Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A THREAT TO CIVIL LIBERTIES

The government has been behaving shamefully in its ever more desperate attempts to cajole Labour rebels into backing its plans to extend the period of detention without trial for terror suspects in Britain from 28 days to 42 days - against the great bulk of expert advise and opinion on issues relating to security and human rights. I've made a media comment on this today. While I may disagree with the Church of England on some issues, it has got it absolutely right on this one. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty was, as usual, very articulate on TV and radio about the key issues yesterday and this morning. Recognising its enormous significance, the BBC and Channel 4 are running regular blog updates on the debate throughout the day.

5 comments:

ChrisC said...

'the great bulk of expert advise' on human rights might well be against it, which is why,I presume, you're against it. But what exactly constitutes 'the great bulk of expert advise and opinion on issues relating to security'? Certainly not the Police or the Security Services who in normal times can, one assumes, be relied upon to know a thing or two about security.

Simon Barrow said...

I'm against it because I think it erodes important liberties and gives a propaganda coup to extremists. Also because the evidence produced in favour of it is so weak and partial. The prevailing view within senior echelons of the police is far from universal. The DPP has expressed concerns. People advising government on combating violent radicalisation are against. The former chief constable of West Midlands Police and HM inspector of constabulary is against. John Major (who survived a bomb attack himself some years ago) is against. It's not just the "usual civil liberties suspects". That's the whole point.

ChrisC said...

Doesn't sound convincing at all to me. Make the human rights case if you must (I'm not sure a belief in universal human rights answers any of these questions anyway) but please at least be aware of the practicalities and realities of counter-terrorism even if you find the requirement for such things distasteful. Classically, terrorism relies on a network, cell structure for organsiational resiliance. The removal of one cell or individual makes little impact on the whole network. The key is to reach the top of the network, the individuals who have links throughout the network and back to its source, usually based outside the country's borders. In this information is the key and motivated individuals are not likely to just give this information up on request. The alternative to a lengthy period of questioning to get all the information required to roll up a network is torture, which may or may not get you the answers needed. I assume you don't like the idea of that. I suppose the other alternative is to do nothing presuming on the terrorists' ultimate goodwill.

Douglas Hynd said...

Accumulation of unchecked and minimally accountable power by executive government is always a matter of concern for Christians on theological grounds, let alone the history of the abuse of such power against minorities and marginal groups.

The expedients used by the Government to pass the measure in the Commons are not evidence of rational debate but go to the integrity of the government process if newspaper reports are to be believed.

Simon Barrow said...

Ah Chris, you really love your "I assumes", don't you? A friend of mine who teaches war studies, specialising in security, describes this kind of justification as "tough-sounding programmatic waffle". The choice certainly isn't between assuming the goodwill of people who employ terror and locking up people without adequate justification. It's better intelligence and better prevention - as the DPP, a former HM Inspector of Police, a growing chunk of the Police Federation and many others who don't posit a simplistic opposition between civil liberty and security keep saying. Home Office stats also make plain that out of 1,228 arrested on counter-terrorism charges between September 2001 and March 2007, not one has been held for 28 days. The DPP saw the claims for 42 in specific cases and found none of them convincing.