Only united communities will defeat terrorism and protect civil liberties

26 August 2005

The Mayor of London, Liberty, the main Muslim and Sikh organisations, MPs, trade unionists and lawyers have launched a campaign to ensure that any measures adopted by Parliament or the government against terrorism do not exclude or criminalise people who condemn attacks like the ones on 7 July and urge communities to work with the police to find those responsible.

The campaign plans to lobby ministers and MPs explaining that there is grave concern amongst the overwhelming majority of the communities whose co-operation is essential to identify and defeat terrorists and their supporters.

A lobby of Parliament and a central London rally are planned for when Parliament considers any proposals.

A joint statement was released today setting out the need for a ‘broad consensus’ in the fight against terrorism and expressing concern that parts of the Government’s anti-terror proposals may ‘risk criminalising or excluding people who condemn terrorist attacks and whose cooperation is indispensable to the work of the police in fighting terrorism.’

Initial signatories include the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, politicians from the Labour, LibDem, Green and Scottish National parties, writers and journalists, the General Secretaries of four national trade unions, representatives of a range of community organisations and faith groups, civil liberties lawyers and student leaders.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: ‘I support all measures to deal effectively with those planning, supporting or carrying out attacks like those on 7 July. We all share the overriding priority of stopping further terrorist attacks and bring those responsible to justice. But I oppose measures worded so loosely that they would in the past have banned Nelson Mandela and his supporters from Britain, and will give rise to great fear and concern amongst communities whose support is vital to the police at this time. And I am concerned that those in the media and elsewhere who are trying to cynically exploit the aftermath of the bombings to witch hunt and attack legitimate mainstream Muslims in this country on issues like the Middle East are only helping the terrorists.’

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: ‘There is a need to re-create the consensus that existed after the 7th July attacks. We need to focus on what unites us in the struggle against terrorism- our fundamental values. These values are Human rights; the bedrock of our beliefs not a convenience, a luxury or a pick and mix.’

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: ‘The objective of this policy should be to protect national security and exclude those who incite hatred or advocate violence in the UK. At the same time, we must also take due care to ensure we adhere to international law and do not exclude people who are supporting legitimate liberation struggles against oppressive regimes.’

Sadiq Khan MP said:  'The coalition of the signatories to this statement demonstrates the widespread concern with some of our government’s response to the atrocities on the 7th July. There is a real danger that hastily drafted legislation could end up stifling the ability of Britons to stand up for those living under oppression abroad. Who decides if someone is a terrorist or freedom fighter?

'The European Convention of Human Rights was drafted by British lawyers shortly after the Second World War. It seems bizarre that we should now be talking about abandoning Articles that cannot be derogated at time when they are most needed. Articles 2 and 3 are ones that are absolute: The right to life and the right not to suffer inhumane or degrading treatment.

‘It is important to have as much consultation over anti-terror measures as possible, as this will lead to the legislation being widely accepted and ultimately, having greater legitimacy. This statement should be seen as part of that discussion.’

Ahmed Sheikh, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: ‘Human rights must not be compromised and cannot be swept aside in the name of counter-terrorism. Only through genuine partnership between all sectors of our nation can we meaningfully tackle terrorism and its causes while maintaining our moral and ethical statures. We are united to protect our country and to uphold the freedoms and principles that characterise our nation and lie at the heart of our democratic system.’

Ends

“Only united communities will defeat terrorism and protect civil liberties”

‘Our lives, rights and freedoms are precious and we will not surrender them. We stand united in our refusal to be defeated by those who seek to indiscriminately murder people of all faiths and races in our country.

‘We support the police and measures against those who plan, support or carry out such terrorist attacks.  However, a number of the security measures which the government has said it is considering risk criminalising or excluding people who condemn terrorist attacks and whose cooperation is indispensable to the work of the police in fighting terrorism.

‘We believe that the fight against terrorism requires a broad consensus around its means and the involvement of all communities to isolate and defeat those who would use terror to divide us.’

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London
Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Muslim Council of Britain 
Sadiq Khan MP 
Mohammed Sawalha, Muslim Association of Britain
Alex Salmond MP
Mark Oaten MP
Frank Dobson MP 
Tony Lloyd MP 
Nicky Gavron AM, Deputy Mayor of London
Lord Bhatia
Lord Ahmed
Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP
Mohammed Sawalha, Muslim Association of Britain 
Hugo Charlton, Chair - Green Party  
Amrik Singh, Sikh Federation (UK)
Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark
Confederation of Indian Organisations (UK)
David Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON 
Billy Hayes, General Secretary, CWU
Paul Kenny, General Secretary, GMB
Keith Norman, General Secretary, ASLEF 
Kat Fletcher, President, National Union of Students
Margaret Lally, Refugee Council
Christina Odone
George Monbiot
Gary Younge
Roy Greenslade
Steve Richards
Lauren Booth
James Wood QC, Doughty Street Chambers
Ian McDonald QC
Karon Monaghan, Matrix Chambers
Peter Herbert, Society of Black Lawyers
Louise Christian, Christian Khan
Gareth Pierce, Partner, Birnberg Pierce Solicitors
Yasmin Qureshi, Human Rights Advisor to the Mayor of London
National Assembly Against Racism
1990 Trust
Halkevi
Fedbir – Kurdish Federation UK
Kirsten Hearn, Equal Opportunities and Diversity Board, Metropolitan Police Authority and LGTB Liaison Executive Member, REGARD
Dennis Fernando, Lesbian and Gay Campaign against Racism

To sign up to the statement, email unitystatement@london.gov.uk.

Notes to Editors

For further information contact the Mayor’s Press Office on 020 7983 4070. For out of hours media enquiries please call 020 7983 4000.
For non-media enquiries please call the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.