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|Civil rights groups in jeopardy over new laws|
|02/19/01 at 18:17:10|
|Civil rights groups in jeopardy over new laws|
Terrorism Act: Legitimate protest organisations concerned over extensive
powers of investigation for police
By Kim Sengupta
20 February 2001
Britain's new Terrorism Act came into force yesterday, giving the
Government more sweeping powers against those deemed to be enemies of
When in opposition, Labour MPs, including Jack Straw, had voted against
the 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act. But the legislation now replacing
it is far more draconian and puts legitimate protest groups in jeopardy,
under the catch-all term of "terrorism".
Civil rights and agitprop groups have already declared opposition to the
new law. Yesterday, activists from the Reclaim the Streets group
gathered in Parliament Square, along with other protesters, to lobby
The law extends the defitition of terrorism, previously an exclusively
political crime,to anyone motivated by a "political, religious or
ideological" cause and who uses violence and the threat of violence
against people or property. This means those campaigning against GM
foods and for animal welfare could face prosecution.
The Act is also intended to deter groups based in Britain from promoting
terrorist action abroad. This could, in theory, lead to the embarrassing
situation of the Iraqi National Congress, the London-based anti-Saddam
group, being prosecuted. The new Bush administration in Washington has
just given approval for the INC to spend about $30m (£20.7m) of
congressional aid for operations inside Iraq.
Speaking at the same meeting as someone from a proscribed organisation
will be a criminal offence, even if the speaker is there to oppose the
view of the proscribed group. Any gathering of of three or more people,
including, for example, an informal group in a pub, would constitute a
Civil liberties groups say key passages in the Act have been copied
almost verbatim from the FBI. And the Home Office acknowledged it was
studying an US State Department list of nearly 40 "designated"
organisations to see which should be added to Britain's proscribed list
of 14, all of them Irish.
The US has banned groups such as the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) and the Tamil Tigers, all of whom have bases in
London. In Britain, the Sri Lankan and Indian governments have
complained of Tamil and Kashmiri separatists, and Egypt accused Britain
of giving the "hospitality of the taxpayer" to Islamists convicted, in
absentia, by courts in Cairo.
The Home Secretary said the new legislation strengthened civil liberties
at the same time as it increased police powers. He added: "In this
country we have a very clear tradition by which people are fully
entitled to engage is all kinds of peaceful, sometimes very noisy
protest. But they are not entitled to engage in seeking to disrupt the
way our democracy operates. People sometimes forget that all the
principal criminal offences which terrorists are charged with and
convicted of are offences in the main criminal code. What the Terrorism
Act does is give the police better powers of investigation than they
will have otherwise for ordinary criminals."
Roger Bingham of Liberty, said: "The new law means those who carry out
purely criminal acts, for greed or viciousness, will have more rights
than those accused of offences inspired by idealism who will have to
spend longer in custody and will have to prove their innocence rather
than the prosecution prove their guilt.
"We have also got a very disturbing situation that people who oppose
oppressive regimes abroad can now be deemed to be supporting terrorism.
This would have meant that it would have been a terrorist offence to
support Nelson Mandela if the law had been in force at the time. Most
members of this government would have fallen foul of that. And what
about the Iraqi opposition groups? They, too, could be prosecuted."
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said he
feared the act "could prevent the activities of those seeking to work in
undemocratic countries to overthrow the regimes, or in democratic
countries to argue for minority rights".
There is also reservation in the Home Office. One senior source said:
"We also have the danger of double standards. Why shouldn't we prosecute
the INC? After all, they want to destabilise the government in Baghdad?
Where does one draw the moral line in this?"
|Re: Civil rights groups in jeopardy over new laws|
|02/19/01 at 20:31:44|
|On February 19 2001 a new Terrorism Act became part of British law. We believe it is vital for Muslims to be aware of as it will have serious rammifications for activists living in the British Isles. |
As Muslims we should be clear that we do not condone acts of Terrorism. Yet at the same time we should not sit idle while the government passes legislation that will try to stamp out our support for oppressed people throughout the world.
While dictionaries fundamentally associate terrorism with political change, the new definition of Terrorism (according to British law) goes far beyond that. Terrorism will now include the activity of those who seek religious or ideological change, regardless of whether such activity yields its results in the UK or outside of it. Furthermore, this draconian Act reverses the burden of proof - it will be up to the accused to prove their innocence, in other words: you're guilty until proven innocent.
It will give the police an array of sweeping new powers, allowing them to stop and search on the basis of "suspicion" alone - not of committing any offence - but of being connected, or potentially connected, to the bill's vague description of "terrorism".
The Act will allow ministers (specifically the Home Secretary - who interestingly opposed the earlier 1974 Terrorism Act) to add groups to a list of proscribed organisations. Once an organisation is on the list, it is illegal to be a member of the group, support it financially or vocally, display its emblems or share a platform with a member at a meeting. A meeting according to the act could merely be an informal conversation by three people sitting on a park bench.
What does that mean for us? It means that if an Islamic group that strives to correct the injustices met out by the Nazi-like state of Israel against the Palestinians is on the proscribed list of organisations, any support on our part for such a group, *even* if only vocal will make us terrorists in the eyes of British law.
It will be illegal to give financial assistance to such a group, and this is something whose impact we are already beginning to feel. Banks have refused to open accounts for some Muslim-run charities fearing that those charities may end up giving funds to organisations that the Home Secretary will ban, and thus become prosecutable themselves under the charge of aiding terrorists.
So when we see our trodden-on brothers & sisters in the news how will we get our money to them if banks will refuse to host the accounts of our charitable organisations? How do you feel that you will be labelled a terrorist for supporting those who fight to protect the lives and honour of our sisters & brothers in Kashmir?
The Act also introduces a criminal offence of "incitement" - an offence which could catch, for example, anyone calling for the overthrow of oppressive regimes abroad. Absurdly, it would have caught Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders who supported armed struggle against the racist-apartheid regime in South Africa. Would they have prosecuted Nelson Mandela? Or does the Act apply differently to non-Muslims?
And what of the Iraqi National Congress - the London-based anti-Saddam group who the new Bush administration in Washington has given $30m of aid to be used for operations inside Iraq? Will this group be charged under the new Terrorism Act? We doubt it.
Conversely, will the British government & its master America stop aiding the rebels in North Afghanistan who are trying to oust the ruling Taleban who control 95% of the country?
With no terrorist action having ever been committed in the name of Islam in Britain, and the Northern Ireland Process heading towards a lasting peace, one wonders why such an Act was required? Is the answer that this Act was passed to strangle the work of Islamic Activists inside Britain?
"They desire to put out the Light of All‚h with their mouths. But All‚h will complete His Light even though the disbelievers hate (it). It is He who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) with guidance and the religion of truth to make it victorious over all (other) religions even though the polytheists hate (it)." [Qur'an 61:8-9]
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