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Anti-terrorism bill,12780,1423820,00.html


'This is not the answer'

The new legislation sacrifices ancient freedoms for security

Thursday February 24, 2005
The Guardian

Daily Telegraph
Editorial, February 23
"The government got itself into a mess by holding foreigners in Belmarsh prison without trial, under a law brought in by David Blunkett three months after ... September 11. The law lords ruled last December that this was unlawful. So the government decided to ... bring in legislation that provides for house arrest of British citizens, as well as foreigners, on the say-so of a politician ...

"An unspoken, unpleasant defence of the new law is that only certain kinds of British citizen would suffer its rigours. Those citizens would tend to be dusky, with un-English names. Such thinking reflects a real problem ... If some Muslims were put under house arrest, their coreligionists would feel all the more like a suspect people. Such detention would be a recruiting sergeant for political Islamist extremists, just as internment was for Irish republican extremists."

Daily Mail
Editorial, February 23
"Over centuries, this nation has enjoyed a tradition of law and liberty that has been an example and inspiration to the world: the right to a fair trial; the presumption of innocence; and the principle that no citizen can have his freedom imperilled by the arbitrary power of the state. But for how much longer?

"In a draconian piece of legislation, this government proposes to tear up our treasured safeguards as part of the war on terror ... but this wretched measure is not a serious attempt to address this problem ... The party that misused intelligence on Iraq and hounded Dr David Kelly to his lonely death simply can't be trusted with the new powers it now demands." 

Editorial, February 23
"Those who say that the new powers Charles Clarke seeks are an affront to centuries-old principles of liberty may well be making a valid point in the context of theoretical debate in lawyers' chambers. But this is the real world. We're talking about terrorists blowing themselves up and taking innocent people with them. The issue is actually whether the government is being tough enough.

"After March 14, Mr Clarke will be powerless to keep the Belmarsh 10 behind bars because the law lords ruled it would breach their human rights under European law. Mr Clarke should be fighting that contrary decision. Surveillance, curfews and electronic tags will be no substitute for the security of a prison cell."

Editorial, February 23
"At the nub of the debate is the question of just how grave [the terrorist] threat is. The government argues that the sprawling terrorist entity known as al-Qaida represents a danger of a different order to anything Britain has ever faced. We disagree. We are facing a substantial threat from terrorism, and we expect our security services to play a vital, and unprecedented, role in protecting us in coming years. But we do not think the scale of the threat justifies the suspension of the right to trial."

Editorial, February 23
"Mr Clarke made a number of welcome concessions to his critics. He does not wish to assume the most draconian of the powers he proposes for himself, that of 'house arrest', immediately, a step that would require a derogation from Article 5 of the European convention on human rights ... [but] the House of Lords, in particular, should press Mr Clarke further. A mechanism by which the Home Office had to petition a judge, in a technique not dissimilar to winning a search warrant, would provide reassurance ...

"Parliament must act swiftly because the present provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2001 will expire in a mere 18 days. But there is enough time left for sensible and nonpartisan amendments to be tabled to a bill that retains some distinctly rough edges."

Editorial, Scotland, February 23
"Britain is not at war. Should we be prepared seriously to compromise our liberties to protect the values we hold dear against a threat that is unseen and unknown to the general public? The government believes we must gamble with our freedoms on trust ...

"We need balanced legisla tion that protects both the public and civil liberties. This hotch-potch of a bill, flawed and being rushed through like its predecessor, is not the answer."

Gulf Times
Editorial, Qatar, February 22
"A crucial clause of Magna Carta declares that: 'No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or ... in any way harmed ... save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.' That guarantee has existed for almost 800 years but now Mr Clarke wants to take to himself the right to hold suspected terrorists under house arrest indefinitely ...

"The US and British governments are trying to project the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq as great victories for their vision of a free and democratic world. They want Arab, Asian and African citizens to look to them as shining examples of how nations should be run. Unfortunately because of the overreaction to the threat of terrorism, oppressive regimes can point to the UK and US as examples to justify their own desire to lock up any 'terrorist' who opposes them."