It's hard to believe that it's been a year on from the bloodletting in Uzbekistan, up till recently a fully signed up member of the so-called war on terror. In fact, it was this incident, and the consequent mild but harsh enough criticism from the United States that resulted in the airbases which the Americans were then using being taken back by the Uzbek regime.
There is still no official death toll, or full account of what happened on that day. Ed Vullimay's report in G2 suggests that it could possibly have been in the thousands. Human Rights Watch also has a shedload of documents on the massacre, but it seems as if the outrage has been forgotten. (I must admit that I didn't know about the anniversary until I saw it on BlairWatch. Thanks to them.) Remember, this was the regime that has been reported as boiling opponents alive - something that even Saddam Hussein at his most barbaric never did. Bloggers then called for sanctions on the Uzbek cotton crop, and it's something that is still worth demanding.
Other posts still worth reading are at Bloggerheads, The Disillusioned Kid and Perfect.
THE Sun today launches a proud campaign to put an end to the human rights madness that is horrifying the country.
We applaud David Cameron for pledging that the Tories would tear up crazy human rights laws, and we urge Tony Blair to get on and do it while he remains in power.
The whole concept of “human rights” in Britain has become a travesty under which the interests of killers, rapists and paedophiles are placed above those of their victims.
Law abiding citizens must walk in fear while “human rights” give their assailants the freedom of the streets.
Convicted thugs and murderers are set free too soon after derisory sentences.
Yet what is prison for, but to keep those who wish us harm locked away?
It is absurd for judges to shelter Afghan terrorists who hijack an aircraft at gunpoint.
It is scandalous that a dangerous rapist is freed from prison to kill because his human rights had been infringed.
But it is also ridiculous for Tony Blair to attack these decisions as an “abuse of common sense”.
Stupid as the rulings may be, judges are simply doing what they are told.
It was New Labour that enshrined the EU Human Rights Convention into British law — against advice.
It was Mr Blair — urged on by his human rights lawyer wife — who refused calls for existing laws of the land to take precedence.
Now Mr Blair is paying the price.
Voters are reacting to hideous crimes committed by thugs who should be behind bars.
And they are shocked by news that hundreds of criminals are on the loose instead of being deported as promised.
It is a tragic day when “rights” has become a dirty word.
But Mr Blair has the chance to put things right — not just for the country but also for his reputation.
He can reverse Labour’s mistake of 1998 and dismantle the Human Rights Act, putting Britain’s courts back in charge of British interests.
Along with his public services reform agenda, this would be a solid and worthwhile legacy before he leaves Downing Street.
The Sun will continue to expose human rights madness wherever we see it.
But what we want to see most of all is our Prime Minister taking the action all Britain is crying out for.
Where to even start? Well, maybe we should begin with what the Human Rights Act of 1998 actually says, or puts into law protections against.
What the Sun calls 'madness' and 'crazy' protects us and enshrines the right to the following:
ARTICLE 2 - THE RIGHT TO LIFE
ARTICLE 3 - THE PROHIBITION OF TORTURE
ARTICLE 4 - THE PROHIBITION OF SLAVERY AND FORCED LABOUR
ARTICLE 5 - RIGHT TO LIBERTY AND SECURITY
ARTICLE 6 - RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL
ARTICLE 7 - NO PUNISHMENT WITHOUT LAW
ARTICLE 8 - RIGHT TO RESPECT TO PRIVATE AND FAMILY LIFE
ARTICLE 9 - FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION
ARTICLE 10 - FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
ARTICLE 11 - FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION
ARTICLE 12 - RIGHT TO MARRY
ARTICLE 14 - PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION
ARTICLE 16 - RESTRICTIONS ON POLITICAL ACTIVITY OF ALIENS
ARTICLE 17 - PROHIBITION OF ABUSE OF RIGHTS
ARTICLE 18 - LIMITATIONS ON USE OF RESTRICTIONS ON RIGHTS
See Article 2 up there? There's a reason it's at the top. It's the most important, and the one which takes precedent over all of the others. The Sun obviously considers that freedom of expression should be denied, which I'm sure would be fine by most of us if it only applied to the Sun newspaper. Otherwise we'd be rather up in arms.
But let's get back to the leader and the cases that it mentions. Apart from the one dealt with in the post below, which I'll also come back to, the other one mentioned is that involving Anthony Rice, a serial rapist who killed Naomi Bryant only nine months after being freed from prison. An absolute tragedy, no doubt about it. The report on the probation board behind his release stated the following:
But Mr Bridges said the failures in the Rice case had been exacerbated by two instances where parole and probation staff had allowed human rights considerations to undermine the importance of public protection. He particularly criticised the presence of a barrister pressing for the prisoner's release at the parole board hearing and said that staff "really have to be on top of a case" to get the balance right: "We are not saying it cannot be done right, but from our review I have to tell you that people clearly find it very difficult to do it right."
Rather damning isn't it? Yet Bridges goes on to say:
But he also warned that risk assessment of released prisoners was not completely a science, with the expected standards being met in only two-thirds of cases. Mr Bridges said that it was "bordering on the virtually impossible to predict" which 20 specific offenders out of the 15,000 higher risk prisoners released each year would strike again.
His inquiry report into the Rice case says there was a cumulative failure with "mistakes, misjudgements and miscommunications" at each of the three phases of his life sentence for rape and indecent assault, for which he served 16 years.
"Our conclusion is that there were deficiencies in the way he was supervised by probation and its partners in the multi-agency public protection agreement [Mappa], but he was too dangerous to be released into the community anyway."
Anthony Rice had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989. He had served 16 years when he was considered for release. Previously he had been jailed for 7 years for for rape and other indecent assaults, but the parole board did not have that information when it made its decision. The board did not check with the hostel where he staying about its regime, the conditions imposed on him while he was released turned out to be unenforceable, and a report on his progress on a sex-offender course was "over-optimistic".
So what aspect of the Human Rights Act was being broken by Rice's continued detention? Well, err, none really. Article 5 deals with the right to liberty and security, but it can be removed from someone if:
(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;
In other words, if someone has been convicted of crime and been given a sentence then they have to serve it. So why was Mappa criticised for taking Rice's human rights over the safety of the wider public? They had given his human rights too much consideration. As stated above, the number one right is the right to life. If someone poses a danger to someone else's life, especially if they have been sentenced to life in prison, then there is no way that person should be released. In short, it was the mistake of Mappa and not of the European Convention of Human Rights. Since Rice was first imprisoned, a person can now be sentenced to an indefinite time in jail, regardless of time limit if it is thought that they are a danger to the public. Unfortunately, this law is not retrospective, and in this tragic case Rice was wrongly allowed out of prison. If anything, all Mappa employees need retraining if they think that rights of a rapist sentenced to life in prison comes above the general public. His barrister, who shouldn't have been at the hearing in the first place, could then have appealed against their ruling.
On then to the Sun's next case for ridding us of this "human rights madness". This affects the Afghan hijackers, who on Wednesday were granted leave to remain, which is to be reviewed every six months. Since the judge's ruling, the government has said that it is to appeal. In fact, the men's appeal was based on the fact that the government themselves were refusing to accept the ruling of an immigration panel who had said they should be given leave to remain because if they were sent back to Afghanistan their lives would be at risk. In this, the Human Rights Act is regarded by judges as meaning that where there is a risk that their lives could be in danger if sent back to their original country, in this case Afghanistan, which is by no means safe and which in large parts is still controlled by regional warlords, even if they're elected warlords, then they should at least until the situation is resolved be allowed to stay in this country. Now, this can be argued against, and the government is doing just that by appealing against the decision. The whole case though is a waste of time; these were 9 men who were escaping from one of the most repressive and tyrannical regimes of recent decades, and who did so in the only way they felt they be able to succeed in doing so, in this case hijacking a plane. The men want to work and give back to this society for what it's so far done for them, but they are not allowed to because the government refuses to accept that they should stay. Isn't this a case of the government being in the wrong rather than being held to ransom by judges who are only biding by the law as they interpret it?
Indeed, the Sun seems to think so. It says judges are only doing what they are told - seeming to think the European Convention of Human Rights is a living, breathing thing. (They also confuse it as the EU Human Rights Act, which it is not. The European Convention was nothing to do with the EU.) It isn't. Only bad interpretations of the Human Rights Act value the rights of criminals above those of the law-abiding majority, as anyone who has read it can clearly see. It is that people, including those in power, have the impression that it gives rights which it patently does not. The other recent cases, such as those of John Monckton and Mary-Ann Leneghan, where the killers were on probation at the time, were nothing to do with the Human Rights Act. It was down to old fashioned human error, and the fact that as Bridges in his report states, that it is sometimes impossible to predict that someone who is on probation for drugs offences or assault is capable of murder or rape on the scale of that which Mary-Ann experienced. This is where the Sun mixes the two up. The Human Rights Act has nothing to do with how long offenders are sentenced for, or when they're considered for release on parole. That is down to the politicians and the legislators.
Then we get down to what the Sun really wants by doing away with the Human Rights Act. It starts by obscurely blaming Cherie Blair, the usual target of opprobrium for the tabloids when they've run out of other things to have a go at. Was the 1998 Human Rights Act enshrined (in 2000) against advice? Depends on whose advice you're referring to. The judges and lawyers were firmly in favour of it being enshrined, as it is as close as the country now actually has to a written constitution, instead of the swirl of all different legislation which is already on the statute books. It was the usual suspects who opposed it - the right-wing tabloids and the Tories, who by strange coincidence are now campaigning for it to be scrapped. Again, when the Sun mentions those that should have been deported, that was the failing of the Home Office, the Prison Service and the Immigration Service altogether. In the cases where the judges had ordered the deportation in the sentence, there is nothing that they can appeal against to stop them from being so, except the decision of the court in general. That they weren't is rightly a scandal, but not the fault of human rights legislation.
It soon becomes clear why the Sun has remained hostile to the legislation. Their opposition to the European Union itself is the overriding factor. It angers the Sun that if someone has appealed all the way to the House of Lords, that if even then their appeal is turned down, they can then turn to the European court in Strasbourg, which is the only court that can strike down a House of Lords verdict. Even then, the government can legislate, as the UK's laws override those of Brussels. The government also doesn't have to even listen to the courts' decision - in the case of indefinite detention without charge for foreign prisoners, which was ruled in breach of the Human Rights Act, the government doesn't and didn't have to free the suspects - but they did, coming up with control orders, which are as yet still in place, although criticised by a judge in one case. No, the Sun's motive for getting rid of the Human Rights Act is to send a message to Brussels that they are still against everything it stands for, and that includes all the measures which are in the Human Rights Act which no sane person would argue against. The Sun, like Blair, is only interested in quick fixes based on what it considers should be an outrage. The Sun seems to be suggesting putting a similar bill of rights into British law - what is the point when the Human Rights Act is already there and on the whole doing a fine job at protecting us both from criminals and from over-zealous government legislation?
Perhaps Rebekah Wade should look at this matter from another perspective. Consider the possibility that she was regarded as terrorist for her attacks on the government and given a control order. She'd rely on the Human Rights Act to free her from what amounts to near house arrest. The removal of the act would be the ultimate betrayal of this Labour government from its own original pledge to continue to be a progressive party. The Sun newspaper, with its distortions, claims to be the voice of the British people and rank hypocrisy on many measures (consider how a couple of years ago Wade printed a picture of child pornography alongside a work of art to show their "similarity"), should not be allowed to influence ministers into something that many in this country would never forget, just as many may well want it to be removed.
Update: Read the comments below for a typical example of News International using a law when it wants a decision overturned, then later decrying it in a fit of populist pique.
Today's Sun front page is truly breathtaking. I really don't think they could have come up with a more distorted, disgraceful take on this if they had had a few days to try and do so.
The story is that in 2000 nine Afghani men hijacked an internal flight in Afghanistan, persuaded the pilot to fly to Moscow, before finally flying to Stansted airport. After a four day stand-off with police, the men gave themselves up peacefully. Their reason for hijacking the plane was that their lives were in great danger in Afghanistan, then ruled by the Taliban. They were originally jailed, before their convictions were quashed, and they were freed on appeal in 2003. Since then the government has refused to grant them leave to remain, despite an immigration panel finding that their lives would be in danger if they were returned to Afghanistan. This was not only because of the unstable situation in the newly liberated country, but because of the remnants of the Taliban that remained, and have now managed to regroup to an even further extent.
The government's reasoning has been that if the men were given leave to remain, it would encourage others to hijack planes and fly to Britain seeking asylum. Such reasoning is pretty absurd following the September 11th attacks. On the slightest sign that something is wrong on board a passenger jet, fighter planes are dispatched to either monitor what is happening or in the worst case scenario, to shoot it down. Any such hijacking would now be forced down to the nearest airport. The chances of one making it to Britain are virtually nil.
Then we have the Sun front page. Despite the Sun's claims that they've been given money and free NHS care, failed asylum seekers as what these men would have been classed as only receive around £35 a week, if that. All financial support can be withdrawn from failed asylum seekers, and if they have children, they can be taken into care. Failed asylum seekers can only receive NHS care in emergency situations. Their reasons for bringing the original case against the government is the absolute opposite of wanting to sponge off the state. They brought it because failed asylum seekers cannot work. As a result, they've been unable to rebuild their lives. Their "sponging" off the state is the result of the government's actions in not accepting the immigration panel's ruling in 2004. Still, let's not let this get in the way of a good front page lambasting asylum seekers. Then they of course call the men terrorists. Despite the fact that their own families were among the hostages they took when they hijacked the flight, the passengers were treated well and let off gradually over the four days.
Their own lawyer sums up the whole case:
"They cannot work. They cannot study. They cannot take any steps to improve their lives ... Instead, they are forced to remain on asylum support, through no fault of their own adding fuel to anti-asylum tabloid comments."
I find it rather odd that a newspaper that was vehemently in favour of the war in Afghanistan seems to think it fine to send them back to a country where only the capital Kabul is relatively safe. The Sun newspaper seems to think that these men were wrong to flee in the most drastic way possible from a country where girls were excluded from school, where kite flying was banned and Osama bin Laden was sheltered and allowed to train legions of mujahadein. The Sun would rather send men back to possible death than allow them to work here and repay their debt to our society. Their complete distortion of the situation is just what fuels hatred against those fleeing oppression. Tony Blair's intervention, calling the judge's criticism of the Home Office "an abuse of common sense", shows the same contempt for the rule of law in this country that is reminiscent of Blunkett's attacks on the judicary when he was Home Secretary. When even the government is contemptuous of its own legal system, it's little wonder that there's a lack of faith in it.
Beckett, who bears a frightening resemblance to Thatcher.Jack Straw said that a military strike on Iran was "inconceivable". Yesterday, the new foreign secretary, fresh from causing misery to farmers across the land in her previous ministerial post said "it's not the intention."
I don't think pre-planned military strikes can ever really be described as not intended. When you knock something over and smash it, you might say "sorry, I didn't do it on purpose". When you launch a missile at a country with the intention of destroying either its nuclear programme or with killing someone, that excuse doesn't really cut the ice. Perhaps Martin Kettle would now still like to tell us that Jack Straw wasn't moved from his position as foreign secretary because he was dead-set against any military attack, honest guv.
Hammer another nail into the coffin of the right to protest. GlaxoSmithKline not only have managed to get an injunction against the animal rights protestors who have sent letters out to shareholders, they've in effect put in motion the start of a process that will result in shareholders names and addresses being withheld from the public.
The injunction itself is laughable. No one actually knows who has sent out the letters, seeing as they are anonymous, but the guesswork done has pointed the finger either at SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) or SPEAK. It is meant to stop both any more letters from being sent, and to stop any protestors from carrying out the incredibly weak so-called threat to publish their home address on the internet if they don't sell their shares in Glaxo. Because it's not known who those behind the campaign are, the injunction applies to any website which publishes any details of any shareholder, and to anyone who sends any similar letter to a shareholder. The threat behind it is that anyone who does can be held in contempt of court, which carries a possible prison sentence.
It's incredibly difficult to see how the high court could issue such a widely-reaching injunction and actually have it enforced, let alone the chilling effect such an order has on the right to free speech, freedom to publish and protest which it infringes upon. While I have neither seen the letter in full or the injunction in full, as I can't find the damn things anywhere, the letter is by most standards of animal rights extremists, which is what the media are calling them, pretty mild stuff. Some quotes from it are:
“We are a group set up to hold Huntingdon Life Sciences [HLS] accountable for its acts of animal cruelty." “Holding HLS accountable means holding GlaxoSmithKline to its promise not to use HLS ever again." "The only way to hold GlaxoSmithKline to it's [sic] PROMISE is to target it's [sic] financial vulnerability." "We are therefore giving you this opportunity to sell your shares in Glaxo-SmithKline." "Over the next two weeks every shareholder of GlaxoSmithKline will be receiving this letter."
The letter seemingly ends with the line "The choice is yours" or words to that effect. But what sort of threat do these people really pose? They already have the names and addresses of those who they've sent the letters to. The names and addresses of shareholders are freely available, and rightly so. If these people really meant business, they could have just not bothered with the letters and published the names on their website(s), which they haven't done. They could have staged similar attacks to what some extremists have in the past, such as throwing bricks through windows, damaging cars, and even planting small bombs.
Instead what we have seen has been possibly the grossest overreaction that could have been imagined. Glaxo has around 170,000 small investors. No animal rights group has the resources to send letters to every single one of them, let alone put every single one of those addresses up on the internet. Even if a small number were put up online, anyone who had wanted to find out who owned Glaxo shares close to them could have done so without gaining the attention of anyone, as the addresses are freely available. They could therefore have gone straight to violent protest, or even non-violent, by turning up outside their houses. No, instead what has happened is that Glaxo's chief executive has come out and said that their actions are "deplorable". An investors group went further and called it "terrorism".
You would think that you wouldn't need to tell people what terrorism actually is, especially in today's climate, but hell, it seems we still need to. Merriam-Webster defines it as:
violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands
So no, I somehow don't think an incredibly mild letter amounts to that. According to the investors group, we could define the likes of balliffs letters as terrorism, or demands from credit companies for payments as such. Even some letters sent to newspapers or MPs could conceivably come under such a definition. This is not to say that some animal rights group have carried out what could be called acts of terrorism, or that I even agree with their stand; I don't. I also wouldn't support the likes of Pro-Test, who also seem to have just one image of what an animal rights protestor is in their head, and tend to paint all the animal rights groups as extremists. Even more shamefully, the media also seem to be slipping into doing so.
The issue here though is the wider right to protest. On Monday we saw the likelihood that protesting outside parliament will be further curtailed. Today someone taking a name and address from the public domain and publishing it on a blog may well risk the possibility of being imprisoned. As was seen when the News of the Screws took an injunction out to stop Mr Mahzer Mahmood from having his photo published, only the rich and powerful can afford to get such legal judgements in their favour. What's next? A defence company that stops a group such as CAAT from sending letters to their shareholders, asking them to think again? It may be an act of futility or even stupidity, but does that mean it should be illegal? It seems from the reaction to the letter to Glaxo shareholders that a lot tend to think so.
Shimon Peres is one of the more likeable Israeli politicians, a man who at one time was dedicated to a just peace with the Palestinians. In these days of unilaterism, he seems to have become more and more resigned to "peace" having to be imposed, the view of Sharon and now Ehud Olmert. Even so, few would have thought he would make similar remarks to what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad supposedly made about wiping Israel off the map.
Peres, speaking ahead of UN Security Council deliberations on possible sanctions on Iran, cautioned Monday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, should bear in mind that his own country could also be destroyed.
"They want to wipe out Israel... Now when it comes to destruction, Iran too can be destroyed [but] I don't suggest to say an eye for an eye," Peres told Reuters.
"Israel would defend itself under any condition but we don't look upon it as an Iranian-Israeli conflict exclusively... [Iran] is basically a danger to the world, not just to us," he said.
In a way, he's right. Even if Iran does eventually manage to manufacture a nuclear weapon, it still faces a nuclear armed Israel with far more missiles and the backing of the United States, which is encircling Iran, with bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and the friendly regime of Musharraf in power in Pakistan. Any attack by Iran would be pure suicide, and the old doctrine of MAD (mutually assured destruction) would likely be invoked. Even so, it doesn't excuse such a silly remark, or his ridiculous assertion that Iran has started a nuclear arms race in the area. Wouldn't be to anything to do with all those weapons that Israel has, or the influence of the Pakistan scientist who sold nuclear secrets for money after India and Pakistan had established their programmes, would it?
Nevertheless, there are some who continue to convincingly claim that Ahmedinejad has been badly translated. Juan Cole has repeatedly made this clear. For his trouble, Cole has come under repeated smear from the voracious US right. Christopher Hitchens, a former hero of mine for his call for Henry Kissinger to be tried for war crimes, has been the most mainstream of his critics to claim that he has been distorting the truth. Cole has also had the privilege of having the barking mad Wall Street Journal comment pages smearing him. The issue goes to the heart of what we know about Iran and its president. If we can't be certain of what he has actually said, and what context he has said it in, how can be so sure of what threat Tehran actually poses? The attacks on Cole show that some are determined that there should be no middle line or nuance on Iran. Those that led us into the disaster in Iraq still aren't satisfied, and as Cole so passionately states, if we don't stop them they will do it again.
The IPCC worker who leaked the truth about the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes has gone public. Her story ties in with the line that the police have done everything in their power to intimidate and cover-up what actually happened on that day.
Lana Vandenberghe, who worked for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said that ten officers broke down her front door in a dawn raid. She was placed in a cell without food or access to a lawyer for eight hours by bullying officers who told her that she would go to prison.
Despite the ordeal, Ms Vandenberghe, who lost her home, her job as an administration secretary and was treated for depression after being arrested, said that she would do it all again to expose the deliberate police “cover up”. Ms Vandenberghe, 44, leaked details from the IPCC inquiry into the fatal shooting of Mr de Menezes, 27, at Stockwell Tube station in South London on the day after the July 21 bombings. The information contradicted the Metropolitan Police’s initial version of events. It had said that the Brazilian had vaulted the station ticket barrier and run down an escalator to escape firearms officers who were following him. Officers said that he was wearing a bulky coat that could have concealed explosives. But evidence collated by Ms Vandenberghe for the IPCC revealed that he was wearing a light denim jacket and had walked calmly into the station, picked up a free newspaper and then walked down the escalator.
After he boarded a train, officers shot him seven times in the head.
Ms Vandenberghe said, in an interview to be broadcast on ITV News tonight, that she leaked the evidence in August to show that the police were “lying”.
and in that interview she said:
"He wasn't a terrorist at all, he was just a normal guy, wearing normal jeans and a jacket, going to work.
"And when I saw the videos, then I saw the state after he was shot, my heart ... I just thought, 'oh my God, this could be my daughter'."
"I knew from what I read and from what I learnt that it was a lie, and it appalled me that the police or the Met were not coming to light and saying we were wrong, this was a mistake."
It therefore seems likely that the IPCC had full CCTV footage of what happened - footage that initially seemed to be "lost".
Without Vandenberghe's leak, we may have only had the word of de Menezes's family against the police. The only thing the Met bothered to inform of us was that an innocent man had been shot. We still had the accounts of those such as Mark Whitby, who had said that de Menezes had been wearing a heavy coat, and the even more risible claim by one witness that he had seen a belt with wires coming from it, which was taken to be a suicide bomber's explosives belt. As of yet, we still don't have any indication of whether officers are going to be charged. The Sun a month or so ago seemed to have information that no officers were going to be charged, and seeing the Sun is the favourite paper of plods to both read and leak to, that may well be accurate.
What we have instead is a woman who lost her job for daring to leak what really happened, another ITN journalist who also had the same treatment meted out to her, and Brian Paddick likely to be retired for suggesting that those inside Ian Blair's office (not neccessarily Blair himself) had known that an innocent man had been killed. de Menezes himself has been accused of rape (later cleared), been accused of being in the country illegally and of acting suspiciously, meaning it was all his fault. Nothing to do with what one police officer described as a "complete and utter fuck-up", nothing to do with a media howling for police and government to take action, nothing to do with a policy which was put into operation with no parliamentary debate, based on an Israeli shoot-to-kill agreement which has far more checks and balances. All this just underlines how badly we need to be given the full IPCC report as soon as possible.
Related post: Police intimidated whistleblower.
Only 2 weeks ago, but what seems aeons ago in what has gone on since then, Henry Porter and Tony Blair had an email conversation about civil liberties and the rule of law. Included in one of Tony's replies was the following:
You say people can only have blank placards outside Parliament and can't protest. Go and look at the placards of those camped outside Parliament - they are most certainly not blank and usually contain words not entirely favourable to your correspondent.
Peace activist Brian Haw may have to end his five-year vigil outside Parliament as the government has won an appeal against an earlier legal ruling.
Last July, Mr Haw, 56, from Worcestershire, won a High Court action against a new law threatening his round-the-clock protest.
But three Court of Appeal judges have now overturned that decision.
Previously in the High Court, lawyers for Mr Haw argued that his demonstration had begun four years earlier and therefore he did not have to apply for authorisation.
The government said Mr Haw posed a potential security risk and described his argument as absurd, but judges ruled by a 2-1 majority in Mr Haw's favour.
But on Monday, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, Lord Justice Laws and Lady Justice Hallett overturned the decision and refused permission for him to appeal to the House of Lords.
Sometimes it's the little things that really make you angry. For 5 years Brian Haw has made his principled stand for peace and protested outside parliament, which not a single person would argue against it being his right if he wishes to. The government couldn't move him on when they made a fundamental error in drafting the legislation banning protests within a 1km of parliament, so now they have to hide behind the banner of "security" when what they really mean is that his continued protest amounts to terrorism. After all, when Maya Evans was convicted under the "Serious and Organised Crime Act" for demonstrating within 1km of parliament, her MP Michael Foster wrote the following to the Independent:
Historically all sorts of protests have taken place around Parliament, but with the current terrorist threat it would be easy to mask a terrorist atrocity under the guise of a legitimate demonstration.
Yes, that's right. Behind Brian's banners and placards he's actually manufacturing the poison ricin, ready at any moment to smear it on the doorknobs of every MP's office.
The appeal court judges struck down the original ruling, completely falling for the government's argument which was originally and rightly deemed unable to catch Mr Haw. The government could have redrafted the legislation and submitted it to parliament again - except now Mr Haw and his stand have become a matter of principle to everyone who is opposed to Labour's attacks on the right to protest without first seeking permission from the Met. It'd also be the perfect opportunity for David Cameron to show that his party are committed to civil liberties, and probably defeat the government in the bargain. That Blair one week points how just how free we really are and then in the next week appeals against the freedom that he lauded shows the contempt and arrogance of Labour in trying to crush all dissent. One has to wonder whether Mr Haw will be evicted from parliament square at the same time as Mr Blair.