Wednesday, October 03, 2007

National Campaign against 'Anti-Terror' Powers:
Month of Action in Oct-Nov 2007

Why this national campaign?

The government is planning yet more 'anti-terrorism' measures, which will go to Parliament in a new bill in October. This ‘anti-terror’ bill reinforces a trend beginning with the Terrorism Act 2000, whose broad definition of terrorism criminalised normal political activities, potentially on the basis of suspected ‘association’. This law was followed by three more in 2001, 2005, 2006; these multiplied extra police powers (e.g. glorification of terrorism), punishment without trial and treatment of ‘suspects’ as guilty, thus bypassing due process.

Together these laws have normalised detention without trial under various guises, such as control orders and immigration rules, whereby the accused never see the evidence against them.

This national campaign is bringing together many organisations and individuals involved in defending civil society against the politics of fear and insecurity unleashed by 'anti-terror' laws. The campaign includes civil liberties activists, migrant groups, religious groups, lawyers, journalists, academics, trade unions and environmental campaigners amongst others. We invite you to join the campaign.

The campaign will oppose all current anti-terror laws as well as their extension. This broad approach will help to involve everyone affected by those powers, could deter their use, and will provide extra reasons to oppose their extension.

Who is supporting this campaign?

The campaign is supported by a coalition of 20 organisations:

Peace & Progress; Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC); Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC); Stop the War Coalition (STWC); Cageprisoners; Index on Censorship; Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF); Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRD); Kurdish Federation UK; London Guantanamo Campaign (LGC); The Muslim Parliament; Tamil Centre for Human Rights; Tamil Campaign for Truth and Justice; Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC); Peace and Justice in East London; Centre for the Study of Terrorism (CFSOT); Panjaab National History Society; South Asia Solidarity Group(SASG);Justice not Vengeance(JNV); Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Baluch Human Rights Group.

What can you do?

You can as an individual or as a part of organisation make a difference. Here are some suggestions

Put anti terror laws on the agenda of local organisations, such as anti-war groups, religious groups, civil society associations and trade unions.

Disseminate briefing papers, information leaflets to through emails.

Publicise the initiative in newsletters and display leaflets in libraries and places of worship.

Organise local public meetings and building local coalitions.

Hold high street stalls to raise awareness and gather signatures for petition.

Give out information outside community centres and places of worship.

Send letters to the mass media, local media plus articles in alternative media.

Collect signatures for a petition demanding that your MP should vote against any extension of ‘anti-terror’ powers.

Sign a Petition here

Lobby your MP within your constituency by fixing a time for the meeting and inviting others to join the lobby.

Join us at the lobby at the House of Commons, with a public meeting in Parliament in October/November

What is at stake?

The government’s proposals include the power to detain 'terror suspects' without charge for up to 56 days (double the current 28-day limit), post-charge questioning, and more severe sentences for any ‘terrorist-related’ crime.

In 2005 Parliament also authorised 28-day detention without charge, under the pretext that the police sometimes need the extra time to investigate terrorist threats. Yet the political logic is just the opposite: such powers encourage lengthy detention on the basis of scant evidence or disinformation, as in many recent cases. Holding a person in detention for 8 weeks is equivalent to 4 months custodial sentence. Of the 1228 arrested under anti-terror laws from 2001-2007, only a tiny number 41 have been convicted for involvement with or plans for violent activities; meanwhile personal reputation, jobs and family lives have been damaged for the rest.

Also proposed is a new criminal offence of seeking information that could be useful for terrorism, whether or not the seeker intends such a use. For mere suspicion of involvement in terrorism, anyone could face travel restrictions and be deprived of their passport.

Even worse, all these special powers relate to a broad definition of 'terrorism'. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, terrorism includes any activity which simply poses a threat of damage to property in pursuit of a political cause. Any suspicion of a political motive can trigger and justify special powers. They can and have been used against peaceful protest which posed no threat to anyone – for example, people standing outside the arms fair in Docklands or residents opposing the loss of their homes for a third runway at Heathrow airport.

A recent prosecution illustrates the vague crime of ‘terrorist’ association. Four university students and a schoolboy from Bradford were jailed for possessing DVDs of radical Imams – officially labelled as material ‘for terrorist purposes’ (The Guardian, 27.07.07). The defendants were charged under the Terrorism Act 2000, which was supposedly aimed at people who hoard detonators and combustible chemicals. Thus a court now considers DVDs to be as dangerous as Semtex; this says much about the way in which security laws are being used politically.

To justify detention without trial, in 2001 the government claimed that we faced a national emergency, as a basis to claim exemption from the European Convention on Human Rights. When the Law Lords declared those powers illegal in 2004, the government soon got Parliament to authorise 'control orders', a form of house arrest which turns homes into prisons. These have resulted in collective punishment of families including children with restrictions on visits by friends and denial of use of the Internet. The government is now proposing confiscating homes of convicted terrorist thereby punishing family members who usually have little knowledge of any actions planned by the convicted person.

All these ‘anti-terror’ powers amount to punishment without trial. They are well suited for harassing, punishing and criminalising protests of all kinds. The authorities can readily create more 'terror suspects' and treat them as guilty, while promoting a politics of fear. Now ongoing terrorist threats are supposed to justify more severe powers than during the violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

The government’s new proposals extend the injustice of measures already in force. Longer pre-charge detention periods, along with post-charge questioning, will further encourage arbitrary arrests and put psychological pressure on prisoners. Information 'which could be useful for terrorism' can mean nearly anything and would generally be linked with politics to justify prosecutions, as well as to harass activists. Restrictions could be imposed on travellers to international demonstrations.

Special 'anti-terror' powers needed only for political purposes, e.g. to stigmatise and persecute individuals as 'terror suspects'. Their aims are clearly demonstrated by special powers regarding mere suspicion or association with a vaguely defined ‘terrorism’. The use of such powers is inherently unjust – and unnecessary to protect the public from violent threats. The ordinary criminal law would be adequate for that purpose.

Using terrorist threats as a pretext, the government tries to establish a permanent state of emergency. This trend towards a police state can be stopped only by us collectively reclaiming the rights that have been taken away from us.

We must deter the use of 'anti-terror' powers and dissuade Parliament from voting for their extension.

For further information and updates please visit or

Oppose yet more ‘anti-terror’ powers!
No to a permanent state of emergency!

Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC),
Tel 020 7586 5892

Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)
Tel 07936432519

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