Labour, human rights and the #spycops bill

Labour, human rights and the #spycops bill

I am pretty disappointed with Labour’s decision to abstain on the 3rd Reading of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill. It’s truly disgraceful and allowing the State’s secret policy to operate with impunity jeopardises important human rights such as the right to a fair trial and the right to organise (freedom of association) not to mention the rights to privacy although the investigatory powers act of 2016 put these on the bonfire. Most of its opponents focus on murder, torture and rape, but the destruction of the rule of law and its application to the police is an on-ramp to these crimes, the principle of an accountable police and prosecutor is the key.

However, Labour is not good on these issues, more recently the PLP led by Burnham & Starmer colluded with the IPA 2016, supported the retention of ‘economic’ security as a lawful purpose of the intelligence service’s activities and when I proposed the supremacy of human rights law as a conference policy, it got 2 votes on the NPF web site and my CLP has always sent other, yet important, motions to conference while CLPD’s support was ineffective as they pursued their doomed attempt to rewrite the Leadership election rules. I posted my moving speech to this blog. I am not sure if this is because many people consider the NPF to be a waste of time, or that support for human rights law is weak in the Labour Party, because you can’t eat or burn human rights.

Please vote up my NPF proposal, if its still open and if you can, the software is, to use a technical phrase, a bit shit. Also you might like to share my motion via social media.

ooOOOoo

Hansard have reworked the way in which they report votes, here is their record of the 3rd reading vote, the page opens on the not recorded page.

The Legislation tracker is here, the Lords Committee stage starts in 24th Nov and the Report stage & 3rd reading are not yet planned. If the Lords amend the Bill then it will return to the Commons for what is called the “Consideration of Amendments” where usually the Commons tell the Lords to “go away” (4,3). …

In a democracy, the police must obey the law

Another second reading abstention by Labour, this time on indemnifying police and secret police agents from criminal acts. It, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, has become known as the #spycops Bill. It was eloquently opposed by Zarah Sultana, who failed to mention that the remaining protection is the Human Rights Act, which the Tories have at times committed to repealing, but did include the second fatla flaw in that such otherwise illegal acts are to be authorised by senior officers in the agent's organisation. Much drama has been made of the potential for murder, torture and rape, but the line is that the police must obey the law, all of them. This Bill breaks that principle Here's Zarah (below/overleaf).....

Dignity and respect at work

I was writing a motion for GMB Congress on Bullying and came across this, from one of the ACAS codes, as part of the definition,

Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work

I thought that maybe there’s a human rights dimension so went to check out the European Convention on Human Rights since we are losing the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which does include it. Nope! ECHR doesn’t! Well done! …

A short rough guide to the world

A short rough guide to the world

It’s a terrible world, the forces of repression are growing and act with impunity and as with Spain in the 30’s a Tory Govt fails to act with honour for human rights and democracy. It does not strongly advocate the weak; it does the opposite.

Solidarity with the Uighers in China, the citizens of Jammu/Kashmir, the citizens of the West Bank & Gaza, the Kurds in North Syria, the independence movement in Catalunya, and the protesters in Hong Kong.

And the United Nations show’s its weakness, my list could be longer, perhaps it’s time to refresh my membership of Amnesty International. …

What I said on the surveillance state

What I said on the surveillance state

I took my “surveillance society/human rights law” motion to my CLP GC last week. This is the speech I intended to give, it runs for about 2 mins; I had to cut it down.

In 2013, Edward Snowden, a contractor at the US’s National Security Agency blew the whistle on the NSA, and it’s five-eyes’ allies attempt to bug the whole of the internet, exposing the lengths that the intelligence services were prepared to go in building a surveillance society.

A debate exploded about the legality of their activities and we came to see the importance of their failed attempts under both Labour & Coalition Governments to legalise their activities with the Communications Data Bill versions 1 & 2.

In 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union struck down the Data Retention Directive as in violation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights; in the UK a law was rapidly passed to leave the rights of the intelligence services in place.

Over time these surveillance powers have been extended by via both Legislation such as the Immigration Act, the Counter Terrorism and Security act which authorises Prevent and by “voluntary” agreement such as the #getitrightfromagenuine site programme.

This has been capped of by Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Act, which has since been declared in contravention of the Charter of Fundamental Rights because the captured information can be retrieved for reasons other than serious crime and these retrievals are not reviewed by a Judge.

To this list we should add the Data Protection Act’s immigration exception, which means that immigration data is not subject to the GDPR rights of accessibility and correction.

At the centre of this is the intelligence service’s desire to treat everyone as suspects and to infringe their privacy without proving “reasonable suspicion”.

This is also about political power and how to exercise it; these measures are designed to take power away from us, from citizens and our neighbours.

If you look at the laws that underwrite the surveillance society, Immigration, Counter Terrorism and the DPA Immigration exception, you can see that the first victims of the surveillance society are migrants and ethnic minorities.

We should say and conference must state that freedom of expression and the right to privacy are universal human rights, that the current surveillance and investigatory powers regime is in breach of these rights.

It’s time for Labour to get on the right side of this debate, for too long the portfolio has been in the hands of fans of, or those that fear the securocrats.

250 words is too short to make the whole argument which is why I propose a commission to develop the policy further.

This motion is unlikely to be passed elsewhere so it’d be great if you voted for it and agreed to send it to conference.

The motion carried but we decided to send a great motion on social care. Does anyone have time to put it to conference? …

Another Red Line

I wrote this as an after thought to my article on Corbyn’s letter to May on Labour’s new Red Lines because it fascinates me; the European Arrest warrant is only available to full members of the EU, and in order to join or use it, it is necessary to comply with the CJEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights to have access to it. Frankly the Good Friday Agreement needs that too. This would seem to be a trojan horse to put the Court and Charter of Rights back on the table. I wonder if they realise? … …

Venezuela: what does Amnesty say?

For those that think the UK Government has the right to tell Venezuela how it should run itself, here are Amnesty International’s reports on Venezuela and the UK.

They make an interesting read, criticising Venezuela on the grounds of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest & detention, human rights defenders, independent justice system, prisoners of conscience, international scrutiny, enforced disappearances, impunity, detention, right to food and health, women’s rights and refugees.

The UK report picks out Legal, Constitutional & Institutional affairs, the Justice System, Counter-terror & security, Torture and other ill-treatment, Surveillance, Northern Ireland – legacy issues, Sexual and reproductive rights, Discrimination, Right to life, Refugees’ and migrants’ rights, violence against women and girls and the arms trade.

Neither list is pretty but the freedom of speech and international scrutiny/legal, constitutional & institutional affairs are surprisingly equivalent and the Amnesty report on the UK raises several vulnerabilities of the UK people as a result of austerity, so its questionable that the Tories questioning the legitimacy of Maduro on the grounds that he’s oppressing his people.

The Venezuela presidential election is conducted, it would seem by one of the best e-voting systems in the world, with what IT security experts require, paper receipts and control audits. The opposition conceded.

It is quite bizarre that the leader of the opposition declares himself the acting president and that this is recognised by other states, not to mention foolhardy, there’s a

Maduro may be a shit, but he is not the only Head of State to be so, and the poverty of its people has as much to do with the illegal sanctions employed by the USA as it does to the any kleptocratic, corrupt instincts in the Venezuelan ruling party and he was elected in free and fair elections.

ooOOOoo

The Amnesty report on the UK does not mention Philip Alston’s, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights report on the UK, covered by me on this blog here… .

I posted this with a spelling mistake in the title, bother! Here is the wp SURL https://wp.me/p9J8FV-1Jz and here is a bit.ly SURL http://bit.ly/2WYtBN8 …

Freedom from Want!

I went to the internal relaunch/kickoff of the Labour Campaign for Human Rights last night. I am a member and wish them well. Long term fans will know I have been struggling for a while in getting the Party, with a few honourable exceptions, and its MPs interested in Digital Liberty and its Human Rights dimension; I sum up their attitude as “You can’t eat Human Rights”. I spoke to Matt Turner, the new Chair of their Committee and considered their next campaigns but our conversation moved on to Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights report on the UK. I had missed the fact that this was a Human Rights report, reported on briefly by the Guardian and at more length there too,  and that Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the following:

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

The UNDHR was agreed as the Cold War descended to its depths but for each important individual liberty written in by the UK & US, the Soviet Union insisted (possibly with Roosevelt’s support) for the establishment of collective rights of solidarity which still remain today reflected in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights as I discovered last week. Article 25 is a pretty comprehensive underwriting of the Social Democratic agenda which exercised hegemony in Northern Europe from 1945 to 1979.

We should note the appalling Tory reaction to the report, in the light of the fact that one of their Brexit Red Lines is the exclusion of the CJEU in Human Rights cases, and their disdain for the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act.

Perhaps we should take this into the Labour Party and destroy the image possibly more settled in my generation, that Human Rights are a bourgeois/middle class diversion. …