Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism