Friday, 23 December 2011

Time for change after 10 years of detention without trial

A man known only as G will be marking the 10th anniversary this week of being detained without trial by the British state.
"I’ve been here 10 years now, no trial, no charge, no evidence produced to challenge. Me, my wife and children don’t know how long it will take to attain justice and freedom," said G.
G and another man are the only two who remain of the 13 originally picked up in December 2001, following the passing into law of the Anti-terror Crime and Security Act (ATCSA).
The men, mainly Algerian, were taken to Belmarsh Prison, where they were detained. “I was put together with the other detainees. We were kept a minimum of 22 hours in the cell and never saw the sky. I did not see my wife for six months,” recalled G.
In 2004 there was the House of Lords ruling that the ATCSA was unlawful under the Human Rights Act. This resulted in the regime, known as control orders being developed. Detainees were restricted to a house or flat, with stipulations about where they could move in the local geographical location and at what times. Access to phones and the internet were banned. They had to ring the tagging company regularly.
The process that has kept G and others incarcerated over recent years has been overseen by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). This body operates under immigration law, dealing with cases where national security is in question. It operates with special advocates representing the detainee.
Lawyers for the detainees are not able to see all the material relating to why they are being held. The accused have never been told of what they are accused.
The government has been prevented from deporting the individuals concerned due to the danger that they may face torture or worse in the countries from which they fled. Some though have returned due to the mental torture being imposed by indefinite detention in the UK.
Two men who returned to Algeria were subsequently imprisoned in that country after receiving assurances before they left England.
Another Algerian man, Mustafa Taleb, was originally one of eight people accused of involvement in what became known as the ricin trial, where no ricin was ever found. Arrested in 2003, the case came to court in 2005 when all eight accused were cleared.
Then came the London bombings. A number of the acquitted men were picked up, including Mustafa Taleb, as well as G. They were served with deportation notices on the basis of being national security threats. Since that time these men have been held either in prison or under the house arrest style conditions.
Mustafa Taleb now lives alone, allowed out at set times and only able to move within a restricted area.
One person who has regularly visited him over recent years has been Bruce Kent, who has been appalled at what he has seen. “He has the marks on his body to this day from the torture and the British government want to send him back to the torturers,” said Mr Kent. “It is disgraceful and against British law to go on detaining people without knowing of what they are accused.”
Solicitor Gareth Peirce, who represents a number of the men and formerly represented the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, sees parallels with the treatment of the Muslims today and the Irish. She claims the lessons of the Troubles have not been learned.
Mrs Peirce believes the Muslim men held in detention have been treated as guinea pigs by the British government to see how far it can push things. “The continuing experiment is dangerous and insidious in more than one way. It has become very clear that when one challenge is overcome the goalposts are moved and a new system comes in,” said Mrs Peirce.

The Troubles provides an important link, suggesting that the whole process of cutting rights at the behest of maintaining security under the aegis of anti-terror law has been a work in process for the past 40 years.
So the Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced in 1974 following the Birmingham pub bombings. Described as “draconian” by its author, then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, the PTA brought in seven day detention without charge. This was renewed annually.

Then as the peace process took hold at the close of the century and prior to 9/11, the Terrorism Act 2000 was introduced bringing in 14 day pre-charge detention.
After 9/11, the ATCSA was brought in bringing about the regime of internment with few limits. This has been refined since, with control orders and their successor the terrorism, prevention and investigation measures (Tpims)

The level of pre-charge detention went up to 28 days in 2005 after the Labour Government was defeated over its efforts to get 90 days passed.

So the plight of those individuals who remain detained without trial after ten years remains part of a work in progress. The last decade has simply been an extension of what went before in the Irish context, with the gradual extension of a security state that is accountable to no one. It has grown up in the shadows and Mrs Peirce is right those unfortunate individuals like G, Mustafa Taleb and others have become the guinea pigs for this process. And with the threat of civil unrest on the horizon, with the worsening economic situation, there can be little doubt that the security state will find more willing accomplices in government prepared to extend its powers still further. The big question for the rest of us is when will we say enough and insist that the rule of law is restored for all citizens of this country and that there will be no further detention without trial?

No comments:

Post a Comment