Largely unnoticed by the public the Labour government has been sneaking in “anti-terrorist” legislation in the wake of the Omagh bombing and is planning to sharpen their knives even further with new proposed laws.
It becomes clear that ‘new’ Labour has been put into power because it is even more radical in defending crisis-struck capitalism than the Tories. Blair’s is an entirely different type of extremism than Thatcher’s, a more modern one. So get ready for repression:
An amendment to the PTA – Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act was rushed through which allows
– convictions for membership of an illegal organisation on the “opinion” evidence of a senior police officer
– a new offense of conspiracy within the UK to commit crimes abroad
The point of ‘membership’ in a illegal organisation has been successfully used for example in Italy against dissidents and oppositional intellectuals. In Germany it has been used to lock up people for many years even if they hadn’t actually committed a crime (apart from being a ‘member of a terrorist organisation’). What is new about the UK regulation is that it will be easier than ever to frame people and put them away for 7 years – solely on the (otherwise unproven) evidence of one senior police officer.
The second point is currently directed against people who are dissidents or activists against foreign regimes, so they can be put away even if they’re not planning or committing any crimes in or against the UK (e.g. if they are in exile working against a regime friendly with the UK).
The pretext for this legislation (Ireland simultaneously introduced its own amendments) was the massacre committed in Omagh by a bomb for which an organisation called the “Real IRA” was blamed. No one in the media (once again) asked the relevant question: Cui bono? Who profits? Certainly not the Republican movement. With the new laws militants are told: Toe the line, or we lock you up – and this is happening at the same time as convicted killers walk free. Plus: Wouldn’t it be likely that the security services had infiltrated the “Real IRA”; did they allow the massacre to happen to be able to radicalise their apparatus of repression?
Either way – the “draconian” (Blair) measures were by no means necessary to deal with the bomb, there are plenty and sufficient legal means to deal with people who blow other people up.
Only months later the Home secretary Jack Straw proposed new anti-terrorist laws that would make membership in any groups that use “serious violence” illegal. “The definition of terrorism is to be widened to include any serious violence, including acts of disruption, ‘in order to promote political, religious or ideological ends’.” (Daily Mail, 18-12-98). Straw is dreaming of a permanent law, as opposed to the old Prevention of Terrorism Act that needs to be renewed every year, under which he can use “full powers of arrest, detention, surveillance and sentencing” for the clean Brave New World of Führer Blair.
According to the Daily Mail (“Terror law to curb animal fanatics”) “The Home Secretary is seeking comments on his proposals, which also target the funds of terrorist organisations by making the seizure of their assets easier even if they have not been convicted of any crime but are merely under strong suspicion.”
These are clearly state of emergency laws: But why now? Militant activism is at a low, from whatever perspective you want to see it.
It is however true that the nature of armed conflict is more and more resembling “Terrorism”. The best examples for this are the US attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan (following the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania), as well as the recent Clinton/Blair cooperation in bombing Iraq. Not only are actions such as these bringing us ever closer to a major conflict in a time of worsening crisis of the world-wide capitalist system, also government sources have admitted that they are expecting civil disturbances following the Millennium crash to the degree of having troops on stand-by – and emergency legislation at their disposal.
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