UK ‘control orders’ are illegal says EU rights body

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EVEN the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles has condemned the issuing of control orders by the British Home Secretary as a breach of European law, and human rights.

The new powers mean the Home Secretary can force a person to stay inside their home indefinitely if he suspects them of supporting terrorism, and can tag them, ban telephone or internet use, and ban visits by friends.

The courts have a minor role in authorising control orders, but the grounds for a judge refusing an order are very restricted.

In his report, Gil-Robles said it did not seem to him that the ‘weak control’ offered by judicial review proceedings satisfied the usual powers for what would be considered criminal charges.

Robles said that it was difficult to disguise the fact ‘that control orders are intended to substitute the ordinary criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive (i.e. politicians rather than judges)’.

He continued: ‘The proceedings, indeed, are inherently one-sided, with the judge obliged to consider the reasonableness of suspicions based, at least in part, on secret evidence, the veracity or relevance of which he has no possibility of confirming in the light of the suspect’s response to them.’

Robles concluded that they are ‘inherently one sided since the Home Secretary authorises the orders, a role that only judges should have’.

What Robles is pointing out is that the British legislation is qualitatively different from anti-terrorist legislation in other EU states, since here, the government is to rule, with the judiciary playing a very secondary role.

He goes as far as to call the issuing of control orders by a Home Secretary as an attempt to ‘substitute the ordinary criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive, that is the government’.

In fact, what the Blair government is doing has its inspiration in the policies of President Bush. The US has built a parallel prison system throughout the world, partly public at Guantanamo Bay and Baghram air base, and partly secret with facilities in Jordan, Egypt and the central Asian states. This functions totally outside the US law and the US courts, and is run according to the instructions of the Executive.

Bush however has not been able to do the same inside the US.

The Blair government has gone further than Bush in domestic matters.

Blair – in building an ‘alternative’ to the criminal justice system in the UK, in which the role of the judiciary is secondary, and the role of the executive is primary – is trying to take Britain back centuries, and challenges rights that were won with the Magna Carta in the 13th century.

Robles and his committee have also expressed their concern about the imposition of ASBOs and the way they are being used to institute rule by bigots.

The Robles committee states that there should be some form of responsible screening of ASBO applications by a responsible authority to ‘guarantee against excessive use’. His examples of excessive use are the case of an 87-year-old receiving an ASBO for being repeatedly sarcastic and a 17-year-old deaf girl for spitting.

The dictatorial actions of the Blair government are symptomatic of a ruling class that fears the future, both in terms of the growing economic crisis and the development of revolutionary movements out of it. It is aware that to maintain the bankrupt capitalist system it needs a system of open state dictatorship over workers and youth.

This is the origin of all of its dictatorial plans for non-jury courts, imprisonment and detention without trial or charge, ASBOs, youth chain gangs, identity cards, longer prison terms and tracking the movements of every car driver using satellite technology.

The only way to defend basic rights in Britain is to organise a socialist revolution to smash the capitalist state, expropriate the bosses and the bankers and go forward to rule by the working class.