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UK embraces new ‘anti-terror’ laws - becomes Guantanamo Britain

The British Right are bleating about ‘freedom’ and a ‘draconian’ state because they can’t go out for a risotto. But they’ll applaud new TPIM anti-terrorism laws that could place unconvicted citizens under lifelong house arrest.

‘Freedom’ is a funny word. The people who most like to use it – the Right – portray themselves as crusaders for a cause as they abuse their keyboards to within an inch of their lives. Probably in a shed. They treat the word as a trump card (no pun intended). How can you argue against anyone’s freedom, you big bloody fascist you?

Thing is, these people pervert the word. They aren’t crusaders for anything more than their own freedom to do and say what they like. Maybe the freedom of people like them, too, as long as those people only do and say things they agree with. If you’re not ‘one of them’ then things are very different: They can’t get enough of ‘tougher measures’ and ‘longer sentences’. They’re proud to be law-abiding citizens and would love to see the birch brought back for wrong’uns, but put a speed camera on their street and they’ll scream blue murder at the ‘Nanny State’. 

It’s a paradox, a contradiction, bare-faced hypocrisy – call it what you will – but there’s no greater example of it than what’s happening right now in the UK. And it could come back to bite us all, including them, on the arse.

While the Right have been whining about their loss of ‘freedom’ during lockdown – not being able to go to the pub, get a supermarket delivery slot exactly when they want it, or do the outdoor exercise that they never wanted to do before lockdown – they're about to cheer through legal measures that send their country on a draconian path towards a ‘Guantanamo Britain’. 

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) were introduced by the coalition government in 2011. Despite a cute acronym that makes you think of the pleasant British pastimes of drinking tea and Pimms, these controversial measures allow the British state to surveil and severely restrict the movement of people suspected of terrorism offences without trial. They can be tagged, placed under curfew and have their passports confiscated on the basis of ‘secret intelligence’.

These measures can currently be used on an individual for up to two years. The government announced on Wednesday that it wants to remove that ceiling and also lighten the burden of proof required to use TPIMs. So, to get that quite clear, without trial and without the public having access to the evidence, British citizens could be placed under effective house arrest for life.

 Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said he was uncomfortable with the “big changes,” while Rachel Logan, Amnesty International UK’s legal expert, said, “We seem to be diving headlong into that territory where the standard of proof is extremely flimsy and people’s liberties can be curtailed on an indefinite basis... Rushing this bill out while parliament is still operating under Covid-19 constraints suggests the government could be trying to minimise scrutiny for significant legal changes.”

Not quite the same as your hairdresser being shut, is it?

But this actual draconianism, this genuine affront to freedom and justice, will be cheered by the Right because they don’t think it will affect them. They think it’ll only affect Muslims because Muslims are the terrorist stereotype du jour.

No surprise when the most impactful terrorist attacks (states bombing other sovereign countries aside) of recent years have been linked to Islamist extremism. The Right thinks TPIMs affecting Muslims is just fine because they aren’t ‘one of them,’ when they should be thinking about what comes next.

What if it goes from tags and house arrest to the UK government actually imprisoning citizens without trial? Ridiculous? Not if you know about internment in Northern Ireland. The UK government imprisoned nearly 2,000 people without trial in the 1970s, many of whom were abused in jail, merely on the suspicion of being Republican paramilitaries.

It was a travesty whose recruiting power for the Republican cause made it one of the most counter-productive counter-terrorism measures in the history of countering things. Catholics that time, not Muslims, but again approved by the Right because the victims weren’t ‘one of them’.

But how soon before TPIMs do affect ‘them’? According to the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, the fastest-growing terrorist threat in the UK comes from far-right extremism. It’s an ideology that the mainstream media have only just begun calling ‘terrorism’ and it could catch on. How long before the ‘tough measures’ the Right fetishise knock on their doors with some secret evidence and show them what loss of freedom really looks like? 

To paraphrase Martin Niemoller’s famous quote, “First they came for the Irish, and I did not speak out – because I was not Irish. Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Muslim. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me, although someone did get quite annoyed on Twitter.”

So, when a right-wing crusader next dons their cardboard armour and bleats about ‘freedom’, perhaps they should take a moment, have a quick look at history, and think about whether they should be defending everyone’s liberty and not just their own.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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By Andrew Dickens / a London-based freelance writer
(Source: rt.com; May 23, 2020; https://on.rt.com/ahpk)
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