Civil liberties projects
Projects with Liberty
We are currently working with Liberty (www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk)
on a number of initiatives.
Since 9/11 and the “War Against Terror” there have
been international calls to bring those responsible to justice.
On the domestic front these calls have ensued a debate relating
to the balance between civil liberties and protecting civilians
against attacks and the potential introduction of ID cards.
Liberty and Charter 88 have produced a pamphlet bringing together
contributions from a diverse background who nonetheless all conclude
that we should resist the introduction of identity cards. Contributors
include, amongst others, Mike O’Brien now Foreign Office Minister,
Alan Simpson Labour MP for Nottingham South, Simon Hughes Lib Dem
Spokesman on Home Affairs and Jaffer Clarke Joint Deputy Leader
of the Muslim Parliament.
The Muslim Parliament has supported Liberty’s research project
focusing on anti-terrorism legislation and the growth of Islamophobia
post 9/11 and how this effectively mirrors the way anti-terror laws
were criminalising the Irish community a decade ago. See Liberty's
report Suspect Community
Liberty has issued a Briefing on the Anti-Terrorism debate in
the wake of the Privy Counsellor Review Committee Report chaired
by Lord Newton (the “Newton Report”). The Newton Report
states, “We strongly recommend that the powers which allow
foreign nationals to be detained potentially indefinitely should
be replaced as a matter of urgency”. The Report goes on to
condemn other aspects of the legislation. As detention provisions
are grafted onto immigration provisions, rather than the criminal
system, evidence obtained by torture is inadmissible, the standard
of proof is the lower balance of probabilities (rather than beyond
reasonable doubt) and the suspect faces no specific charge and is
not presented with the evidence against him.
As well as the grave civil liberties concerns with the current
legislation, Liberty also highlights the impact of internment on
British Muslims and has included in their report contributions from
a number of prominent Muslim community organisations. The majority
of arrests under anti-terrorism legislation post 9/11 have been
of Muslims (a large proportion of whom have been subsequently released
with no charge).
Furthermore, all those detained indefinitely are Muslim men. This
has clearly created feelings of mistrust and resentment within the
Muslim community, which could foster extremism. Thus, instead of
effectively fighting against terrorism, the use of internment could
prove to be counter-effective. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui has commented,
“Muslims are one of the most marginalised and criminalised
communities in Britain. By extending the provision of internment
to British nationals on the basis of mere suspicion by intelligence
agencies or the police will be seen by the community as a war on
Islam, not a war on terror. This will serve no useful purpose except
to fuel further extremism, which every sensible person wants to
Liberty concludes that this treatment as a “suspect community”
could leave young British Muslims less likely to co-operate with
the police or security services. By voting against the renewal of
the powers contained in Part 4 of the Act (including internment
powers) parliament can bring an end to this discriminatory process
with the opportunity to end internment without being forced to explain
that it is no longer justified.
On 14 January 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined
a broad-based coalition in filing a friend-of-the-court brief calling
on the Supreme Court to assure that the detainees being held at
Guantanamo Bay have access to the courts to challenge the legality
of their detention. The broad-based coalition included, amongst
other organisations, the American Jewish Committee, Amnesty International,
Human Rights Watch, Islamic Circle North America (Relief), the Law
Society of England and Wales and the National Association of Criminal
The brief supports the appeal in two related lawsuits filed by
relatives of the Guantanamo detainees who were effectively declared
“non-persons” as the US Court of Appeals in the District
of Columbia had ruled that the Guantanamo camps were part of the
“sovereign territory of Cuba” and thus outside the jurisdiction
of US laws.
The families of Guantanamo Bay prisoners in the UK, France and
other European countries, their lawyers, the American Civil Liberties
Union, other human rights lawyers and organisations united to launch
the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission on 20 January 2004 at the
Houses of Parliament.
The immediate objective of the Guantanamo Bay Human Rights Commission
is to put pressure on the President of the US, the US government
and law makers to treat the Guantanamo prisoners according to the
standard of American and International law. Long-term, the Commission
hopes to achieve an end to all forms of internment without trial,
whether in Guantanamo or in Britain.
Dr Siddiqui spoke at this protest.
Patrons of the Committee include Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Sir Richard
Eyre, Sir David Hare, Sir Ian Holm, Lord Judd, Vanessa Redgrave
and Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP.
A delegation from the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission travelled
to Washington in March 2004 to lobby politicians and raise awareness
of the detainees’ plight with the backing of the American
Civil Liberties Union.
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
CAMPACC was established in early 2001 to oppose the civil liberties
threat embodied in the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000, although their
work has been considerably extended as a result of later events.
After the 9/11 attacks the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act
2001 granted further powers of detention and surveillance. As a
result 14 people have been detained at Belmarsh for an indefinite
period, with no requirement for the disclosure of the supposed evidence
against them. The Muslim Parliament works closely with CAMPACC,
as well as Liberty, in campaigning against internment which represents
a war on civil liberties, and for the release of the detainees at
CAMPACC has also submitted evidence to the Privy Council review
of the Anti-Terrorism Crime & Security Act 2001. See the CAMPACC
Link to “Terrorising Communities” article by Gareth
Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers
See their website
2004 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Bill
This Bill, currently going through Parliament, includes measures
such as reducing the right of appeal to one only, with no recourse
to higher courts, and no appeal against decisions by the Home Secretary.
These measures will apply to both immigration and asylum decisions
thus making it harder for UK citizens who are settled migrants to
gain permission for family members to come here, whether for visits
or to live. Asylum seekers whose claim has been refused could have
their children taken away if they do not return to their countries,
no matter what dangers await them. Furthermore, asylum seekers who
arrive in the UK with no documentation face two years’ imprisonment.
All this in addition to the proposed cuts in legal aid which will
reduce access to lawyers.
A Lobby of Parliament day was held on Tuesday 24 February 2-4 pm,
supported by the Muslim Parliament, ahead of the third reading of
The Stop the War coalition was established in the aftermath of
the 9/11 attacks as an umbrella organisation to bring together peace
activists, trade unionists, and others campaigning against the “War
on Terror”. Although the Coalition strongly condemns the attacks,
further war will only serve to increase the numbers of innocent
dead, cause untold suffering, political and economic instability
on a global scale, increase racism and result in attacks on civil
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui has been a member of the Executive Committee
of the Stop the War Coalition from its inception. In the UK the
Stop the War Coalition has organised massive demonstrations against
the military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, many of which Dr Ghayasuddin
Siddiqui has spoken at. The Coalition is currently campaigning to
End the Occupation of Iraq and to Stop the War on the Iraqi people.
See the Stop
The War Coalition website.
Awaaz - South Asia Watch
Awaaz was established following the violence and killings of Indian
citizens, mainly Muslims, in the state of Gujarat after February
2002. Awaaz – South Asia Watch is a UK-based network of individuals
and organisations committed to monitoring and combating religious
hatred in South Asia and in the UK.
“In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism”,
a report prepared by Awaaz South Asia Watch, was launched at the
House of Lords on 26 February 2004, the eve of the second anniversary
of the horrific Gujarat carnage. The report presents alarming new
evidence that UK organisations have been raising funds in the name
of humanitarian charity, and donating these funds to Hindu extremist
groups involved or directly implicated in serious, large-scale violence
or hatred in India.
The report demonstrates that the UK-based Sewa International sent
£2 million for the devastating earthquake in the Indian state
of Gujarat in 2001, to its Indian counterpart Sewa Bharati, a front
for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Money from the UK was given
to RSS front organisations that are involved or implicated in serious
violence or hate politics in India. Much of the money was spent
on schools that promote hatred and fanaticism.
Awaaz has called for the Charity Commissioner to withdraw the charity
status of three British charities: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS)
UK, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) UK, and the Kalyan Ashram Trust.
HSS and Sewa International are currently being investigated by the
UK Charity Commission.
The Muslim Parliament works with Awaaz to campaign against religious
fundamentalist control of the state, civil society, political life
and personal freedom, and to work towards building democratic state
institutions and civil life where all citizens have the right to
live in peace and security and fully participate in the political
and civil process and decision–making.
See the Awaaz website.