Top of the spooks’ Christmas list this festive season sits the sinister Justice and Security Bill, which would turn 400 years of common law justice on its head. It’s hard to imagine British officials implicated in torture and rendition finding themselves on Santa Claus’ “nice” list, but nevertheless these odious proposals took another small step towards becoming reality last night.
Today marks International Human Rights Day, an annual celebration of the landmark day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created on 10 December 1948. It was a hugely significant event, taking place in the wake of the atrocities of World War II when 50 nations put aside their differences and came together to pledge to uphold certain rights which would be afforded to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, religion or political views.
Regrettably, confusing reports in today's media (Sunday 2 December) about Liberty's position on the Leveson Report make this statement necessary and that Report all the more important. Law and regulation is a complex area at the best of times and clarity is difficult when emotions run as high as they inevitably do on the vital issues of precious press freedom on the one hand and abuse of power and violations of privacy on the other.
Today Justice Secretary Chris Grayling presented draft legislation on prisoner voting to the House of Commons. The long-running debate in Parliament rumbles on concerning a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the UK’s existing blanket ban is unlawful. The deadline for complying with the judgment passes tomorrow.
Today is Universal Children's Day and Liberty salutes young people everywhere. We remember how vulnerable and disempowered a child can feel whether her parents are privileged but preoccupied or whether to all intents and purposes she has no parent or her parent is the State.
Britain enjoys a long, distinguished tradition of civil libertarian and pro-democracy policing, built upon policing by consent. That proud heritage is under threat as yesterday’s ballot is counted in order to elect 41 new Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales. Voting turnout is heading for a record peacetime low - possibly as low as 15 per cent. This is a clear message for the Government that it has failed to convince the public about this radical new policy.
From Monday peers will again examine the odious Justice and Security Bill as it reaches Report Stage in the House of Lords. Encouragingly the Bill, which would introduce the controversial system of Closed Material Procedures (CMP) and Special Advocates into the wider civil law, is progressing under an increasingly dark cloud. This week the influential Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) insisted that the Government has made no case for the extension of CMP. Now plans for secret courts have also come under fire at an all-party parliamentary meeting arranged by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Justice, Liberty and Reprieve on Monday night.
It was as recently as 2009 that David Cameron spoke of the perils of intrusive surveillance. “Today we’re in danger of living in a control state,” he warned. “The tentacles of the State can even rifle through your bins for juicy information”.