Thursday, 12 June 2008

'Pre-Charge Detention': Wrapping Up the Destruction of Liberties in Weasly Words

Any hope I had for Gordon Brown, any belief that his imminent removal was being over-exaggerated and a hope he would continue has been eroded utterly by his pig-headed push to extend the period without charge from 28 days to 42 days. There is utterly no need for this measure. The USA has only 2 days (though prisoners taken to Guantanamo Bay are exempt) and even places like Turkey which hardly has a good human rights record only has 7½ days. Why does the UK have so much more and wanted it extended? I have no love for the Conservative Party, but am heartened by David Davis the Shadow Home Secretary resigning because he opposes this legislation. He is resigning his seat too and will campaign at the by-election as an independent on this issue. A Labour MP for Rotherham, Dennis McShane, was on television this lunchtime saying he could not believe that a Conservative (the party has a history of supporting strong law and order legisation) is opposed the 'necessary' stronger legislation (McShane listed the things he wants including identity cards for foreigners and more CCTV as well as this extended detention without charge), but he cannot see that this shows that the Labour Party is moving so far to the right-wing in its rush to abolish democracy in the UK that it is leaving the Conservatives behind.

The other thing that sickened me is how the BBC is now referring to detention without charge. It has gone from being called that, i.e. 'detention without charge' which it is, to now being termed 'pre-charge detention' to make it sound like some kind of preliminary process that will always lead to a charge. Of course this is not the case. If the police need 42 days to get the evidence to make a charge it suggests that the case is pretty weak anyway. In fact what the 42 days are about is less to do with gathering evidence and more about psychological pressure and presumably ultimately torture to get the suspect to confess. This kind of detention does not lead to charges as clearly was seen in the Hicham Yezza - Rizwaan Saber case last month. Rizwaan Saber who is studying a PhD at Nottingham University was arrested along with his academic supervisor Dr. Hicham Yezza who is of Algerian origins (he has lived in the UK since 1995 when he was aged 17). Saber's research meant he had to study terrorist literature. He had been accepted into the UK to study this area (which clearly is an important one which speaking Arabic he would be ideally equipped to focus on) and was using resources publicly available on US government websites. Both men were held 14th-20th May and were released without charge. So they were in 'pre-charge detention' for six days, but of course it was not 'pre-charge' because they were doing nothing wrong. The government is clearly embarrassed by the whole incident and are now trying to deport Yezza back to Algeria despite him living here for over a decade and working as an academic (who are usually exempt from immigration regulations to promote contact between universities and their staff across countries).

The Yezza-Saber case is alarming for two reasons. First it shows how even with the 28 days detention without charge it is being used improperly. Second it shows an aspect that I neglected to look at in my posting on the creation of the police state in the UK, that is the suppression of academic freedom to research what is seen as important. This is a form of censorship and seems to have slipped by without the bulk of the population being aware of it. Self-censorship seems to be increasing off the back of it with the BBC coming up with euphemisms and weasly words to conceal the actual severity and speed of the erosion of our civil liberties. Brown you have lost any support I had for you. You could have turned back the tide of Blair's authoritarianism, instead you have decided to extend and accelerate it. I hope that you will lose the vote on extending detention without charge and that it will bring down your government in the way that you have been warning Labour MPs that it will. You are not fit to hold office in a democracy, you need to go.

No comments: