amnesty International UK urged Britain’s legal authorities to commit themselves to “prosecuting rather than persecuting” anyone accused of terrorism. It condemned the control order regime as running “counter to the principle of equality before the law,” adding: “It is intrinsically inimical to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and human rights protection in the UK.”
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn urged the Law Lords to use their powers to ensure that the right to a “fair and independent” legal process is protected.
“The control orders are a form of executive detention and a denial of access to an independent judicial system and I opposed it in Parliament for those reasons,” he said. “I hope the Law Lords will use their authority to ensure that we maintain the separation between the judiciary and political powers.”
Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German accused the government of creating a “climate of fear, where many people will be treated as guilty until proven innocent, and that should not be acceptable.
“This Labour government has taken away more of our civil liberties than any other. It’s worse than during World War II when Hitler was just across the Channel,” she charged.
Ms German acknowledged the “very serious” threat of terrorism, but she added: “The government, instead of taking responsibility for what its foreign policy has led to, is attacking our liberties.” She urged the Law Lords to “come to the same conclusion as the High Court and the Court of Appeal.”
Civil rights group Liberty legal director James Welch insisted: “Punishing people and their families without trial makes a mockery of British justice. Labelling people as terrorists and leaving them in the community makes a mockery of security. Only charges, evidence and proof will protect our lives and our way of life in the long term.”
Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths agreed that the Law Lords must reject control orders to “uphold fundamental human rights and the presumption that people are innocent until found guilty.”
He said; “If there is evidence against people under such measures, then they should be brought to court. Otherwise, they should be released.”