Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Send 'em home and let 'em hang

So we have this tribunal decision that says that foreign terrorists can't be held forever without a trial*. Is this good news?

On the face of it it should be. This was obviously at least in part an attempt by the government to see how far they could get away with undermining habeus corpus, and on those grounds at least there should be some grounds for celebration. Except there isn't. The government would have been perfectly OK to detain these pesky firiners if they were also at liberty to detain free born Englishmen. And as no free-born Englishmen are allowed to be detained then no one will be detained.

This means that the detentions are perfectly legal if they relate to a threat against the nation - on secret evidence, and a threat against the nation is the war on terror, and the war on terror can never really be said to stop. Furthermore the government will not make this detention legal by strengthening judicial safeguards, but by also giving itself the liberty to detain without trial British subjects. So the result of this is that the government now has an open ended right to detain British citizens. Very liberal.

Now how did we get to this mess in the first place? Well the rot starts, as it usually does, with Europe. This time its the European Convention on Human Rights. You see not only are we not allowed to use the death penalty, but we are not allowed to send terror suspects back to where they came from if that country has the death penalty.

It says so in the legislation:

23 Detention

(1) A suspected international terrorist may be detained under a provision specified in subsection (2) despite the fact that his removal or departure from the United Kingdom is prevented (whether temporarily or indefinitely) by-

(a) a point of law which wholly or partly relates to an international agreement, or

Now that point of law relates to sending back criminals where they will get fried by their own governments and the international agreement is the European Convention of Human Rights.

So thanks to the ECHR we are not allowed to send foreign criminals back to foreign governments, but we are allowed to detain free-born Britons indefinately. Got that?

* No this is not Guatanamo Bay, you should have followed the link.


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