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Peace & Progress:
A Party for Human Rights

Published: Sunday 10th October 2004

We used to think that human rights were non-political. So they ought to be. Half a century ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spoke for every inhabitant of the earth, whatever their race, religion, class, sex or age. It could not eradicate all the man-made differences between man and man, man and woman, rich and poor. But it established what was common to rich and poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or atheist, and what was due to them as human beings. Their right to shelter, food, safety, education, justice, life itself should not depend on where they were born, their class, their faith, their gender. In the distribution and receipt of human rights all should be equal.

But in 21st century Britain, as a result of our war against terrorism, and especially since the invasion of Iraq, a new priority has arisen - security. We are told by our government that we must balance our commitment to human rights with our need for security. To prevent ourselves being blown up, poisoned or gassed by terrorists we must deny them their human rights. This goes for any we suspect of terrorism, for the terrorists wife and sister, for those who dress like terrorists, or might, at some future date, contemplate an act of terror.

In the name of security, we now imprison suspected terrorists without charge or trial. Not all suspected terrorists. Pending what our Prime Minister calls the necessary instruments, we reserve detention without trial for foreign nationals.

In the name of security our government has opted out of its commitment, under the European Convention, to the right to fair trial. For the sake of our security our government now condones torture as a legitimate source of intelligence. The UN Convention on Torture (1984) states: No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture (Article 2, clause 2). So our government sub-contracts the torture of suspects to friendly foreign governments. Torture is a commodity for sale, leased out to private contractors whom the government pays to interrogate its suspects. Thanks to the Appeal Court ruling, 11 August, evidence extracted under torture is now admissible in an English Court. We are in a moral swamp and we have lost our way. Human rights are no longer universal but selective.

We are told that we are at war. But this is a very special, one-sided kind of war. It confers rights on only one side. On the other side there is no war, no uniforms, only terrorists, criminals and murderers. For our side human rights. For them, Guantanamo and Belmarsh.

No increase in security can be gained by denying human rights. Quite the contrary. Justice is the name we give to our civil, political, and human rights. Where there are no rights, there is no justice, and where there is no justice there is no security. Under these conditions fundamentalists of any religion can fan the flames of despair, and despair breeds terror. Terrorism is a form of collective punishment practiced by those who are the victims of collective punishment. Terrorism sees no distinction between soldiers and civilians. Its victims are all guilty by association. In its blindness and desperation, terrorism seeks a violent reprisal against the violence of the oppressor. Human rights are the only answer to the blindness and desperation of terror.

The more our government, and the opposition, continue in the belief that human rights are expendable in the interests of security, the more human rights are politicised. Once it was possible for non-governmental organisations to promote human rights non-politically, advocating them to whichever party was in power and opposing those actions by governments which endangered them. Now, human rights require an advocate within the political arena. We need a party of human rights.

Our Commitment
Peace & Progress will be true to the letter and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We ask for your support whatever your past or present political allegiances. Whether you are one of that growing number who do not vote, whether you are a Socialist, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green, Plaid Cymru or Scottish Nationalist we ask you to join Peace & Progress and help us build a party of human rights. We shall ask you to vote for our candidates in the next election. We shall work for a government of peace and progress and support all those who share that aim. We shall represent all those whose human rights are threatened or denied, and we shall speak for all who want a country where justice in law, social justice, and human rights are paramount. A country of peace and progress.

Peace & Progress stands for:

  • British withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Britain must demand the withdrawal of all occupying forces and their replacement with UN troops and aid agencies. Only when it is free from occupation can a genuinely independent Iraq organise democratic elections.
  • Reaffirming our commitment to the UN Charter, to the Geneva Conventions, and to all the covenants and conventions of international law which this government has flouted. Never again must Britain join the US in a pre-emptive war.
  • Specifically, we must reaffirm our commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial; the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Torture, which outlaw torture and any kind of coercive interrogation of prisoners; the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which outlaws the harsh and cruel treatment of young offenders in our prisons.
  • Britain must seek the enforcement of all UN resolutions concerning Israel and the Palestinians.
    We must disarm and destroy all our weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical, and biological, and close all nuclear bases leased to the US.
  • We must ban all commercial exports of conventional weapons.
  • We must cancel all debts from the worlds poorest countries.
  • We must repeal all the anti-asylum legislation of the present government and its predecessor. We must close Harmondsworth, Campsfield House, and all detention centres.
  • The Terrorism 2000 Act and the Asylum, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism Act must be repealed. Thirty years ago the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act was passed by Parliament in a single all night sitting. It has yet to be shown that this infamous legislation prevented a single terrorist attack. Instead, it criminalised the entire Irish community in Britain. Thousands were convicted and held incommunicado for days; scores of innocent men and women spent years in prison on false charges, lives and livelihoods were smashed to pieces, families broken. This is exactly the fear and misery that the Terrorism 2000 Act is now spreading amongst the Muslim community. How can such misery increase our security? It can only do irreparable damage.
  • We must repatriate our citizens and residents from Guantanamo, and release all those imprisoned without trial in Belmarsh and Woodhill.

Two revolutions have been fought in this country to restore fundamental civil and political liberties to society. The second, glorious revolution of 1688, ushered in a Bill of Rights, whose guiding principle was that government must be government of laws not government of men. No man, be he prime minister or president, is above the law. A hundred years later the Bill of Rights inspired the American Revolution and was incorporated by the founding fathers into the American constitution.

Now, both the bill of rights and the constitution have been shredded by a Labour Prime Minister and his Republican President. Today we need a new revolution and a new bill of rights, set down in a written constitution, by which the likes of Messrs Blair, Straw, Blunkett, Hoon, and all their successors, can be called to account. And the first article of such a constitution must enjoin the government at all times and upon all occasions to uphold and honour international law - all treaties, conventions, and all agreements having the force of law to which Britain has subscribed.

We know that these demands, a summary of our most urgent aims, will not be easy to fulfil. It will take great pressure and perseverance to alter the present course. But there is no other way for this country to recover its moral sense of itself. Join us!

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