In the UK we are supposed to have various guaranteed rights and freedoms:
- Freedom of Speech
- Right to Protest
- Right to Privacy
- Innocent until proven guilty
- No detention without charge (habeas corpus)
- Ban on torture
As will be shown on the following pages, ALL of these fundamental human have either been removed or eroded.
Freedom of Speech
Since the 70’s or 80’s the greatest threat to freedom of speech has been the emergence of “political correctness”. So many people nowadays worry about almost every single word they utter, in case they are not being PC. There have been some truly unbelievable examples of PC gone mad, not long ago a recruitment agency in Norfolk was challenged for stipulating in a job advertisement “candidate must be hard working and reliable”, the lunatic PC brigade suggested this discriminated against people who were not hard working (idle) and/or not reliable (untrustworthy), utter insanity. Even worse, the recruitment company backed down and changed the wording, a real chance missed.
It seems that for almost any possible event, there is at least one person lining up ready to be offended. Overzealous council officials order people to take down Christmas decorations because it may offend Muslims, but when asked the same Muslims are not offended at all, so it would appear these people take it upon themselves to be offended on behalf of others. It can become so difficult to know for instance how you should refer to a person of a certain ethnicity. A few years ago an Afro-Caribbean person should be referred to as “coloured”, then it changed to “black”, now you should say “Afro-Caribbean” (I think) unless you know their ethnicity more specifically, such as Nigerian or Jamaican. If you work for a large corporation, help is usually at hand in such delicate matters, usually on the corporate intranet diversity page. That PC came into being during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership seems quite astounding!
More worrying for freedom of speech are the so-called “hate crimes”, where certain words and phrases become illegal, this is not to suggest that people should use offensive and insulting words against other people, but that list of illegal words will grow and we won’t necessarily know what they are. There is talk of making statements denying the existence of manmade global warming a hate crime. If that happens, it would be illegal to argue or suggest that climate change is caused by anything other than mankind burning fossil fuels, so much for debate and discussion.
What is the next category of hate crime? Questioning the PM, parliament, a police chief, who knows, it’s the thin edge of the wedge.
Criticism of government/parliament is permitted by 1689 Declaration of Rights.
Right to Protest
In 2005 then Home Secretary David Blunkett introduced “The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Sites) Order 2005” giving the Home office the power (initially) to ban all protests within 1 Km of the Houses of Parliament without written approval. Further powers were added to restrict the size of a protest to 1 square metre. These powers have been further amended and now the Home Office can designate anywhere as a “no protest” area with an injunction.
These are meant to be inalienable, fundamental rights, not only through the 1950 ECHR but also Declaration of Rights and Bill of Rights 1689. These cannot lawfully be superseded by Acts of Parliament. Fundamental changes to our constitution (Bill of Rights) can only happen with Royal Assent, and that requires authority of the sovereign, which are the people NOT the monarch. The reason this is happening is due to the original act of treason in introducing the 1911 Parliament Act, and further to the people not asserting their sovereign rights.
As Acts of parliament (Statutes) they will be enforced by the police, the DPP, the CPS and the courts, so reversing this loss of rights is a non-trivial matter. As previously mentioned statutes are only given the force of law by consent, this does not mean that if you go and protest in parliament square you will not get (unlawfully) arrested. What really needs to happen is for millions of people to protest (peacefully of course) and just overwhelm the security forces, a real show of people power, and demand the return of our rights.
Right to Privacy
Britain is officially the most surveilled nation on the planet. Apparently there is one CCTV Camera for every 14 citizens, so in excess of 4 million cameras. Why do we need quite so many? Is it to solve crime? Well apparently not as only about 1% of crimes are resolved as a result of CCTV footage, did it stop the 7/7 bombers? No, apparently they left a train from Luton (which was actually cancelled that day – officially) at Liverpool Street station and travelled by tube and foot, on routes that would pass many CCTV camera’s and yet no footage exists – more on that in a later chapter.
The authorities say “If you have nothing hide, you have nothing to fear”, that may be true but if we have done nothing wrong, we should not be under surveillance, we are not all terrorists intent on death on destruction, many of us love our Country and only wish a return to true democracy and freedom from the unelected control. Above all else though, to monitor us is a breach of our right to privacy. It is not a good idea to give up our liberty for security, otherwise the terrorists will have won.
Thankfully, it looks like we have decided against the compulsory ID card, but it will be back on the agenda at some point, maybe even as the injectable verichip which is in use in the USA voluntarily. We do have biometric passports and picture driving licenses, but ironically it is becoming harder to prove who you are, despite these.
In 2005 the Labour government also introduced the Terrorism Act, which has many similarities to the US Patriot Act, both of which remove many civil liberties, and appear to do little to eliminate the threat of terrorism, perhaps if we stopped threatening and invading Muslim Countries the terrorist threat might reduce. The Terrorism Act (section 44) allows for warrantless searches of people and property, further eroding our rights to privacy.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
A real mainstay of the UK justice system, which sadly will disappear if/when we achieve full EU integration, the presumption under EU law will be “guilty until proven innocent”, also with the loss of the right to trial by jury.
This becomes particularly important with the loss of other civil rights originally granted under the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), whereby the police are granted power of arrest for more and more offences, and regardless of whether you are guilty or not, you will be presumed guilty, with the removal of no detention without charge (habeas corpus) you could be held without charge, currently for up to 28 days. Who knows, that could become indefinite detention under EU law (think Guantanamo), all that and you could be innocent of any crime.
People, we should be worried about this development, very worried indeed! It is easy to think that holding a real terrorist suspect indefinitely without charge might seem like a good idea, that’s how it has been sold to us, but what if that person is totally innocent, their only crime being Asian and having a beard – sounds like a Not The 9 O’clock News joke, but it would not be funny to them. What if you are arrested for looking at a Europol police officer in the wrong way, you were then held without charge for a month (in a foreign Country maybe), possibly without access to a solicitor, always assumed to be guilty. Then when it goes to court not necessarily in the UK there is no jury, just a judge to decide your guilt or innocence. Would that be funny?
In 2003 the UK signed an extradition treaty with the USA, people who have not been charged in this Country can be charged in US courts and extradited to face those charges. We are apparently the only Country in the World that is prepared to extradite its own citizens to face charges in a foreign Country. Everyone should have the right to face charges in a court in their own Country; some crimes for which people can be tried may not even be crimes in this Country! Is it me, or does this sound insane? Isn’t the most important role of a government to protect the populace?
Let’s not forget, some US states have the death penalty!
No detention without charge
With the introduction of the 2005 Terrorism Act, the ban on detention without charge, aka habeas corpus came to an end. The previous labour government under Tony Blair attempted to pass a law allowing detention without charge for up to 90 days; it was the first commons defeat for New Labour, with a compromise reached at 28 days. Not sure about the situation for foreign nationals, but UK citizens have the protection of habeas corpus through our constitution, it is not within the power of parliament to remove that protection.
Habeas corpus (Latin meaning “you are to hold the body” i.e. “you should arrest”, the conventional incipit of medieval arrest warrants in England) is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations. It has historically been an important legal instrument safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary state action.
Habeas corpus has certain limitations. It is technically only a procedural remedy; it is a guarantee against any detention that is forbidden by law, but it does not necessarily protect other rights, such as the entitlement to a fair trial. So if an imposition such as internment without trial is permitted by the law then habeas corpus may not be a useful remedy. The right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus has nonetheless long been celebrated as the most efficient safeguard of the liberty of the subject.
Ban on TORTURE
There is no concrete evidence of torture being performed in the UK, but questions remain unanswered around inmates in Belmarsh prison and Abu Ghraib prison in Afghanistan. What cannot be denied is that the UK government has allowed British citizens to be held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, by the US government.
Some of those British citizens have been held for more than 3 years without charge, and according to some, who have been released, daily subjected to beatings, humiliation, sleep deprivation and possibly “waterboarding” among other things.
There seems little doubt that the US are involved in torture, apparently Guantanamo Bay only accounts for about 4% of what is known as rendition. This is where a group like the CIA take foreign or even US prisoners to other Countries such as Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, where they can be subjected to almost any kind of torture imaginable, and possibly killed. The UK government (Blair) have been implicated in assisting rendition, by allowing CIA jets to land and refuel at Prestwick and Manchester airports.
We in the so-called civilised world cannot condemn other countries and regimes for torturing prisoners, if we are doing it ourselves. If we do allow it, or assist, or allow it to happen we are not civilised, all I can say is “Not in my name”. There can be no justification whatsoever for a government to condone torture of anyone, this is one of those “I hope I’m wrong on this” issues, but I suspect I’m not! Even sleep deprivation and mild beatings whilst in custody is still torture, and is WRONG!
Some people argue that if the torture results in averting a terrorist attack or saving lives it is justified, but not if the person is innocent, who decides who can be tortured and for what crimes, or alleged crimes?
The only acceptable way this could be done is if a totally harmless “truth” drug could be administered, but even then only under extreme cases with an overwhelming amount of evidence and only to save lives or to avert terrorist attacks, or for suspected murderers, rapists, paedophiles and traitors!