URGENT ALERT: Blair silences genuine dissidents

URGENT ALERT

ISLAMIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
PO Box 598, Wembley, London, UK, HA0 4XX

1 September, 1998

For immediate release

Blair silences genuine dissidents
Juntas and dictators celebrate as Britain introduces ‘anti-terror’ laws

The British government is intending to introduce new laws to fight ‘terrorism’. The laws will include wide-ranging powers to stop support and association with groups deemed to be ‘inflicting terror’ abroad. The Islamic Human Rights Commission is deeply disturbed by this development.

Firstly, the definition of ‘terrorism’ is too wide to be used fairly. Currently banned organisation can fall into this category. This could effect e.g. the Algerian groups campaigning for justice in their homeland, who are based in the UK, as they are currently considered to be ‘terrorist’ by the Algerian regime.

Secondly, issues such as verbal support and association with groups who are deemed to be associating with banned groups, can also be an offence. Basically anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim carrying out some form of political activity could be targeted by various means of associating them with ‘banned’ groups.

Thirdly, the rules of evidence seem to be much lower, allowing conviction upon the word of one senior police officer. If a suspect remains silent (a constitutional right in the UK) this will be deemed as a sign of guilt.

Islamophobia in the UK is on the rise. Over a year ago we saw the temporary closure of a charity collecting aid for Palestinian children, without the type of laws proposed. IHRC fears that the Muslim community could be criminalised by this act, even though no crime has been committed.

The new laws are being put before parliament on 2-3 September. The laws breach the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. IHRC is asking campaigners, in particular those based outside the UK to e-mail or fax the following as a matter of urgency, stating their concern regarding the new laws.

Tony Blair, Prime Minister
Fax: (+44) 171 925 0918
Tel: (+44) 171 270 3000

Jack Straw, Home Secretary, Home Office
Fax: (+44) 171 273 2190
Tel: (+44) 171 273 4000
e-mail: gen.ho@gtnet.gov.uk

Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights
Fax: (+4122) 9170092
e-mail: webadmin.hchr@unorg.ch

The text of the IHRC Press Release on this matter is listed below. Please contact us with your ideas, responses or for more information.

The attempted introduction of so-called anti-terror legislation by the government next week, is being strongly opposed by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. In a letter to all MPs, IHRC outlines, what it sees as the enormous potential for miscarriages of justice and violations of basic human rights.

Urging MPs to oppose the bill, IHRC cites the problems of definition:

“…’conspiracy’, ‘acts of terror’ , need to be clarified, before the moral validity of any such legislation is even discussed…It is indeed an anomaly that the government has resisted the introduction of legislation to combat religious discrimination, because it feels that the terms cannot be adequately defined. Surely this is even more so the case with the present bill.”

Measures which are designed to prosecute anyone supporting, aiding or associating with a banned ‘terrorist’ organisation, are open to incredible abuse in the service of governments and regimes friendly to the UK. Both France and Algeria are known to have pressurised Britain over the anti-junta activists who have sought asylum in the UK. Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and many other regimes with nationals of banned ‘terrorist’ organisations in the UK, will be ecstatic at the news of the wide-ranging powers of arrest and prosecution made available in the bill.

The limitation of freedom of speech and association as a result of these measures, are clear violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to be made law in the UK by the Human Rights Bill. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Britain is also a signatory, will also be breached by the bill.

With the demonisation of Muslims ever increasing, IHRC fears that the new laws, if enacted, will only serve to additionally criminalise Muslims (and others), when in fact no crime has been comitted.