Reclaiming our Rights conference
Report of the conference by Paul Donovan, 2nd Dec 2006
Lawyer Gareth Peirce questioned whether anything had been learned from the history of what had happened to perpetuate the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Addressing a conference organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities at the London Metropolitan University Mrs Peirce recalled how the way Irish Catholics demanding their rights had been treated helped perpetuate the conflict. "If we go back to Bloody Sunday and before, it was the reaction to the suppression of rights to education, employment and housing that fuelled injustice year after year," said Mrs Peirce. "If we only learnt one lesson from history in Northern Ireland, it should be that the reaction by British forces helped perpetuate injustice."
Mrs Peirce expressed exasperation that now it seems as though the mistakes of Northern Ireland are being repeated only worse with the Muslim community. "Today people are being locked up without any due process at all," said Mrs Peirce. "People have stayed in prison for 3.5 years without trial. A number went mad and finished up in Broadmoor."
A number of the men were then released on control order but re-interned a year ago. The Government is now seeking to return a number of these men to torturing countries like Algeria, Jordan and Libya on the basis of Memorandums of Understanding agreed between the governments. She called for the re-education of the judges in human rights. Human rights activist Bruce Kent told of the detainees living like ghosts.
"People are completely unaware of what is going on. There are people walking around like ghosts, tagged with restrictions on their movements, and likely to be picked up at any time by the police unaware of what they have been accused of," said Mr Kent. "There are two sets of rules operating in this country, one where someone commits an offence, the other with people being held on no evidence."
Professor of Law at Birkbeck College Bill Bowring said that if people really wanted to focus on terrorism then they should look to what has gone on around the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The trail of radiation that has caused death and serious illness. "If that is not terrorism I don't know what is." Said Professor Bowring.