Caroline Heatlie on Wed, 28 Apr 2004 06:59:29 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Britain:_Blunkett_to_legislate_for_thought_crimes_and_guilt_by_association

 Twenty years after 1984, the date for George Orwell's dystopian vision, the
British home secretary hopes to introduce a new category of imprisonable
offence-"thought crime," or guilt by association.
According to two recent newspaper articles, David Blunkett is considering
jailing those who merely "sympathise" with so-called extremist Islamic
groups or who continue to "associate" with alleged terrorist suspects.

The Observer wrote on April 11, "Sympathisers with extremist Islamic groups
will risk jail under controversial plans to make merely associating with a
suspected terrorist a crime."

The next day, the Times reported, "Those whose names were found on seized
mobile phones, computers or e-mails and who tried further contact would find
themselves facing prison."

The paper added that the home secretary would like a formal warning given to
"every known contact of a terror suspect or extremist Islamic group." A
source close to the home secretary was quoted saying, "We are targeting
support networks, the things that enable terrorism to be perpetrated by
other people. It is intended to deter people from hanging around the fringes
of undesirables."

The latest musings of Blunkett are a double attack on democratic rights.

Firstly, the proposal to introduce "guilt by association" makes criminals of
those who have committed no crime. Secondly, by extension the so-called
"undesirables" with whom they associate face a form of banning order
reminiscent of the apartheid regime in South Africa, preventing them from
coming into contact with anyone.

Barry Hugill, spokesman for civil rights group Liberty, said, "You cannot
start imprisoning people for what may or may not be going on inside their

The Labour government has introduced some of the most draconian
"anti-terrorist" legislation in Europe. Britain has declared a "technical"
state of emergency, enabling the suspension of sections of the European
Convention on Human Rights. This then makes possible the indefinite
internment of foreign nationals as "terrorist suspects," without recourse to
the normal juridical process.

The 14 individuals who have been locked up under the terms of the
Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) enter a Kafkaesque world
where they may not see the evidence that supposedly justifies their
incarceration, nor may they appoint an independent legal representative to
challenge their imprisonment in the courts. They can only be set free if
they agree to be deported back to the country from which they have fled,
where their life may well be in danger. The choice is stark: indefinite
detention without due legal process, or possible death.

In February, Blunkett proposed the introduction of a form of "pre-emptive"
justice, where suspects could be jailed based on charges for crimes they had
not yet committed.

It is a measure of the disregard for longstanding democratic norms that
permeates official politics and most of the media in Britain that the home
secretary's latest proposal passed largely without comment or criticism.

See Also:
Britain: home secretary proposes "pre-emptive" justice
[10 February 2004]
Britain prepares its own version of US Patriot Act
[21 January 2004]

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: