FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Britain’s Guantánamo

by ANDY WORTHINGTON

It’s always a sure sign that something has gone horribly wrong when Tory politicians can only be persuaded with extreme reluctance to support anti-terror measures pursued by the Labour government. But this is exactly what happened on Thursday, when Conservative MPs joined with the government’s own MPs to extend until March 2009 the legislation authorizing the government to hold alleged terror suspects under control orders.

The vote to extend the control orders — which are currently used against 15 alleged terror suspects — passed by 267 votes to 60, but Tory MPs were clearly not bowled over by a hyperbolic statement made by Security Minister Tony McNulty, who, as though infected by the ghosts of previous Labour hard men John Reid and David Blunkett, claimed, “The threat (of terrorism) is clearly real, serious and represents a threat unparalleled in our country’s history.”

Speaking on behalf of his fellow MPs, the Tories’ shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve declared, “On balance, and with a considerable degree of reluctance, our view is we should allow renewal to take place this year.” Other notes of caution were sounded by Labour MPs. Alex Carlile, the government’s terror laws ombudsman, said that no control order should be extended beyond two years “save in genuinely exceptional circumstances,” and Andrew Dismore, the chairman of the joint Human Rights Committee, warned that the orders could create “Guantánamo-style martyrs” unless a maximum time limit was imposed. “Perhaps it is the gilded cage of Acacia Avenue rather than the harshness of a Cuban camp,” he said, “but we have still seen indefinite restrictions on their freedom.”

A very specific kind of personal prison, control orders were introduced in March 2005 after the government’s previous method of dealing with alleged terror suspects — holding them in high-security prisons, including Belmarsh, without charge or trial — was ruled illegal by the House of Lords. Generally involving curfews, electronic tagging, the requirement to report regularly to police, and restrictions on associating with others and using telephones and computers, they constitute a kind of house arrest, and have been criticized for contravening the European Convention on Human Rights. In April 2006 the high court ruled that placing a man known only as “S” under a control order without a fair hearing infringed Article 6 of the Convention, and in June 2006 a judge quashed the control orders against six other men, ruling that they were “incompatible” with Article 5 of the Convention, which prevents indefinite detention without trial.

The reasons for the government’s insistence on using control orders were explained to the BBC by Labour MP John Denham in May last year. Denham said, “They were brought in because the courts prevented the government from jailing people who were believed to be terrorists, [and who] sometimes had a terrorist record overseas; we were stopped from jailing them because we didn’t have the evidence to convict them here.”

Critics, however, point out that holding men without charge or trial — with echoes of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay — is monstrously unjust, and that the control orders could be done away with if the government was prepared to join most other western countries in establishing ways of incorporating evidence collected by the security services in trials. At present, the government refuses to do so, leading to valid complaints that the quality of the evidence cannot be tested.

Ironically, the day after the legislation was extended for a year, the supposedly significant and sensitive intelligence used to justify imposing one of these control orders was revealed as a sham when a high court judge dismissed the control order against 25-year old British national Cerie Bullivant, ruling that there was no “reasonable suspicion” that he intended to take part in terrorism abroad. According to a report in the Guardian, MI5 had alleged that the “restriction of movement measures were necessary” because Bullivant “could be planning to travel to Iraq or Afghanistan to join up with terrorists.”

First subjected to a control order in June 2006, which was renewed last year, Mr. Bullivant became something of a terror suspect celebrity last May when he, along with two brothers, Lamine and Ibrahim Adam, disappeared after breaking the conditions of their control orders. The Adam brothers, whose other brother, Anthony Garcia, was sentenced to life in prison in April 2007 for his part in a fertilizer bomb plot, failed to report to a “monitoring company,” and Mr. Bullivant failed to turn up at a police station, which he was required to do on a daily basis. In all the hysterical reporting that followed, there was little, if any mention of the reason that Mr. Bullivant was regarded as so significantly dangerous that the government was prepared to imprison him without charge or trial, using a form of house arrest.

Yesterday, as Mr. Justice Collins quashed the control order, the government’s overreaction to the supposed “threat” posed by Mr. Bullivant was made clear. He had been subjected to a control order after he was stopped at Heathrow as he was about to board a flight to Syria with Ibrahim Adam. Mr. Bullivant said that he intended to study Arabic in Syria, but the security services decided that he and Adam intended “to carry out extremist Islamic activity,” and that they were possibly intending to travel on to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight against western forces, or to conduct a “martyrdom operation.”

Quashing the control order, Mr. Justice Collins said that it might have been “reasonable to assume that individuals with whom Bullivant associated might have been involved in terrorism, but that did not make it reasonable to suspect he had the same inclinations.” He added, “The dangers of guilt by association are obvious.”

Outside the court, Bullivant celebrated his freedom, but asked reporters to consider the other men who were still held under control orders. “Although I am very happy that this order has now been lifted,” he said, “this draconian legislation is still continuing to ruin the lives of others and their families.”

ANDY WORTHINGTON (www.andyworthington.co.uk) is a British historian, and the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’. He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British journalist, the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press), and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.’ Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk        WORDS THAT STICK ?  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail