Return Of Internment Camps In Britain

IT has begun, Sylviane! The two super powers, the UK and the US, wind into parallel territory! Not pretty for either country!

Behind The Rhetoric: Return Of Internment Camps In Britain

London Telegraph | January 27 2005

We have, of course, been here before. Charles Clarke will not be the first Home Secretary to restrict the movement and association of British citizens: in 1940, Sir John Anderson made orders for the detention of no fewer than 1,428 people - some in internment camps.

One of these was Jack Perlzweig, who was apparently suspected of involvement in commercial fraud, of contact with suspected enemy agents and of being the son of a rabbi. I say "apparently" because all he was told at the time was that the Home Secretary believed he was a "person of hostile associations": these "charges" emerged later.

Mr Perlzweig was taken to Brixton Prison in May 1940, and remained there until his release in January 1942. Before then, under his assumed name of Robert Liversidge, he challenged his detention in a case that reached the House of Lords. Liversidge v Anderson is famous for the dissenting speech of Lord Atkin, attacking his fellow judges for being "more executive-minded than the executive".

Lord Bingham, who tells the full story in The Business of Judging (OUP), says we can be "proud that even in that most extreme national emergency, there was one voice, eloquent and courageous, which asserted … the priceless gift, subject only to constraints by law established, of individual freedom".

Now, of course, individual freedom is to be further constrained, as a direct result - it could be argued - of the judgment delivered by Lord Bingham and his fellow law lords last month. If they had not found that a law allowing detention only of suspected foreign terrorists discriminated against the home-grown variety, it would not have been necessary for Mr Clarke to announce yesterday that his new control orders would apply to suspected terrorists regardless of nationality.

But terrorism is not the fault of Lord Bingham. What worried the senior law lord was a finding by Siac, the anti-terrorist court, that the threat to Britain was not confined to the foreign nationals currently detained in Belmarsh prison.

"There was," he said, "evidence before Siac that 'upwards of a thousand individuals from the UK are estimated … to have attended training camps in Afghanistan in the last five years' … and that 'the backgrounds of those detained show the high level of involvement of British citizens.' "

So, should we be relieved that the Government is taking powers to "control" suspected British terrorists against whom there is not enough evidence for a criminal prosecution?

Mr Clarke has promised that the controls used will be proportionate to the threat that he believes each individual poses. Tagging and curfews may be used; people may be banned from communicating with named individuals, or with the outside world through the internet and other technology. "At the top end, control orders would include a requirement to remain at their premises."

Liberty, the human rights group, said that such restrictions were legitimate only so long as a criminal trial was in prospect. "Adherence to the rule of law should not be a game of cat and mouse," said Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty's director. "The Government should not swap one human rights opt-out for another."

Even though house arrest must be better than Belmarsh, it may still breach the right to liberty under Article 5 of the Human Rights Convention, as the Home Secretary implicitly acknowledged when he said there might have to be a fresh derogation from, or suspension of, Article 5.

The right to liberty may be suspended only if there is a "public emergency threatening the life of the nation", and then only "to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation". A majority of the law lords agreed that the current emergency meets that test.

In fact, some of Mr Clarke's "control orders" may not require any suspension of human rights at all. The Human Rights Court in Strasbourg has held that a curfew, or an order preventing an individual from leaving a particular area, is not a deprivation of liberty. On the other hand, it is a breach of Article 5 to confine people to their homes or other premises - even if they are not formal prisons.

David Pannick, QC, added yesterday that it would be difficult to challenge the new laws under Article 6 - which protects the right to a fair trial - as the courts take the view that an order made to protect the public is not a criminal charge under this part of the convention.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the Government's proposals is that it will be up to the Home Secretary, and not a court, to decide whether to impose a control order - and which controls to impose in each case. There will be an appeal to Siac, but the controlled person is not likely to be told what information the Home Secretary has on him. That will presumably be disclosed only to the Special Advocate - if there are still any lawyers prepared to take on this controversial, behind-the-scenes role.

Ultimately, it all depends on whether we can trust the Home Secretary of the day. If Mr Clarke and his successors exercise their new powers sensibly, imposing controls that are no greater than necessary while protecting us from an undoubted terrorist threat, we should be grateful to the law lords for forcing the Government to replace ineffective and discriminatory controls with bespoke orders that are less repressive than confinement in Belmarsh.

If not, we can only hope that Siac - and, ultimately, the law lords - prove a greater bastion of our freedom than, with the honourable exception of Lord Atkin, they did more than 60 years ago in Liversidge v Anderson.

Blair Defends House Arrest Plan:

Informant: Laurel


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Januar 2005

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