Friday, June 30, 2006


Denying Rights Provides no Defence against Terror

Two recent judgements have delivered deserved pokes in the eye to the US and British executives. We see that Bush has suffered a huge spoke in the wheel of his anti-terror strategy via the decision of the Supreme Court to invalidate all the powers arrogated to himself by Bush to wage his war on terror. This means military trials for the Guantanamo detainees cannot be undertaken outside the protection of the Geneva Convention plus relevant US law. Then yesterday we saw Mr Justice Sullivan of the High Court quash the control orders substituted for detention for six suspected terrorists. The Guardian expresses satisfaction that the judiciary has checked both executives. And rightly too.

My view on this crucially important issue is that:

i)Curbing rights in one area is no way to defend them in another. During the Second World War, even though the foe showed no respect for them civil rights were mostly protected by Churchill's government.

ii) Attempts by Bush and Blair to ignore legal limits on treatment of suspects and substitute their own expedient versions of the law, has provided a shameful episode in which the 'civilized values' we are defending have seemed worryingly close the uncivilized ones ranged against us. It is reassuring to those of us who feel Bush has been betraying the best traditions of American government that its judiciary has proved such a robust repository of the liberal legal values on which western civilization is based. Similar things could be said about Blair and the UK's response.

iii) If these alleged highly dangerous al Quaeda agents at the heart of the British control orders dispute could be brought to court the issue would be pre-empted. We are told there is not sufficient evidence to make charges stick but that the surveillance recordings which might effect convictions cannot be used. Why not? We're told it's not for a civil rights reason(well we can believe that at least) but for operational reasons to do with the security service. Well, how important do such unspecified reasons have to be before the security of the country takes precedence?

I fully accept that my defence of 'civilized values' might belong to an era that has now been made obsolete by Bin Laden and his proxies, but if so, like many others, I'd like to be persuaded that this is now the case.

Even with the 'conservatives' now controlling the supreme court the right decision was reached. These people should and can still be tried but just because they might be terrorists doesn't mean they dont have the same judicial rights as others.

It is possible that not everyone there is guilty.
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