Police call for ‘Guantanamo-style’ powers
By Louise Nousratpour
Morning Star, 16 July 2007
CONCERNS about overt political campaigning by police bosses mounted on Sunday, after chief constables demanded the power to lock up “terror suspects” indefinitely.
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) president Ken Jones inflamed the debate over detention without trial when he called for more police powers to hold suspects for “as long as it takes.”
He complained that police were “up against the buffers on the 28-day limit,” which is already the longest period of pre-charge detention in any Western country, including the United States.
The matter was reportedly discussed in meetings between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and senior police officers.
The new Premier, who has already signalled his desire to extend the draconian 28-day limit, is believed to be supportive of the ACPO proposals.
His predecessor Tony Blair was defeated in the Commons two years ago when he tried to introduce a 90-day detention period, which was also floated by notorious Metropolitan Police chief Ian Blair.
The ongoing politicisation of senior police officers in recent years has alarmed politicians and civil rights groups alike, who told the force on Sunday to “stay out of politics” and “remember your place” in a democratic society.
They warned that the latest police proposals would amount to Northern Ireland-style internment of the 1970s and would lead to the creation of a Guantanamo Bay-type prison on British soil.
Within 48 hours of the introduction of internment for IRA members in August 1971, mass protests broke out which left 17 dead. Violence and protests continued throughout that year and peaked on January 30 1972 – known as Bloody Sunday, recalled campaigners.
Britain last used internment during the first Gulf war to harass Iraqi exiles accused of links with Saddam Hussein’s state apparatus.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn accused Mr Jones of advocating “the most massive injustice.
“It would create another Guantanamo Bay and lead to martyrdom by people who are indefinitely incarcerated with no prospect of justice or the opportunity to defend themselves on the horizon,” he warned.
“This is political campaigning by ACPO. It’s not their job to propose legislation and they should remember the role of police in a democratic society.”
Civil rights group Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: “It is coming to the point when we have to ask serious questions about the role of ACPO in a constitutional democracy.
“We elect politicians to determine legislation and we expect chief constables to uphold the rule of law, not campaign for internment.”
A Stop the War Coalition spokesman warned: “The police seem to be driving to grant themselves even more powers. They should stay out of political debates.
“The lessons should be the lessons in Northern Ireland in the 1970s when internment was introduced.”
Green Party principal speaker Derek Wall said: “Proposals like these are the same as Northern Ireland’s in the ’70s – internment. These fuel terrorism rather than helping to prevent it.”
An Amnesty International UK spokeswoman also condemned Mr Jones’s alarming proposals, stressing: “The right to be promptly charged is the dividing line between liberty and arbitrary detention.
“Indefinite detention violates the right to liberty and the right to be presumed innocent.”
The spokeswoman questioned whether the ACPO plans would lead to more convictions, arguing: “The longer a person is held in police custody, the less likely the courts are to presume that any statement obtained have been made voluntarily.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg recalled: “The police got themselves and the government in terrible trouble last time by arguing for 90 days without any real evidence to back their case.
“It is bizarre in the extreme for ACPO to appear to be repeating the mistake.”
Mr Jones subsequently tried to clarify his position, insisting that he had no desire for indefinite detention and accepted the need for a time limit.
He claimed: “We are not arguing for some kind of Guantanamo nonsense for the UK. We do not want internment. That would be crazy.”