We have made two formal complaints to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, one over my incarceration for Contempt of Court, and one over continuing police harassment including the investigation for “terrorism” of which I am now the subject.
In a meeting with UN staff, we promised to follow up with details of a few of the many others who have been detained, questioned and had their electronics seized under Article 7 of the Terrorism Act. In each case there was no suggestion of any kind – including by the Police – that they have any connection to terrorism.
It is plain that in fact people are being persecuted for political dissident opinion.
In the modern world, access to your electronics – and it is a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act not to hand over access codes to the police when your electronics are confiscated – allows the police to trawl through your entire private life. Most of us access over 90% of our correspondence, all of our financial information, and much of our social relationships, online.
Just think personally for one moment: if the police had full access to everything in your laptop or tablet and phone, including all the history, how would you feel about that?
It leaves the victims, myself included, feeling violated. It is an incredibly intrusive thing for the state to do.
The case of Dr John Laughland is particularly interesting. In his case, judges ruled explicitly that the police had every right to access all his electronics, and to retain all the data, precisely because there was no suggestion of him committing any offence. This extraordinary passage justifying the fascist approach to Dr Laughland’s data comes from Lord Menzies, one of the judges who sent me to jail.
The reference in Mr Laughland’s representations to respecting the presumption of innocence is therefore misplaced – nobody has accused him of anything, far less found him guilty of anything. His reputation is not tarnished by the decision to retain the copied material, and this decision should not be taken as a conclusion that he poses a risk or threat to national security. No such finding is to be implied in this decision.
It is of course quite mad to argue that the police should have access to all your most private information, precisely because you have done nothing wrong. It is the ultimate development of the “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear” argument beloved by proponents of maximum state surveillance.
The idea that the state has a right to see everything, and you have no right to private affairs, of course lies also behind the government move just this week to promulgate a law in the UK that allows the state full access to the bank accounts of anyone in receipt of any state benefit, including old age pension and child benefit – over half the population.
Incidentally, whether you or I agree with Dr Laughland’s politics is irrelevant. Freedom is not only important for people with whom you happen to agree.
I do not expect any instant results from the UN. The human rights mechanisms are swamped by the genocide in Gaza. There is already cognitive dissonance among UN officials who do not know how to react to Western government support for that genocide. A complaint against the UK always faces resistance, as the narrative of British support for human rights has strong roots in the history of the UN as an institution; even though that is a false or, at best, very partial picture of historical British behaviour.
But we keep chipping away at the marble façade.
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