Trial and terror

SchNEWS, Issue 336, [December] 2001

The world does not need a war against “terrorism”, it needs a culture of peace based on human rights and justice for all.

Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General

The events of September 11 and the campaign against terrorism are being used across the world as an excuse for governments to bring in more repressive laws, along with redefining and widening who the terrorists could be. And if that means taking away the very freedoms that governments claim to be defending, well, that's surely a price worth paying.

In Britain we can feel proud that we are leading the way in the race to the bottom of the civil liberties barrel. On Monday the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act became law — two days later eight people became the lucky winners in the “we've decided you're a terrorist so were locking you up without trial” Christmas draw.

This hotch-potch of a bill includes not just internment (see SchNEWS 331), but a whole host of civil liberty busting BLAH. As Raif Smyth from the Coalition Against the Terror Act said “The truth is, the mandarins at the Home Office have used the Bill as a Trojan horse to get into law all the dodgy proposals at the bottom of their filing cabinets.” In Europe, heads of state are pushing ahead with an “anti-terrorism roadmap” with plans to add two new databases on the Schengen Information System (SIS—see SchNEWS 312). SIS already holds files on nearly one and a half million people. One of the new databases would cover public order and protests and lead to, “Barring potentially dangerous persons from participating in certain events.” Such as anti capitalist protests outside international summits by any chance? “Targetted” suspects would be tagged with an “alert” on the SIS computer, barring them from entering the country where a protest or event was taking place.

In the Czech Republic, a new law permits the prosecution of people expressing sympathy for the attacks on New York, or even of those sympathising with the sympathisers! Already one Czech journalist, Tomas Pecina, a reporter for the Prague-based investigative journal Britske Listy, has been arrested and charged for criticising the use of the law, on the grounds that this makes him, too, a supporter of terrorism. Meanwhile in Turkey, that well known human rights haven, just publishing a book by Noam Chomsky could land Fatih Tas with a fine or spell in prison, under the country's anti-terrorism laws. Chomsky apparently overstepped the mark when he wrote in“US Interventions”: “the Kurds have been oppressed throughout history… but that changed (in 1984) tens of thousands of people were killed, two or three million had to migrate, 3,500 villages were destroyed… an intense ethnic clean-up.” So while it's ok for the Turkish state to carry out attacking the Kurds, it's terrorism and “separatist propaganda” to talk about it.