The War on Terror at home: from internment to control orders

Britain's Guantanamo has gone into crisis. Last year the government came under increasing criticism for its internment policy, which had kept many foreign nationals incarcerated without charge for three years. Their treatment was rightly denounced as psychological torture by lawyers and doctors.

March 1, 2005
3 min read

After a series of court cases and appeals, last December the Law Lords finally ruled that the internment powers were illegal, disproportionate and discriminatory. Law Lord Hoffman went further by declaring, ‘The real threat to the life of the nation… comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.’ This political and legal victory for justice resulted from a persistent three-year campaign.

Its authority under attack, the government responded by proposing even more wide-ranging powers. It intends to replace imprisonment with ‘control orders’, including house arrest, which would extend to British citizens and even to the families of ‘suspects’. Infringing a control order would lead to criminal charges and penalties.

In apartheid South Africa, similar ‘banning orders’ were imposed on political activists to prohibit any external contact beyond their families. Even in times of war, collective punishment is forbidden under the Geneva Conventions. Many MPs are now supporting such measures, which they opposed not long ago in South Africa. How did we get here?

The government is desperately attempting to maintain its façade of a ‘public emergency threatening the life of the nation’. This was the original pretext to justify powers for internment powers under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001. The government cited the ’emergency’ to justify the UK opt-out from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees the right of habeas corpus.

A star chamber, the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal (SIAC), colluded in internment by deferring to government claims. Secret evidence had been obtained by torturing people illegally held in detention centres abroad, sometimes in the presence of British agents. Meanwhile Special Branch officers terrorised friends and relatives of the internees here, warning them against any contact with the families. Internment was the most extreme of many powers which stigmatised entire Muslim and migrant communities as ‘terrorist suspects’.

From the start of internment, the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) denounced the ‘fake emergency’. This has been systematically fabricated by MI5 spreading disinformation and character assassination, duly reported as fact in mass-media scares about ‘terrorist threats’. A broad network of human rights campaigners held numerous protests against the internment powers – initially at SIAC hearings, and later at Belmarsh and Woodhill Prisons, where the internees were being held. Placards read: ‘Belmarsh, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib: Axis of Evil’. Put in historical perspective, this campaign extends the long-standing struggle to gain and retain basic democratic rights, which have been periodically under threat.

Various ‘anti-terror’ powers, already being implemented, have moved this country towards a police state. The Terrorism Act 2000 more broadly redefined ‘terrorism’ to encompass a wide range of ordinary political activities; its definition blurs any distinction between organized violence against civilians and anti-government protest. On that basis, the Terrorism Act 2000 was used to ban many organisations and established a new crime of ‘association’ with them.

All these powers can be used arbitrarily. ‘Stop-and-search’ powers have targeted harass political activists, e.g. at Fairford Air Force base in early 2003 and the DSEI arms fair in September 2003. Freezing orders on bank accounts have been used to paralyse Muslim charities which send aid abroad.

‘Anti-terror’ laws do nothing to make our lives safer. Instead they feed on and perpetuate the politics of fear. They threaten us all. To protect our basic rights, we should demand the immediate release of anyone detained under ‘anti-terror’ powers.

To join the CAMPACC email list, send a message to estella24[at]tiscali.co.uk

For more information see www.cacc.org.uk , tel. 020 7250 1315


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Greenwald speaks Trump, War on Terror, and citizen activism
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn


1