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Police breached human rights of peace protesters

Anti-war demonstrators who protested at RAF Fairford during the Iraq conflict suffered fundamental breaches in their human rights according to a new report by Liberty.
July 2003

The UK human rights watchdog has published a report examining the policing of anti-war protests at RAF Fairford, RAF Welford, and other military bases during the Iraq war.

The report claims that restrictions were imposed on the legitimate right to protest at these military bases.

Among the incidents described in the report are a coach of protestors being forced by police escort to drive away from the base, aggressive use of stop and search powers, the confiscation of banners, and the harassment of peace campers.

Liberty is particularly concerned at the use of anti-terrorism laws by police, including one incident involving the serving of an anti-terrorist order on an 11-year old girl.

In the report, "Casualty of War", Liberty points out that anti-terrorist legislation was used despite not a single member of Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups being apprehended.

Liberty is now calling for a House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs to investigate the use of the Terrorism Act 2000 at the protests.

A group of MPs, including Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes, and Labour MPs David Drew, Lynn Jones and Neil Gerrard, have called on the Home Secretary David Blunkett MP to explain why he told Parliament that the Terrorism Act 2000 was not being used to prevent protests at Fairford despite evidence to the contrary.

Simon Hughes MP said: 'the Liberal Democrats are calling for a review of the policing at Fairford because it is quite clear that the right to protest was severely compromised. The big question is whether the actions of the police were necessary and proportionate given the risk of an attack on the base or the aircraft based there. I have serious doubts about that, not least because it appears that stop and search powers were used as a deterrent against protesters instead of as a tool for preventing terrorist acts."

A spokesman for Gloucestershire police, who were responsible for policing at RAF Fairford, said the force was unable to comment on the Liberty report while legal proceedings against the force resulting from the protest were under way.


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