Terrorism Act 'used to halt protest'
Wednesday July 16, 2003
The civil liberties group Liberty claims police breached the human rights of anti-war protesters at a Gloucestershire RAF base by using powers under the Terrorism Act to stop them demonstrating.
Liberty has called on the Commons select committee on home affairs to investigate alleged breaches of the European convention on human rights at RAF Fairford, used by American B-52 bombers during the Iraq conflict.
Liberty's report, Eight Weeks of Counter Terrorism in Rural England, says there was a policy of serving section 44 orders against demonstrators to stop protests. The orders give police absolute powers to stop, search and disperse people they believe are terrorists or are about to take part in terrorist acts.
A spokesman for Liberty said: "We would like to know who gave the order to use anti-terrorism legislation to curb legitimate protest."
Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary, said: "In any society there must be a balance between liberty and security, and it is always difficult to strike a fair balance faced with the threat of terrorist acts. However, on the basis of the evidence in the report, I believe the policing of the demonstrations at RAF Fairford got the balance wrong."
A Gloucestershire police spokeswoman could not comment for legal reasons, but said civil proceedings had been started "with regard to the use of legal powers during the policing of RAF Fairford" during the Iraq conflict.