UK Using Anti-Terror Laws To Harass And Intimidate Human Rights And Democracy Activists

from the shameful dept

You may recall that, last month, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained at Heathrow for nearly 9 hours for helping Greenwald do journalism. There were many problems with this detention, not the least of which that officials used an anti-terrorism law, called Schedule 7, for the detention. The author of Schedule 7, Charles Falconer, specifically has said that the law wasn’t intended for such purposes. And yet, it appears that the UK authorities aren’t backing down from abusing Schedule 7 to intimidate people having nothing to do with terrorism.

The latest is using Schedule 7 to detain and intimidate a human rights and democracy activist from Yemen. Let me repeat it: this is someone advocating for democracy, and they’re being detained and harassed under an anti-terrorism law. Something is seriously screwed up here.

Baraa Shiban, a respected human rights activist who works in Yemen as a project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve and was travelling to London to speak at an event, said he was held for an hour on Monday night and questioned about his work and political views.

He was detained under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act, the same legislation used last month at Heathrow to detain David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has written about mass internet surveillance by the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.

Shiban is a member of Yemen’s National Dialogue – the body tasked with mapping out the country’s democratic future

Shiban was going to the UK to give a speech on, of all things, “security, diplomacy and aid.” He may want to edit the planned remarks slightly. Shiban further pointed out that the detention was focused on his human rights activities. Remember this is under a law that is supposed to only be used to stop terrorists.

Shiban said: “I was stunned when the border agent said I was being held simply because I came from Yemen. It was even more shocking when he spent the entire time asking me about my human rights work and about Reprieve, the charity I work for.

“Is the UK the kind of place that human rights activists are fair game for detention, intimidation and interrogation?”

The excuse given by Sussex police is especially pathetic:

A spokesman said: “He was referred to Sussex police by Border Force officials. He spoke with officers for around half an hour and was then free to continue his journey. We are satisfied that our actions were legitimate, justified and proportionate and were carried out in accordance with the act.”

Remember, the act is supposed to only be used in investigating possible terrorist activity. These are the kinds of activities that we used to associate with authoritarian non-democratic countries. And now we’re regularly seeing such abuse in the US and the UK.

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Comments on “UK Using Anti-Terror Laws To Harass And Intimidate Human Rights And Democracy Activists”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This is a weak one.

Yemen is a know place where real terrorists come from, border patrol probably doesn’t know every single human rights activist in the world and as much as I would like to bash this, I don’t see it, they stopped someone, questioned him and in a short time let that person go, did he miss his flight connection?

In the case of Miranda that was a serious breach though, the guys in the US border patrol confiscating private property and don’t giving any explanations to no one for hours is a serious breach, this though seems like routine and inconvenient routine but nothing huge or out of the ordinary. Now that for security I am willing to endure for some time until terrorism stop being something cool for some fanatics.

Is there anything else?

Was he stripped searched? his belongings seized? did he had to go to the bathroom and they made him pee in a cup or something more than just stopping a guy and questioning him for an hour or so?

Mostly I am not against the measures but abuse of those and the unwillingness of officials to acknowledge or fix those abuses. Mostly, the NSA thing is something that I am fully against, but not this. it doesn’t sound so horrible, scary for sure, but I can’t see anything terrible wrong with it, specially since the guy is coming from a country that is known to have terrorist.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Really? Read the article and the sources again. He was SPECIFICALLY questioned on his ACTIVISM endeavors and political views. ENGLAND PREVAILS, brother.

If something can be abused it WILL BE ABUSED. Such measures should be very well regulated and narrowly forced or it’ll quickly turn into some Gestapo/Stasi/etc. See NSA, TSA and the likes for similar stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

To be honest stopping someone for 30 minutes is well within what I’d expect border control agents to do in normal conditions.

The lines of questioning are probably not relevant at all as it’s likely to be someone just chatting whilst records and such are checked by his team.

The issue here is the use of terrorism legislation to justify the stop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I believe the problem was that they used an anti-terrorism law to justify their actions. It is a lame explaination for something they would have the right to do regardless! While the objective measures used seems fine and dandy, it is completely unacceptable to use the terrorism-card so liberally. There is no reason to draw it here as it is described in the article and that is the potential problem.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: @ AC: "coming from a country that is known to have terrorist."

Another AC points out that “terrorism” is the excuse. You just casually tossed the word in as your final argument, the word that is used to justify any and all civil rights violations against any and all persons. You’re just the sort of compliant scared little ninny that not only furthers the police state, but welcomes it.

Both the UK and the former US of A are known to have MANY terrorists, and I don’t mean the few lame patsies the FBI creates and funds, I mean gov’t terrorists who dress in suits and ties to plan staged terror events, destablizing countries, creating phony wars for empire, and who almost incidentally set the policies on how their low-level attack dogs are to mis-use these policies and abuse perfectly innocent people. Those are the REAL terrorists.

PaulT (profile) says:

Hardly surprising, but this is par for the course. Give government powers and they will be used eventually. It doesn’t matter what the spirit of the law was originally intended to be – if the letter of the law allows it, the law will be used that way eventually.

This is why right-minded people have been opposed to everything from the Patriot Act to SOPA to the DMCA. Whatever the noble intentions originally ascribed, if not drafted correctly the law can be abused in ways far beyond the original intentions. Intelligent and aware people don’t wait for the law to be abused before they question it – they ask those questions from the very beginning. “but terrorism” is not a reason to pass a bill too quickly.

Anonymous Coward says:

As we are finding out, all it takes is to slap the word terrorist in the charge somewhere. Once that is done, no laws that are recognized as granted citizens applies. Being applied in the no-mans land of between disembarkation and customs means an out to not having to pay attention to the laws of the country. According to Putin with Snowden and yet again with David, this was exactly where these detentions were held.

With Snowden, it was the terrorist might be informed what we are doing to get the word terrorist in there. Here despite what Baraa Shiban stands for and does, he too was detained. Not because of terrorists but because he might be embarrassing or because of racial profiling. What is also certain, is that his status as being pro-democracy was already known prior. This doesn’t fit a terrorist. This fits intimidation.

It is starting to be very apparent that those not in the favor of a government are being harassed on purpose, with prior knowledge. Is there any reason to doubt why Brazil, Bolivia, and some of the EU officials are starting to get teed at the whole mess? At least EU does take some sort of seriousness about personal privacy.

In our present so called democracies, that issue looks to be dead at present.

out_of_the_blue says:

"Falconer, specifically has said" -- HE'S LYING, THOUGH!

Look, if a politician would design and vote for a law with such clear anti-human-rights provisions, is it not likely that he’d LIE about it later? The resulting mis-use and abuse are predictable by you and me, but apparently YOU continue to believe that politicians are only fools and not knaves. Sheesh.

QUIT giving these politicians the benefit of doubt! They’re ALL liars as convenient and all tyrants to the extent can, only vying with each other to be the biggest tyrant.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: "Falconer, specifically has said" -- HE'S LYING, THOUGH!

Ah, your moment of sanity and honesty earlier today was short-lived as I expected (if that was you).

I love political threads here, though. You spend all your time whining and attacking Mike, yet not once ever begin to say what you think a solution might be. No substance, no counter argument, just whining about someone you take a dislike to. You just attack people for talking about the problems as if not saying anything would somehow do something.

Every post of yours seems to be quite well summarised by simply quoting Shakespeare: “it is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing”

Lurk-a-lot (profile) says:

A spokesman said: “He was referred to Sussex police by Border Force officials. He spoke with officers for around half an hour and was then free to continue his journey. We are satisfied that our actions were legitimate, justified and proportionate and were carried out in accordance with the act.”

Dear spokesman for the Sussex Police, I think that you are a twat. I am satisfied that calling you a twat is legitimate, justified and proportionate and has been carried out in accordance with with all applicable speech laws within the UK and EU.

Anonymous Coward says:

the UK needs to get away from the USG as soon as possible, as far as possible and return to what it has always been noted for, openness, honesty and fairness. what it is doing now is exactly the same as the NSA and other security services, like the border patrol guards, are doing. it is shaming itself and it’s citizens. there is absolutely no way the terrorism law could be used in either of the two instances and it is being twisted to suit the situation. when the instigator of the bill says it’s wrong, he needs to get his ass in gear and repeal the bill and rewrite one to cater for the situations properly! this again is taking leaves out of the NSA book! Cameron has a lot to answer for and i sincerely hope that happens in the not too distant GE in 2015!!

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