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Thursday, February 15, 2007 

Scum-watch: Yet more lies about human rights.

The Sun has not taken kindly to its war on the human rights act being comprehensively destroyed by Charles Falconer. In one of the rarer circumstances of ministers standing up to the tabloid media's baseless and incredibly damaging campaigns, his speech yesterday to the Royal United Services Institute, following a previous one last week, was always likely to be reported, if at all, with hostility.

TONY Blair’s law chief Charlie Falconer amazingly denied yesterday that human rights were hampering Britain’s war on terror.

The Lord Chancellor said they were one of the most effective WEAPONS against al-Qaeda.

Lord Falconer said the European Convention on Human Rights “does not in any way properly inhibit us from fighting terrorism”.

But his remarks fly in the face of court decisions which have left Tony Blair’s anti-terror laws in tatters — by ruling they ABUSE human rights.

In 2004, Law Lords blocked emergency powers to hold nine suspects without trial, saying the measure posed a bigger threat to Britain than al-Qaeda.

They didn't block the emergency powers, they ruled by 8 to 1 that they held that holding foreign terror suspects without charge did just not breach article 5, the right to liberty, but was also entirely counter-productive, and discriminatory in that it only affected foreign "terror suspects". Their ruling was not binding without the lawyers for the men taking the case to Strasbourg; the government initially threatened to ignore the ruling, but was forced by the refusal of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to support a renewal of the "state of emergency" into introducing control orders instead.

The Lords also didn't say that the measure posed a bigger threat to Britain that al-Qaida - those were the words of Lord Hoffman alone. In his ruling he stated:

"This is one of the most important cases which the house has had to decide in recent years.

"It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention."

"This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups to kill or destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation."

"Whether we should survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt we shall survive al-Qaida. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of the nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it.

"Terrorist crime, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community."

"The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these."

As the Guardian leader of the day after the ruling argued, of the 2001 act:

It has eroded the very freedoms for which we are supposed to be combating terrorism.

The Sun however is only interested in putting up a straw man argument: that the Human Rights Act protects the freedoms of "terrorists", while ignoring that it protects the freedom of everyone. The disproportionate response of this government in turning to legislation to "tackle" terror has undermined civil liberties and abused human rights, but when it's against those who are "enemies" this doesn't matter one iota to the Sun. It's a slippery slope, but the Sun would never admit to it being one. Just tell Tony he's right.

The Scum article continues:

Last year, judge Mr Justice Sullivan said control orders — a replacement for detention without trial — were illegal.

Indeed he did, but John Reid then appealed. Reid subsequently lost the appeal, and those under the control orders had the restrictions placed on them slightly loosened. Control orders are still in effect, even though at least 2 men have subsequently managed to go missing despite being under them, which brought into sharp focus the reality of both how discriminatory and useless they are. The government's continuing refusal to make intercept evidence admissible in British courts, at the behest of the ever secretive spooks, means that we're depriving those under control orders both of the right to hear the evidence against them, and to defend themselves from the very evidence that the authorities claim to have. It's Kafkaesque, and it's little wonder that some have decided to actually return to their home country rather than continue to put up with a breach of liberty in a nation that once prided itself on it. The government has had more than enough of an opportunity to come up with a solution that doesn't breach the Human Rights Act, in line with other European countries, but it has refused to do so.

A month later, the same judge ruled that nine Afghan plane hijackers had a “human right” to stay in Britain.

No he didn't. He ruled that the refusal to give the men leave to remain, a decision made by an immigration panel who decided their lives would be at risk if they were deported back to Afghanistan, was an "abuse of power". The men had brought the case in the first place because they were being treated as failed asylum seekers, and so could not work, which is what they wanted to be allowed to do. In return for wanting to contribute to British society, they were treated to this libelous and deeply distorted Scum front page:

Charles Falconer has since accepted that the way John Reid and Tony Blair reacted to the ruling only encouraged the tabloids to act outraged:

Yet in the cold light of day the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, had accepted "unequivocally" that it was right that human rights law should prevent the hijackers from being sent back to Afghanistan if there was a risk they faced death or torture.

But Lord Falconer, who last week called for “common sense” over human rights, yesterday even had a dig at judges. He said: “Policy must come first and the law second. We need to get away from where human rights are viewed as a ‘terrorists’ charter’.

Had a dig at judges? The Sun would never do that! I wonder who is chiefly responsible for making the Human Rights Act become viewed as a "terrorists' charter"?

“Our freedoms are embodied in that convention. We shouldn’t be ashamed by it. We shouldn’t be embarrassed by it. It doesn’t prevent us fighting terrorism.”

It's about time this was made clear, but it's been this government that's only been too willing to join in with the Sun and others in undermining the Human Rights Act. It they had fought back from the beginning, either legislated better or not at all, then none of this would have ever occurred.

Then we have this idiocy from the Tories' constitutional affairs shadow:

The Tories have pledged to replace the 1998 Act with a Bill of Rights.

Shadow constitutional affairs secretary Oliver Heald said: “Lord Falconer is talking about the Human Rights Act he should have passed, not the flawed Human Rights Act we have.”

Seeing as the Human Rights Act was simply introducing the European Convention into UK law, with a number of omissions, then Heald ought to take his problem with the HRA up with those who drew it up in 1950. The Human Rights Act was mainly brought in so that those seeking judgment under the ECHR no longer had to go to Strasbourg to do so. The Tories idea for a Bill of Rights would presumably contain much the same rights that the HRA does, and even Ken Clarke described it as "xenophobic nonsense". It's a non-starter of a plan, but it's enough to get some kudos from the tabloids.

The Sun's leader gets off to a great start with an insult:

IF you were caught red-handed for mass murder, smooth-talking Charlie Falconer would try to get you off with an Asbo.

Geddit?!? He's an idiot brief?!

Which is pretty much what the Lord Chancellor tried to do yesterday when he insisted human rights laws are no bar to the war on terror.

He ignored the fact that police today are paralysed by fear of legal action if they make an arrest.

Obviously. That's why the police in Birmingham didn't make any arrests... err, wait a minute. The police in fact have very little to worry about, as this week's IPCC report into the Forest Gate raid made clear. The police who arrested Abu Bakr and another men and held them for a week while only questioning them for at the most at four hours and about nothing to do with terrorism haven't had to as much as explain their actions to the men.

Or that law lords banned round-the-clock surveillance on dangerous suspects because it infringed their liberty.

Which we've already discussed, was the right decision and was the British equivalent of Guantanamo Bay, even if the men weren't abused as those at Gitmo have alleged they have been.

Tony Blair once vowed to tear up human rights laws if they hampered the fight against terror.

He did so after unveiling tough laws which, he claimed, would have been rejected on human rights grounds before London’s 7/7 catastrophe.

And it was Charlie Falconer who claimed at the time that those 52 innocent civilians might never have died . . .

Had Mr Blair’s anti-terror laws already been in place.

I don't recall Falconer doing so, and if he did then he should have resigned for making such a specious statement. The Scum is also ignoring its own role in making sure that Blair's doomed 90 days legislation was heavily defeated, its hysterical attempts to get support for the law which involved using the image of one of those injured on 7/7 who vehemently opposed Blair's measures, then turning on those who dared to vote against by calling them "traitors". As then, the Sun and Rebekah Wade are the true traitors; conniving in the dilution of civil liberties, supporting the very measures which remove our rights in order to fight those who have no respect for them.

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