Over the last decade there has been an erosion of civil liberties and a breach of civil and human rights in the UK. These range from the abandonment of habeas corpus to the creation of foreign prisons where interrogation and torture can be committed without due scrutiny or legal representation. Habeas corpus is a long-established legal tenet to ensure that anyone imprisoned, should be brought before the court. Prior to Tony Blair’s second term as prime minister habeas corpus had only notably been suspended during the Treason Trials of 1790s, at a time when Britain was at war with France, and when it was feared that revolution might spread across the channel. Now President Obama has just signed off a bill to imprison “American citizens without charge or trial”.
A lack of human rights, and the overriding of legal procedures, is even worse today. The Attorney General is advisor to the government and the highest legal authority in England and Wales. The last three Attorney Generals, Peter Goldsmith, Patricia Scotland and the current one, Dominic Grieve, have each exceeded their authority. In an email to the Attorney General’s office on 18 May 2011, Christopher Stephen Frost, a specialist in diagnostic radiology, sought reassurance that due process would take place in establishing an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly. In his email he pointed out that due process had not ensued with both Grieve’s predecessors, “Lord Goldsmith over his twice changed Iraq War legal advice and Baroness Scotland over the twice cancelled Serious Fraud Office investigation of British Aerospace”.
On 19 December 2011 Justice Nicol effectively brought to an end any chance of an inquest into the death of Dr Kelly, which is alarming since there never was a proper inquest. Instead the Hutton Inquiry dealt with this unnatural event clumsily and without properly cross-examining unsworn witnesses, as former MP Norman Baker, ably argues in his searching account The Strange Death of David Kelly. To add to the lack of justice from what was more correctly labelled “a whitewash” Hutton prohibited papers and photographs related to Kelly’s death from public scrutiny for 70 years, upheld by Dominic Grieve. If this stands when the documents are released it will be tantamount to the Clintons apologising for the United States’ experiments into the effects of syphilis on blacks and Guatemalans. A glib apology is hardly going to help anyone some sixty years from now when most people will have forgotten that Dr Kelly died because he told the truth that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and that there was no forty-five minute capability for Iraq to deploy long-range missiles which threatened the United Kingdom. These were prime ministerial lies.
Suspending habeas corpus has led to the imprisonment of a British subject, Babar Ahmad, for more than seven years without charge. Another former prisoner, Algerian-born Hider Hanani, was held for more than seven years without charge and on his eventual release from Long Lartin prison was effectively put under house arrest. Long Lartin, Belmarsh and Woodhill are our Guantanamos, except they are on UK soil, whereas Guantanamo Bay is not in the US, so in that respect, before Obama’s latest deplorable contravention of the Bill of Rights, we were more culpable in our disregard for habeas corpus and the rule of law. Tony Blair labelled Guantanamo Bay an ‘anomaly’ and the Attorney General, William Goldsmith, called for its closure in 2006, without either addressing our own anomalies. Our reputation worldwide is probably as low as it has ever been in the last hundred years. I would like to see that reputation restored. That is another reason why I am calling for Dominic Grieve to resign.