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From a longer article at http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article316691.ece

October 3 2005

How Labour has tried to get around its obligations to civil liberties

 

Opting out of human rights

 
Labour first sought to sidestep its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights after the 11 September terror attacks. Anti-terror legislation rushed through Parliament gave the Home Secretary the power to indefinitely detain foreign terror suspects by derogating from the ECHR. That was ruled unlawful by the House of Lords in December last year. Control orders quickly followed which, lawyers argued, amounted to house arrest, another form of indefinite detention. These measures have now been dropped in favour of deportation orders, this time requiring Britain to derogate from international prohibitions on torture. Since the London bombing in July, Tony Blair has talked about how the rules of the game have changed while his ministers have made veiled threats about opting out of human rights conventions.
 

Freedom of expression

 
Part of the Government's crack down on terrorism is a new offence of glorifying terrorism. Civil rights groups argue that it is so broadly drafted that it will restrict legitimate debate within Islamic communities. Such debate is vital because it can help persuade young Islam extremists that it is better to follow paths of peaceful protest than a course of violent action.
 

Right to a fair trial

 
The Government's assault on jury trial can be traced back to 2000 when Jack Straw proposed an end to the right to trial by jury for thousands of defendants accused of crimes such as shoplifitng, burglary and criminal damage. The Government was forced to withdraw the measure after fierce opposition from its backbenchers. But it has succeeded in "tipping the scales" in favour of the prosecution through the introduction of judge-only trials for serious and complex fraud cases as well as cases where jury nobbling is a risk. Further measures, including allowing juries to know of a defendant's criminal record and the abolition of the double jeopardy rule, have also been interpreted as an attack on the citizen's right to a fair trial.
 

Internment

 
Proposals before Parliament would allow police officers to keep terror suspects in detention for up to three months without charge. This is the equivalent of a six month jail sentence and strikes at the heart of habeas corpus, the right of a citizen to be charged or freed. Critics say that the measure would turn Britain into a police state with some suspects "disappearing" for long periods.
 

Right to privacy

 
The new ID cards are being resisted by civil rights groups which believe they will give the state unrestricted access to confidential information that is currently protected by privacy and data legislation. Further concerns centre on the way the police will use the new laws to target groups of citizens who do not have ID cards or individuals who cannot provide ID. The Information Commissioner has expressed concern about the fraudulent use of ID cards and the potential for ID theft.
 

Right not to be tortured

 
The Government is negotiating with several Muslim countries, most notably Algeria, to obtain written guarantees that ministers hope will permit them to deport foreign terror suspects. But lawyers says these "memoranda of understanding" have no legal standing and will not protect suspects from torture if they are sent home. Next month, the Government will defend its right to use evidence that may have been gained through torture carried out by another state or its security services. Ministers hope the House of Lords will uphold an earlier Court of Appeal ruling which said that, with certain safeguards, torture evidence obtained by a third party could be admissible in a UK court.