Scare them enough and they will give you what you want
“The erosion of human rights and civil liberties as the ‘War on Terror’ measures become normalised into the ‘War on Crime’ is certainly something ‘we’ should all be concerned about”.
(Dworkin, R cited in McGhee, D 2008: 14)
The United Kingdom, signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human, European Convention on Human Rights has its own local legislation as well (the Human Rights Act of 1998) to make sure that the people are safe from tyranny. Even so, British governments have started to use arbitrary methods contrary to the Declaration regarding human rights to catch terrorists. “That can’t affect me” you say? These measures can be taken out of context and used on the common public citing the “war against crime” as an excuse to do so.
Even before 9/11, there was fear of terrorism. After 9/11, the difference between actual threat and the fear felt increased dramatically. Post 9/11, many people stopped flying for fear of bombs. The statistics of actual terror threats on airplanes prove otherwise but the fear due to terrorism still remains as a result of the policies of the state promoting fear. For a government, the politics of promoting fear are useful as it lets the state control the population better. At the same time it can battle a real threat using any approach it wants without too much interference on the behalf of the people. The people happily give up their rights in exchange for protection from the state.
Before the July 07/07 bombings, British social attitudes regarding civil liberties such as trial by jury with serious crime, protest against government decisions, keeping life private from the government were mainly considered important by the majority of the people. The July bombing changed the views of people giving the state legitimacy to take Orwellian measures, ones that started to be used against the “war on crime”. Since 9/11 in Britain, ‘executive detention’, and ‘executive control orders’ have started to encroach on the ordinary criminal justice system, with harsher measures as if a parallel justice system is being run by the executive, something contrary to the basic concept of separation of powers. The executive has taken on the role of the judiciary by sentencing and detaining terrorists giving them the right to habeas corpus.
According to the Human Rights Watch website, www.hrw.org, The landmark case of Chahal vs UK in the European Court of Human Rights gave a terrorist plotting to kill the Indian Prime Minister his right to be safe from torture by not letting him be persecuted in India. Yet, the British government continues to use harsher methods for fighting terrorism. It was prepared to let Mr. Chahal be deported to India where there was a risk of torture and if not for the European Court of Justice, he may have been deported.
The UK government has given power to the police to stop and search anyone they choose to. This sort of authority can be used against anyone in a public area, or even vehicles parked in a public area. This measure was initially introduced by the state to battle terrorism. Due to the controversial aspect of it the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the stop and search powers granted to the police within the UK and declared them illegal. It was stated that the powers defied article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The facts of the case state that a couple was stopped and searched by the British Police. Both were off to a demonstration (one to participate and the other to film it). Their rights to freedom of expression were trampled on by the state. The European Court said that this power could lead to “discriminatory use”. The Home Secretary of the time, Alan Johnson expressed disappointment at the verdict and said that he intended to appeal against it.
As long as the people are terrified, they will agree to let the government do the needful. Therein lies the problem, how many rights sacrificed is enough to appease governments around the world that are slowly becoming Orwellian?