Oppose the Counter Terrorism Act 2008


CAMPACC letter in Guardian

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This is about more than 42 days

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The Guardian, Tuesday June 3 2008

During the committee stage of the 2008 counter-terrorism bill, quite rightly, the proposed extension of pre-charge detention has been the subject of grave concern (Brown told detention is excessive and out of step with Europe, June 2). We are disturbed, however, that this exclusive focus on one aspect has diverted attention from other measures in the bill which are equally pernicious, given the excessively broad definition of terrorism established by the 2000 Terrorism Act.

Increasingly, "anti-terror" powers are used to convict individuals merely for alleged membership of "proscribed" political organisations, for possessing DVDs, for downloading web pages and to harass protesters for peaceful activities.

The bill will further widen the net of innocent people who will be incriminated. It creates a new offence of seeking or communicating information about the armed forces which could be useful to terrorism, which we fear will become yet another convenient tool for use against the peace movement. The bill also provides for sentences to be lengthened where an "ordinary" offence is said to be associated with terrorism, implying the possibility of long periods in jail for minor offences.

The bill proposes further forms of punishment that may be imposed after conviction, without further due legal process and even on the basis of secret evidence withheld from defendants, such as confiscation of property, bans on foreign travel, and requirements to report to the police whenever staying away from home.

While the new power for post-charge questioning of suspects helps to undermine any argument for extended detention without charge, it increases the risk that persons in custody for minor offences may be intimidated to make false confessions.

The measures to allow no-jury inquests in the name of "national security" would seriously undermine police accountability in cases like the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

We believe that counter-terror powers are already more than sufficient and that the counter-terrorism bill does more to endanger than to enhance public safety. It should therefore be opposed in its entirety. We urge members of the public to write to their MPs inviting them to vote against it.

Lord Rea, Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Bruce Kent Honorary vice president, CND, Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Frances Webber barrister, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Jonathan Bloch councillor, Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition, Liz Davies chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Louise Christian solicitor, Mark Oaten MP, Mark Thomas comedian and journalist, Massoud Shadjareh Islamic Human Rights Commission, Moazzam Begg spokesman for Cageprisoners and former Guantanamo detainee, Nicholas Hildyard policy analyst, Saleh Mamon Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, Victoria Brittain journalist