blair to declare state of emergency, suspend human rights
November 14, 2001 12:46 AM   Subscribe

blair to declare state of emergency, suspend human rights there is some scary stuff included in these proposals. including internment without trial there are serious implications here, and i find it frightening.
posted by quarsan (46 comments total)
Wow. Really strict stuff there. I always have this assumption that the UK has "close to but not quite exactly" the same freedoms and rights as the US, but every now and then a reminder like this pops up - showing there's a bit more of a gulf than I might think.

What exactly does the "director of Liberty" do anyhow?
posted by kokogiak at 12:52 AM on November 14, 2001

Welcome to the police state. This from the Government that ratified the European Bill of Human Rights.
posted by salmacis at 1:03 AM on November 14, 2001

the current situation just doesn't merit such draconian restrictions on individual liberty. i thought we were fighting for democracy, civilization etc, etc. well, that's what they told us.

the more you read, the more terrifying it gets. please note that the uk doesn't have an effective opposition party and, by all accounts blair is, in effect a president, surrounded by unelected and unaccountable advisors
posted by quarsan at 1:17 AM on November 14, 2001

Protesting with face paint is outlawed? I know some women who are going to do time if the police can identify them. [Silver lining: street mimes dragged away kicking and not screaming.]

> What exactly does the "director of Liberty" do anyhow?

That's not some scary thing like America's new "Homeland Security Director". The director of Liberty wears a white hat, not a black shirt.

"Liberty is an independent human rights organisation which works to defend and extend rights and freedoms in England and Wales. Founded in 1934, it is the largest membership organisation of its kind in Europe." This is what their director, John Wadham, has to say about that terrifying Anti-Terrorism Bill.
posted by pracowity at 1:27 AM on November 14, 2001

Quarsan - agreed about President Blair. After promising to reform the House of Lords, he's in fact turned it into a quango filled with his cronies. To add insult to injury, the Conservative Party is agreeing with Labour on nearly everything and is actually suggesting that these current moves don't go far enough!

Kokogiak, not only does the English government not respect civil liberties as deeply as the American constitution, but most English people don't seem to give a damn about their own freedoms anyway. We just sit back and grant security forces the right to read our e-mails, prevent us congregating in public places, film and photograph peaceful protesters etc etc. Liberty, by the way, is a civil liberties action group.
posted by skylar at 1:29 AM on November 14, 2001

All this has been remarkably understated in the UK press, and after living with IRA bombing campaigns for 30 odd years without resorting to this sort of legislation it all feels a bit convenient. However, rather than any oppressive motive it may be the sign of rather a bad and/or immature government.

One takes for granted that politicians understand the principles of democracy and government and so on.
posted by jackspot at 1:32 AM on November 14, 2001

i don't think locking up muslims without trial is going to do much for race relations, and it won' t do a damn thing to stop terrorism. internment in ireland gave the IRA a ten fold increase in numbers.

when the ministers main justification is " it will only affect very few people ", they really haven't much of an argument.

but it will affect anti globalisation protestors, the anti nukes and other protestors. seriously does britain really need to be declared a state of emergency? one that will not be reviewed for a year?
posted by quarsan at 1:50 AM on November 14, 2001

found some people who support these moves: uk nazi's
posted by quarsan at 1:55 AM on November 14, 2001

We're in a state of emergency? Even though we haven't been attacked and no-one has threatened to attack us? What emergency? Oh god, we're turning into one of those dictatorships where a state of emergency is declared every time the police want to beat up the opposition. And I voted for Blair as well. Damn the Tories for being so unelectable. Right, everyone vote Lib Dem next time. Pass it on.
posted by Summer at 2:34 AM on November 14, 2001

most English people don't seem to give a damn about their own freedoms anyway

We've been spoilt by three hundred years of steady government. Wish we'd had a revolution.
posted by Summer at 2:37 AM on November 14, 2001

Wish we'd had a revolution.

Didn't do us (U.S.) much good in the long run. The kings always maintain power, and the slaves always work on the plantation. Whether your king is called George II or Time Warner, Inc. is only a matter of semantics.
posted by Optamystic at 2:49 AM on November 14, 2001

most English people don't seem to give a damn about their own freedoms anyway

English people do care about their freedom, it is something we have defended time and time again. People may be slow to respond but respond they do.

The most depressing thing about the new legislation is that it underlines the inability of the Government and the Opposition to treat the people with respect and as adults.
posted by jackspot at 3:04 AM on November 14, 2001

anything they can do we can do better! copycats! We will have courts made up of the military, held in secret, and thus anyone can be called a terrorist and salted away and we will know nothing about the trial or the crime. Prhaps the ABA will complain and test this. But a state of war might actually have to be declared in order for Bush to get away with it...not a police action or merely saying We are at war. Alas, congress will do whatever they are told. And the Brits seem in the same ballpark.
posted by Postroad at 3:50 AM on November 14, 2001

thanks for the liberty link pracowity.
if only guy fawkes had been successful, the world would be a different place today!
actually, thinking about it, there would probably have been another round of crusades or something, to keep catholic dominated europe entertained. perhaps, not such a good idea after all.
we in the uk have no constitution. we have no rights, period. there is nothing stopping blair from proposing this type of paranoid legislature. in times of prosperity people will say - we don't need a constitution, we have a stable, caring government.
that's fine until push comes to shove. our society will not progress via this type of draconian restriction on it's inhabitants. europe is still recovering from the last clamp down on dissident behaviour, which outlawed just about everything.
still, gotta laugh, incha!
posted by asok at 4:02 AM on November 14, 2001

Sheesh- if this is what counts as "Western democracy", I can't figure out why people mock me for my "Ayep. I'm pretty much rooting for the terrorists at this point" comments.

What really blows my mind, though, is trying to understand what's going on in the heads of the people who write these laws. Are they:
a) Evil, opportunistic bastards who know full well what these laws are about and actually want a Fascist police state.
b) Those kneejerk-y and profoundly stupid folks who respond to any unusual situation or crisis- whether personal or national- by demanding extremist and childish responses because they're stuck in an emotional tornado. For example, Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" highlighted a Soldier of Fortune editorial that literally called for the killing of Afghans and then "piss[ing] on their graves". Delightful...
c) So freakin' ignorant of or incapable of understanding the established legal and historical reasons for why such draconian laws are b.s. and a horrible precedent that they've always wanted to repeal them.
d) Following some other reasoning I'm having a hell of a time imagining.

I mean, seriously- what the fawk are these people thinking? Even if they never see the error in their ways, don't they ever, oh, have dinner with friends or a drink at the local pub, and mention the laws they're working on? And wouldn't the response generally be "What are you, fawkin' insane?! You can't write laws like that!"?
posted by hincandenza at 4:13 AM on November 14, 2001

I personally think that Blair thinks he's doing everything for the best and that this tricky accountability thing keeps getting in the way. If he can just stop people questioning his power then he can make the country perfect. He's already proposing that the House of Lords should be made up of 60 per cent appointees. His one opportunity to make the Lords properly democratic and he fills it with his mates.
posted by Summer at 4:34 AM on November 14, 2001

Not to open up a can of worms, but let's do a few things here:

1) Go review the MeFi thread from 9/11.
2) Remember how you felt that day, when four men (11 or more of the hijackers personal belongings indicate that they believed this was a routine hostage taking situation) and a few accomplices were all it took to bring down two of the largest buildings in the world, and strike at the heart of the American military.
3) Come up with a better idea then post it here. Instead of saying "the government scares me" provide an alternative.
posted by swerdloff at 4:48 AM on November 14, 2001

um, note - i received the above via email and it does not represent my views. (which lean toward 'kill them all and let allah sort them out')
posted by quonsar at 5:05 AM on November 14, 2001

Swerdloff, your question might have some validity if the sole and genuine intention of these kind of liberty-limiting laws was to end all terrorism. But it's not: in the UK they've been bringing these laws in piecemeal for years with little or no reference to terrorism. The first sign was a law basically designed to end large-scale outdoor parties and large-scale public protests. The next was the RIP act designed to enable security forces to intercept our e-mail and Web transmissions or to force us to hand over encryption keys. The aim is to conserve order, of course, but also to make it easier for police to search/prosecute after the event.

This has little to do with terrorism and everything to do with opportunism. Because we're in a more malleable, frightened state after 9/11, we're more likely to go along with laws that previously would have been perceived as too Draconian. The biggest solution I can think of to help end terrorism (apart from increased diplomatic efforts) would be increased funding for police and a better-trained intelligence department. But internment without trial? It's just designed to aid lazy policing and it's a contradiction of the human rights legislation which our own government was championing so vigorously a few months ago.
posted by skylar at 5:15 AM on November 14, 2001

The kings always maintain power, and the slaves always work on the plantation.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
posted by UnReality at 5:41 AM on November 14, 2001

Hmmm, detention without trial, incitement to hatred laws.... It's just like the old days. (those fluent in legalese may want to check out the funky anti-terrorist goodness of section 29)
posted by muppetfiend at 5:52 AM on November 14, 2001

Wish we'd had a revolution.

We did, arguably we we were the first. We just don't call it that.
posted by vbfg at 6:07 AM on November 14, 2001

I see that Mr Blunkett wants to "ensure and safeguard our way of life against those who would take our freedom away". Frankly, I'm all for anyone who's against people taking our freedoms away.

Have anti-terrorism laws had noticible benefits in the past? Or do they just lead to corruption and sloppy police work?
posted by dlewis at 6:13 AM on November 14, 2001

Skylar - your lack of alternatives and belief that "this system is bad" (paraphrasing) doesn't eliminate the need for a well reasoned response to my question.

Railing against government injustice is as useful as masturbation. It may make you feel good, but a few minutes later you wonder why you're all alone.

I reiterate - if you don't like it, propose an alternative.
posted by swerdloff at 6:18 AM on November 14, 2001

Well said Skylar, I feel my civil liberties being eroded a little more each time I open a newspaper, the 'threat' of terrorism has now given the government a cloak of respectability to hide behind.
As previously mentioned, we had internment in Northern Ireland and it didn't work, but that was under the last government so this time it will all be different right? We can trust uncle Tony.
For an enlightening view of how the current govenment is run, the infighting, power struggle between Blair and Brown and the obsession with spin and image, Andrew Rawnsley's book Servants of the People is a fine read.
One only has to recall the 'Good day to bury bad news' memo of September the 11th to see what the government seem to be about.
swerdloff - with respect, the events of September the 11th affected New Yorkers far more than those of us in the UK for many reasons, British people have had random acts of senseless violence committed against us for many years. I remember how I felt on the day, shocked and horrified - I can't imagine how it must feel to be an American for whom such acts were previously unknown. But that's not what we're talking about here, we are talking about a country which has not been attacked by Al Qaida declaring a state of emergency and passing draconian laws which have been tried before against terrorism and arguably exacerbated the situation.
posted by Markb at 6:27 AM on November 14, 2001

markb: the 'threat' of terrorism

Exactly what are those scare quotes doing there?
posted by frednorman at 6:31 AM on November 14, 2001

swerdloff, many have... Just because someone didn't do it in this thread for you doesn't invalidate the alternate point of view...

Whiter RichLyon in this debate? He had some interesting things to say a while back:
[..]I'll tell you though, for what it is worth, why I believe in my part of the world those things aren't true
posted by fooljay at 6:37 AM on November 14, 2001

dont make me come over here. come on, dont you want another glorious revolution? Are you all so afraid of your laws that you would no faith on those laws being changed if abused? Are you just waiting for a "reichstag fire?" I see the possible repercussions in these laws. "use this handy guide to discern differences between terrorists and the u.s. government governments everywhere" Your mirror is cracked and the smoke machine is on loan.
posted by clavdivs at 6:41 AM on November 14, 2001

swerdloff, that's a nice rhetorical trick to impose on others to propose alternatives if you haven't proven what the current alternative does to prevent future terrorism that laws already on the books don't. Enlighten us, please.
posted by mmarcos at 6:43 AM on November 14, 2001

And I though the monarchy made England a bad place to live!
posted by TacoConsumer at 6:55 AM on November 14, 2001

Exactly, mmarcos. My alternative would be precisely nothing. Leave the laws as they are. The onus is on the government to prove they're correct, not for us to prove they're not. Remember to
email your MP
posted by Summer at 6:57 AM on November 14, 2001

And I though the monarchy made England a bad place to live!

The monarchy, having no power, has always been the least of our worries.
posted by Summer at 6:59 AM on November 14, 2001

frednorman, my bad. I was trying to emphasise the level of threat implied by the actions taken by the govenment rather than indicate I saw no threat at all.
posted by Markb at 6:59 AM on November 14, 2001

markb: the 'threat' of terrorism

Exactly what are those scare quotes doing there?

Because the threat, while valid, is minimal.

A serial killer may see you on the street and decide you'd make a perfect victim. If he is at all competent, there would be very little you could do to defend yourself against his subsequent attack, which would be highly planned and totally non-telegraphed. And yet, this fact impacts virtually none of us (despite the fact that there are estimated to be in excess of 500 serial killers operating in this country at any given time). And the government doesn't propose a whole slate of restrictive and power-consolidating measures to "protect" us from this very real but insignificant threat.

Buildings blowing up and planes crashing make good TV. TV influences emotion. People are prone to panic and overestimate a threat when it is presented to them (and reinforced) in certain ways.

Will there be more terror attacks of some sort in the future? Quite likely, because they, too, are impossible to completely defend against, no matter how draconian your measures. Will they seriously impact our way of life in the U.S.? Only if we let them.
posted by rushmc at 7:17 AM on November 14, 2001

Oh, Canada, you're doing it, too. OTTAWA (CP) - An American social activist remains under arrest in Ottawa in advance of the G-20 economic summit this weekend. Lisa Fithian was held in custody Tuesday by Citizenship and Immigration authorities after arriving Monday from Los Angeles. ...Jamie Kneen of the group Global Democracy Ottawa said Wednesday that Fithian planned to teach peaceful protest techniques. ...Grounds for detention include being a flight risk before a deportation hearing can take place, or being deemed a risk to Canadians.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:32 AM on November 14, 2001

Swerdloff, I *did* propose an alternative. Re-read my message before criticising me for lacking suggestion. Here is the alternative I suggested: The biggest solution I can think of to help end terrorism (apart from increased diplomatic efforts) would be increased funding for police and a better-trained intelligence department.
posted by skylar at 8:17 AM on November 14, 2001

Gotta love that lack of checks and balances against the executive. At least you can Fax Your MP.
posted by holgate at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2001

It wont get through parliament intact i think.
posted by iain at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2001

Markb, for those of us who missed it - what was "the 'Good day to bury bad news' memo of September the 11th"?
posted by kokogiak at 9:08 AM on November 14, 2001

kokogiak - This is the story. Jo Moore is an adviser to our Transport Minister who sent out a memo suggesting that Sept. 11th was a 'good day to bury unpopular news stories' within an hour of the second plane hitting WTC. Her minister was, at the time mired in controversy about the future of Railtrack, the now-defunct company, set up by the previous government to oversee the UK railway system.
posted by Markb at 9:24 AM on November 14, 2001

It should be pointed out that the memo you mention Markb was sent before either tower collapsed. And that most governments with bad news will use worse news elsewhere to bury it.
posted by iain at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2001

an hour after the wtc crash a uk govt spin doctor sent an email saying they should use this event to get out bad news whilst the media were busy elsewhere. the person concerned is still in their job.

your points are simply not valid. for example internment in ireland resulted in a massive increase in IRA members and support. it will not work.

but, as the links make clear, it will be effective against any group who protest, even peacefully, against govt actions. in any field.

also, all govt bodies will have to provide all information on a citizen to the police or intelligence services, on request.
posted by quarsan at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2001

Bury not being the best way to say that, sorry.
posted by iain at 9:31 AM on November 14, 2001

iain, I'm under no false impressions about the use of spin or the tactics of many governments to release news and policy descisions at the most opportune moment. However the Jo Moore episode to me shows the current obsession this government has with image and spin. Yes, the memo was penned before the collapse of the towers but does that make it any more acceptable?
I don't feel able to take government announcements at face value, I find myself wondering what the spin is, what they are trying to hide, how they are trying to mislead me?
Read the above mentioned book, it's a real eye opener.
posted by Markb at 9:44 AM on November 14, 2001

i had to check my calendar for a second. what year is this again? 2001 or 1984?
posted by ronv at 12:34 PM on November 14, 2001

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