A sombre reminder

Posted by Ian McDonald on 20 March 2012

Today a wave of bombings has rocked Iraq, killing dozens and injuring scores of others. The attacks, seemingly designed to disrupt the forthcoming Arab Summit in Baghdad, come exactly nine years to the day since the US and UK led the invasion of Iraq. Given the intractable bloodshed of Afghanistan, it’s almost easy to overlook the other major 21st Century conflict involving our Armed Forces. But such violence, especially today, is a sombre reminder of a war justified by the dodgiest of dossiers without approval from the international community.

These may have been the most prominent manifestations of the Bush-Blair 'War on Terror', but further excesses followed both at home and abroad as open societies resorted to kidnap and torture in freedom’s name. Innocent Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa was detained, subjected to prolonged inhuman treatment and beaten to death by British soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of people, from Iraqi civilians to US and UK service personnel, lost their lives. Meanwhile the adoption of the metaphor of ‘war’ allowed governments to dilute precious freedoms for the duration of a conflict with no apparent end. The likes of Guantanamo, Belmarsh, control orders and blanket and discriminatory stop and search brought shame upon Western democracies.

But even so, such abuses did not go unnoticed and unchallenged. Time and again, the much-maligned Human Rights Act proved vital. Thanks to ground-breaking litigation and courageous investigative journalism, the murkiest practices of the War on Terror were laid bare. Yet now the UK Government, nearly a decade after Iraq and with post 9/11 policy still taking its toll, has come up with a scheme that, if previously in force, would have prevented many abhorrent excesses from ever coming to light.

The terrifying Justice and Security Green Paper would give the State the power to lock down open courts and shut out the free press that first exposed its involvement in extraordinary rendition, torture and indefinite detention without trial. These dangerous proposals seek to limit public scrutiny of the Government and avoid any further embarrassment by destroying our centuries-old civil justice system forever.

National security of course remains crucial, and the valuable work of our Security Services is not in question. But this Green Paper is not the answer. It is a bare-faced attempt to cover up future abuses of power and elevate the Executive above the Rule of Law. It must be resisted at all costs.

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