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Passion Islam I April 2009 LOCAL & NATIONAL NEWS I 9
UK police accused of misusing
terror laws against peaceful protests
An all party committee of presumption a reality,”
parliamentarians expressed concern he added.
that the right to protest in the UK was The call for a
being undermined by “autocratic” review comes after
police measures and called for criticism of the police
changes in the law and tactics. handling of anti-Israel
A 70-page report by the Joint demonstrations during
Human Rights Committee was also its latest slaughter
critical about the deployment of riot of more than 1,300
police at protest marches and warned Palestinians in Gaza,
that they “can unnecessarily raise the which reportedly
temperature” among demonstrators. included the blocking
“The right to protest is a of marchers in a
fundamental democratic right and one tunnel that almost
The committee said it heard claims
that the state and police have a duty to caused a stampede.
from protestors and human rights
protect and facilitate,” said committee British police were also accused
groups that the police had become
chairman Andrew Dismore. of abusing their powers, including
more autocratic in recent years,
“There is a balance to be struck using psychological tactics, against
using techniques such as penning in
between the rights of protesters, the thousands of protesters attending a
protestors and attempting to collect
police and the public, but the state Camp for Climate Action in south-east
names and addresses of protestors,
must not impose restrictions unless it England last year.
which could have the effect of
is necessary, and proportionate, to do The latest report warned that police
intimidating and deterring protest.
so,” Dismore said. are increasingly using “heavy handed”
In one instance, the National Union
“That is a high threshold. The tactics against demonstrations and
of Journalists said that the police were
presumption is in favour of protest that legislation designed for other
conducting surveillance of reporters,
without state interference. We believe purposes, such as used anti-terror
denying them reasonable access to
there are changes to the law and powers, were being “misused” to
protests, not recognising press cards,
practice that are needed to make that restrict lawful protest.
and even assaulting journalists.
UK’s new anti-terrorism strategy
‘counter-productive,’ warn Muslims
expressing support of Hamas as the backgrounds support those shared
elected Palestinian government and values and want to make that
the right of armed resistance against challenge,” she told the BBC.
Israel’s military occupation. Reports suggested that the
Speaking on the CONTEST-2 government’s proposals would lead to
strategy, Home Secretary Jacqui most British Muslims being branded
Smith said that there would be a as extremists, including those who
greater emphasis on tackling terrorism advocate a caliphate, promote Sharia
through “civil challenge”. law, believe in armed resistance,
“Where people may not have including by Palestinians against the
Britain’s largest Muslim organisation broken the law but nevertheless act Israeli military and fail to condemn
has criticised the UK government’s in a way that undermines our belief in the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or
plans to widen the definition of this country, in democracy, in human Afghanistan.
extremism in its latest counter- rights, in tolerance, and free speech, But MCB expressed serious
terrorism strategy as “counter- there should be a challenge made to alarm that the government may be
productive.” them, not through the law but through in “danger of adopting misguided
The Muslim Council of Britain a civil challenge,” Smith said. notions of extremism as dictated by
(MCB) also rejected calls for its deputy “We should argue back, we xenophobic commentators who profit
secretary general Daud Abdullah to should make clear that those things from creating a hostile atmosphere
resign after reportedly signing a public are unacceptable. And I think that from which bigots of all shades can
declaration made by 90 Muslims the vast majority of communities draw.”
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