“Constructing a Humanist Politics”


Issue No 21 Friday 29 January 2009


 Convention on Modern Liberty - February 28th, London and around Britain



This week


Two stories concerning human rights. The recently formed campaigning group Modern Liberty is to hold a major convention on 28 February 2009. And we include in CRN a story of last October published on Civic Republicans at Newsvine concerning the way the government abused its own anti-terrorist legislation


·        Newly Formed Rights Campaign MODERN LIBERTY Holds Nationwide Convention on Saturday 28 February 2009


·        Anti-Terrorist Laws Used Against Iceland. This Abuse Of Power Must Be A Warning




What is happening now of interest to Civic Republicanism




·        Newly Formed Rights Campaign MODERN LIBERTY Holds Nationwide Convention on Saturday 28 February 2009

The following is taken from the Modern Liberty website

We are entering a dangerous period in our country. Economic turmoil threatens profound hardship and disharmony. Disenchantment with politics is growing and even legitimate protest is threatened by an unprecedented programme of challenges to our rights, freedoms and democracy. Sixty years ago Britain was a proud co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Now it is increasingly centralized, abandoning its historic principles some of which date back to the Magna Carta.

The Government’s continued stated determination to extend detention without charge in terrorism cases to 42 days is one symbol of the damage done to our hard-won rights and freedoms. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which gives hundreds of agencies access to people’s records without their knowing, is another. The collection of all available records on a huge central database for the use of the authorities is a third.

We believe that such threats can be overcome but only if the public is woken to the dangers. While we may be impatient for action, the issues must be addressed in an open-minded way with as thorough and accessible public debate as possible.

Therefore we invite you to join a Convention on Modern Liberty. It will ask three broad questions:

  • Are our freedoms and rights threatened by an over-powerful state and if so how do we defend ourselves from this?
  • Are dangers to our security from terrorism and other threats, from climate change to pandemics being used to attack our rights, and how can we best defend ourselves?
  • How can we arouse sustained public interest?

We are making Modern Liberty a convention not a conference. We want to bring as many people together to see what common ground can be reached in defence of our freedoms. The Guardian is the main media partner. The Rowntree Reform and Charitable Trusts and the Rowntree Foundation are initial supporters. A wide range of organisations are joining the event from across the political spectrum.

Fundamental rights and freedoms are common to us all. The Universal Declaration recognises ‘the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’.  In Britain such values have an even longer history. We are indeed the inheritors of an inspiring tradition of liberty.

At the same time technical advances from information technology to explosives and the threats of catastrophic climatic change have altered the framework of power and fear.

This calls for a renewal of our democratic self-confidence. This is the purpose of the Convention on Modern Liberty. Whether you agree or not we hope you will join us to debate these issues.

Anthony Barnett (openDemocracy)

Phil Booth (NO2ID)

Shami Chakrabarti (Liberty)

Henry Porter (the Observer)

Stuart Weir (Democratic Audit)

September 2008







The following was published on on Sun Oct 12, 2008


·        Anti-Terrorist Laws Used Against Iceland. This Abuse Of Power Must Be A Warning


Whilst Britain is embroiled in a financial meltdown, it is perhaps an easy knee-jerk response to try to punish someone else. It may do little to solve the basic problems but it could give Gordon Brown a chance to vent his frustration.

So it is that, in the wake of the news that Britons may loose thousands of pounds of deposits in Icelandic banks, all Icelandic deposits in Britain have been frozen by the government.

What is extraordinary is that this has been done using legislation designed to enable the government to confiscate the assets of terrorist organizations deposited in the UK. The legislation invoked is in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, Part 2: Freezing Orders. The act says:

(1)The Treasury may make a freezing order if the following two conditions are satisfied.
(2)The first condition is that the Treasury reasonably believe that— (a)action to the detriment of the United Kingdom’s economy (or part of it) has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons, or
(b)action constituting a threat to the life or property of one or more nationals of the United Kingdom or residents of the United Kingdom has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons.

The government has incorporated in this act powers that go beyond the powers to address problems of terrorism. In the Boom years of the early twenty-zeros, no one seemed to care that the government had taken such sweeping powers. The much vaunted liberalization, deregulation and globalization of the British banking system, that was such a lynchpin of the Brown Boom, had a major weakness. Foreign banks operating in Britain are not so free after all.

We may ask why this legislation was invoked against the Icelanders and not against the Americans who have assets in this country that could be frozen. The would prevent the repatriation of funds of all those miscreant US banks that are so much a part of the cause of the global meltdown.

The effect on Icelandic banks is that they may well be driven into collapse because they cannot access all their assets. Is this wise? . By freezing Landsbanki's assets Britain made it practically worthless. An unanswered question is: having frozen the assets, what happens next? Following the almost inevitable collapse of Icelandic banks, are we going to simply expropriate (steal) the frozen assets? If not, what happens to them?

It may be that the Icelandic banks would have failed anyway, but this action hardly helps the drive for some kind of global action in the global meltdown.

Behind this may well be long memories of the cod war between Britain and Iceland (which Britain lost) and the incident when an Icelandic coast guard boat rammed a British frigate. And Brown may well see in the attack on Icelandic assets giving him the opportunity for a “Falklands moment”, and gain much needed electoral support by being aggressive towards a weak country.

This may have longer term consequences that have not been considered properly. Remember Iceland is a founding member of NATO, and their difficulties have been exacerbated by their treaty partner, and this has driven them to seek help from NATO’s perceived rival, the Russian Federation. Iceland said on Tuesday that western allies had failed to provide support to help ease the country’s financial crisis, forcing it to turn to Russia for a €4bn ($5.4bn) loan. Geir Haarde, Iceland’s prime minister, said the Russian deal did not extend to military co-operation, refuting the suggestion that Moscow may gain access to a former US airbase vacated in 2006. However, suspicions must remain that Iceland’s position with regard to its military obligations and loyalties have been permanently compromised.

Meanwhile the use of legislation that parliament passed expressly to allow action against terrorism leaves a worrying feeling that the government is prepared to use its power to subvert the law by an action that may be true to the letter but without a shadow of a doubt contradicts the spirit.



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……. …….until next week