Civil liberties

Freedom of Information: Not Quite Open Government

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Over 50,000 previously secret government documents have been released to the public this month as the Freedom of Information Act 2000 finally comes into effect.

Previously official information would typically be closed to public access for 30 years. But under the new rules people have the right to request information at any time and have that information supplied.

Civil Liberties: Resistance is on the Cards

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The centrepiece of home secretary David Blunkett's attacks on civil liberties, the ID card and national identity register, will be a far more difficult policy to introduce than Labour imagines.

Repeating the figure of 80 percent support for ID cards in opinion polls seems to bring Blunkett and company comfort, but as facts about the scheme become more apparent, support falls.

Civil Liberties: The Threat of Britain's Patriot Act

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As David Blunkett attempts to create a climate of fear, Mubin Haq looks at the real impact of the proposed Civil Contingencies Bill.

The destruction of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001 gave the pretext for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and allowed governments worldwide to stamp down on civil liberties and human rights. This was done in the name of security and tackling terrorism. The genuine fears of the population were played upon and the threat exaggerated to apocalyptic scenarios.

The Politics of Terror: The Threat to Freedom

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Our civil liberties are being eroded in the name of anti-terrorism.

Bush and Blair say the war on terror is a war to defend freedom. Some freedom. Over 700 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, and many more have been harassed and threatened with detention. Only about 70 of them have been charged - mostly with immigration offences. By December 2003 just seven had been convicted. None of these were found guilty of planning or carrying out specific 'acts of terror'. Almost all of the people arrested and harassed have been Muslims, but only two of the people convicted were Muslims.

Guantanamo Bay: 'This is Not the Dark Ages'

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Moazzam Begg and his wife Sally had fulfilled a lifelong dream to teach and work in Afghanistan, moving to Kabul with their three children a few months before the events of 9/11.

There they built wells giving access to fresh water in remote villages. When the US invaded Afghanistan they temporarily left for Islamabad. Their house was raided, and Moazzam was beaten up and taken away in the boot of a car by two US and two Pakistani soldiers. He was taken first to Kandahar, then Bagram airbase by the US military before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He has never been charged with any crime and has been denied any legal access. When five British citizens were released from the camp last month Moazzam was not among them.

Liberty Up Against the Law

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Is New Labour fighting terrorism or restricting our rights?

Last month three 12 year olds who were playing with a plastic toy pistol were suddenly surrounded by police patrol cars, arrested and reprimanded. Under new guidelines introduced by the Home Office in April, the children were then fingerprinted and required to give DNA samples--which will be kept for life. This outrageous incident is but one example of the opportunistic assault New Labour has launched on our civil liberties in the aftermath of 11 September.

Civil liberties - The Big Brother House in Westminster

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New Labour likes to vaunt its modernising project--particularly when it comes to the rights of the individual. Yet its obsession with the right wing agenda--particularly crime, benefits, asylum seekers and now terrorism--pushes it in the direction of strengthening the state and eroding civil liberties.

Last month Tony Blair promised a new white paper, the eleventh piece of criminal justice legislation since Labour came to office in 1997. It would ditch the double jeopardy rule that prevents people being tried twice for the same crime--even though the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence rejected the move.

There would be a new intermediate tier of justice, where a judge sitting with two lay magistrates tried cases too serious to be tried by magistrates on their own, in practice imposing even tighter restrictions on the right to jury trial.

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