UK terror laws equivalent to Muslim witch-hunt: IHRC
Regional-UK, Politics, 7/6/2006
Britain's 1.8 million Muslim community has been under siege since before the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001, according to a new report on the UK's anti-terrorism laws published yesterday.
The report, the second in a series by the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHCR), said that Muslims in the UK have been "under severe persecution by the British government, police and other institutions" since Terrorism Act 2000 was introduced.
Analyzing a raft of subsequent "draconian" legislation with case studies, it equated the government's anti-terrorism strategy as a "later day witch-hunt" against Muslims.
The strategy, including internment without trial, control orders and house arrests, not only violate basic human rights and curtail civil liberties, but is counter-productive in Britain's declared war on terrorism, IHCR warned.
"Daily stop and search of tens of thousands of Muslims and hundreds of arrests of innocent Muslims have effectively demonized the Muslim community in Britain as `the enemy within'," it also said.
The 116-page report predicted that the new Terrorism Act 2006 will only "confer previously unthinkable powers on law enforcement authorities to counter terrorism and will effectively remove what few civil liberties remain in Britain today." "They bear the hallmarks of authoritarian dictatorships rather than liberal democracies. Such laws are only the latest in a series of such measures which have been used to victimize British Muslims even before the events of September 11, 2001," it said.
But the human rights group warned that such measures will "not prevent terrorism similar to how draconian laws in police states around the globe do not prevent terrorism in those countries." "As long as there is a perceived injustice held by a section of the population against the government and this injustice is not addressed, the threat of terrorism will remain," it said.
The report, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of last year's London bombings said that if the British government was "truly committed to defeating terrorism, it is crucial that the root causes of terrorism are correctly identified and efficiently tackled." "Not to do so will only perpetuate this `war' that has indiscriminately claimed the lives of thousands of innocents," it said.
In its report, the IHRC made 42 recommendations to the UK government ranging from repealing existing anti-terrorism legislation and more precisely defining future laws to making the police more accountable in using unfettered powers.
"Racial and religious profiling must be abandoned as a method of policing. It is ineffective and counter-productive and will only lead to further alienation and marginalization of the victimized community," it said.
The report also called for the police to immediately suspend its `shoot to kill' policy against terrorist suspects following the mistaken killing of a Brazilian engineer last July and the shooting of a 23-year-old Muslim in a bingled anti-terror raid last month.
It also recommended that the hundreds of suspects released without charge should be issued with an apology by the police to help remove the stigma of the publicity of their detention.
The British government was also advised to refrain from using the term `extremism' in its discourse on the causes of terrorism because it has "no tangible legal meaning or definition" and was also "unhelpful and emotive" in misrepresenting Muslims.
The human rights group also referred to a parallel campaign to denounce anyone who questions the legitimacy of Israel which, it said, is seen as an attempt to silence academic thought and legitimate political expression.
"If the government hopes to pander to Zionist pressure by condemning and excluding from this country people who are critical of Israeli apartheid, it is in fact supporting apartheid," it said.
"Criminalizing the mere possession of certain opinions is the hallmark of dictatorships," it added.
The report said that similar reasoning for attempts to ban certain political groups applied to threats to close mosques if they are arbitrarily defined as being "extremist" and amounted to "collective punishment" of whole communities.
Initiatives were also condemned such as CampusWatch, which is aimed to make students spy on one another.
Such schemes "will lead to mistrust and religious segregation on campus, and must therefore be discontinued," it said.
The IHRC recommended that in order to protect the rights of Muslims in Britain, religious discrimination must be outlawed, otherwise it leaves the "impression that Muslims are not full citizens entitled to protection in Britain." It also warned against terror suspects being tried by the media or by comments made by politicians, saying that the Contempt of Court Act 1981 must be used to prevent reports which could prejudice the right to a fair trial and to punish those who breach it.
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