The London Telegraph & The Australian – 2005-08-07 09:09:41
Blair to Curb Human Rights in War on Terror
George Jones / The Telegraph
LONDON (August 8, 2005) — Tony Blair served notice yesterday that he was ready to renounce parts of the European convention on human rights if British and European judges continued to block the deportation of Islamic extremists in the wake of the London bombings.
In a significant shift away from the human rights policies championed by Labour since 1997, Mr Blair indicated that he was no longer prepared to allow Britain to be a haven for Muslim extremists whose presence in London has resulted in its being dubbed “Londonistan”.
Tony Blair at Downing Street: ‘The rules of the game are changing’
He said he was prepared for “a lot of battles” with the courts, which have repeatedly intervened to prevent the Home Secretary from deporting “preachers of hate” and other foreign nationals regarded as a threat to national security.
“Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary, amending the Human Rights Act in respect of the interpretation of the European convention on human rights,” the Prime Minister said.
At a Downing Street press conference before leaving for his summer holiday, he outlined 12 far-reaching curbs on civil liberties to tackle the growth of Islamic extremism.
The sweeping package of anti-terrorist laws included deporting Islamic extremists, closing mosques that fomented hatred, outlawing radical Muslim groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, vetting foreign imams before they came to Britain and stronger powers to deal with home-grown fanatics.
Mr Blair said that because of the London bombings the public wanted new laws to deport and exclude religious fanatics and extremists who were abusing the country’s traditional values of tolerance and fair play. The mood was now different and people no longer accused the Government of “scaremongering”.
“Let no one be in any doubt,” he said, “the rules of the games are changing.”
At the heart of the security measures was Mr Blair’s determination to regain the right of the elected government to deport foreigners it believed posed a threat to national security.
This was a recognition that the Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour in 1998, had made it virtually impossible to deport foreign militants and enabled the law lords to strike down anti-terrorism laws because they considered them incompatible with the European convention.
Mr Blair’s wife, Cherie, a human rights lawyer, has said that the Government should not be provoked into interfering with the independence of the courts. Questioned about her views, the Prime Minister said the right to life and freedom from terrorism was a basic human right.
New grounds for deportation published by the Home Office included fostering hatred, advocating or justifying violence, or active engagement with extremist websites, bookshops and networks.
Mr Blair acknowledged that, since 1996, deportations had been blocked as a result of a European Court ruling that article 3 of the convention on human rights prevented people from being sent back to countries where they could face torture or ill-treatment. He said the circumstances of Britain’s national security had changed and the Government was ready to test its new powers in the courts at home and in Europe.
The Government was seeking assurances from the countries where deportees would be returned that they would not be ill-treated. Agreement had been reached with Jordan and discussions were continuing with 10 other countries, including Algeria and Lebanon.
In what will be seen as a plea to British and European judges to reflect the public demand for action, Mr Blair said that France and Spain, both subject to the same human rights convention, were able to deport by administrative decision, with their courts ready to accept assurances that deportees would not be ill-treated on their return.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, welcomed the Government’s proposals. He said it was vital that the Home Secretary was able to use his powers to deport or exclude non-British citizens who threatened national security.
Mr Blair ran into opposition from civil rights campaigners and the Liberal Democrats, who said the Government risked inflaming tensions and alienating Muslims.
Eric Metcalfe, of the human rights group Justice, predicted that any attempt to amend the Human Rights Act to force the courts to deport foreigners was “doomed to failure”.
Some mainstream Muslim groups backed the measures. Omar Farook, of the Islamic Society of Britain, said that measures to deal with “the menace” of foreign extremists who based themselves in Britain were long overdue. But the Islamic Council of Britain said the ban on Hizb-ut-Tahrir would be counter-productive.
Mr Blair acknowledged that while the public had responded with tolerance to the attacks on London, there was also a determination “that this very tolerance and determination should not be abused by a small fanatical minority”.
He confirmed that there would be new anti-terrorist legislation in the autumn, including an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism which would apply anywhere, not only in Britain.
If it could be prepared in time, the Government was ready to recall Parliament next month from its 80-day summer recess.
Mr Blair acknowledged that there was now a need to consider whether the policy of multi-culturalism had resulted in ethnic groups failing to integrate.
The Government would consider whether requirements for people who became British citizens were adequate: swearing allegiance to the country, taking part in a citizenship ceremony and having an adequate grasp of the language.
He emphasised that the new powers were aimed at a “fringe of extremists” and not the law-abiding Muslim community.
“Coming to Britain is not a right and, even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty,” he said. “That duty is to ensure and support the values that sustain the British way of life.
“Those who break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country or our people have no place here.”
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005
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Blair Cracks Down in Face of Renewed Terror Threat
The AustralianCorrespondents in London
(August 6, 2005) — BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair last night unveiled sweeping measures to combat terrorism after the London bombings, including a controversial move to consider opting out of European human rights obligations. “Let no one be in any doubt that the rules of the game are changing,” Mr Blair said.
The Home Office was publishing new rules on deporting the likes of foreign hardline Islamic clerics who advocate terrorism, Mr Blair said, including fostering hatred or advocating violence to further religious beliefs.
“Anyone who has participated in terrorism or has anything to do with it, anywhere, will automatically be refused asylum in our country,” he warned.
Efforts would be made to speed up this process, including a possible review of the 1998 Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law, the Prime Minister said.
In addition, anyone who had been involved in terrorism would be refused asylum in Britain, while extra court capacity would be provided for such cases and hardline groups such as Al Muhajiroun would be proscribed.
After the July 7 attacks in which 52 people and four suicide bombers died in blasts on Tube trains and a bus, and a bungled repeat attempt a fortnight later when the bombs failed, attitudes in Britain have hardened.
Overall, the response of the British people had been “unified and dignified and remarkable”, despite some “isolated and unacceptable acts of racial or religious hatred,” Mr Blair said. “However, I am acutely aware that alongside these feelings is also a determination that this very tolerance and good nature should not be abused by a small but fanatical minority, and an anger that it has been.”
The new measures will include expanded existing powers allowing the Government to strip citizenship from those with British or dual nationality who act in a way that is “contrary to the interest of this country”, Mr Blairsaid.
Efforts would be made to set a maximum time limit on all extradition cases involving terrorism.
For British nationals, the Government would extend the use of so-called “control orders”, which now allow the use of measures such as a limited use of house arrest for foreign nationals suspected of terrorism.
Mr Blair acknowledged that terror groups used Britain’s support of the US-led war in Iraq as a means to attract recruits, but condemned the threat by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qa’ida terror network on Thursday of further atrocities in Britain and the US if they did not pull out of Iraq.
“These very self-same people who are making those remarks yesterday are the people supporting the killing of wholly innocent people in Iraq, wholly innocent people in Afghanistan, innocent people anywhere in the world who want to live by the rules of democracy,” Mr Blair said.
“And that is why, when they try to use Iraq or use Afghanistan or use the Palestinian cause as a means of saying, ‘You know, we have justification for what we do’, it is a complete obscenity.
“What they are actually doing in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, when the people have voted for democracy, is to try to stop them getting it.”
His comments came after a televised warning from al-Qa’ida leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri of further attacks on the West.
“These policies will bring them more destruction after the explosions of London,” said Zawahiri in the video, aired on al-Jazeera.
Zawahiri went on to threaten the US with “horror that would make them forget the horror they saw in Vietnam”.
© The Australian
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.