Home Secretary Charles Clarke has announced in Parliament that he is planning to introduce legislation which will break Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair trial as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 2000 which will apply to everyone in the UK, not just foreign terrorist suspects:
RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL
1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court."
The plan seems to be to allow a "whole range" of measures under a regime of Control Orders which could include house arrest, electronic tagging, denial of telephony or internet access, denial of association with some as yet unspecified people etc., all without actully having to present any evidence to a court. The whole point of having to go through a legal court procedure is precisely so that politicians and faceless petty officials cannot impose ever changing Kafkaesque rules and regulations which cannot be challenged by the defendant.
The 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp brings to mind the quotation from Pastor Martin Niemoller, who was locked up in the Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps:
"First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out, because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me."
How can this Labour Government introduce such a fundamental attack on the the principle of Habeas Corpus ? The end does not justify the means.
We oppose the use of electronic tagging which leads to the early release from prison of any Violent or Sexual offenders who are highly motivated or driven to break their bail conditions. The technology of Mobile Phones and Global Positioning Satellite units simply cannot produce foolproof "no-go zone" monitoring for such people. Terrorist suspects, must surely also come into this category, unless the plan is to extend this beyond actual suspects, to say, their friends, families and associates. This only succeeds in creating more active terrorists out of passive sympathisers, just like it did with Internment in Northern Ireland.
Fixed line phone based electronic tagging can be used for "house arrest", but how is that any more acceptable in a democracy when it is imposed at the whim of a politician, rather than by the legal system of courts, after due consideration of all the evidence ?
Charles Clarke also elaborated slightly in a Ministerial Statement on his decision not to change the law to allow the use of intercepted communications as evidence in court proceedings, claiming that it might only produce a few more convictions of serious criminals. and none at all of any terrorist suspects.
The existing anomoly, whereby intercept evidence provided by foreign countries is admissable in UK courts, also seems set to remain in place.
The whole question of dubious "fast track" extradition proceedings based entirely on intercept and/or communications data "evidence" such as the United States attempt to extradite the notorious Abu Hamza "The Hook" al Masri, or the case of Farid Hilali under the new European Arrest Warrant (a process which also includes secret "voice recognition" evidence of some sort, derived from who knows where).
The Home Secretary also mentioned forthcoming changes in telecommunications technology, which would make any legal intercept evidence scheme soon obsolete.
Presumably he means Voice over IP telephony.
Perhaps he is also alluding to the fact that, say, the Home Location Register computers of a multinational 3GPP mobile phone company, which control the account authentication and voice call encryption, may no longer be physically located within the country that they serve, and would require legal international cooperation or secret illegal access (according to the laws in other countries) by the intelligence agencies, both of which they might wish to keep quiet about.