This is a message to all CAMPACC supporters.
The General Election on 8 of June is a critical for our future. Theresa May as Home Secretary under David Cameron has played a key role in pushing through some key police powers which criminalise innocent people. There are many issues that we face. Here we are going to focus on the issues that CAMPACC has been working on for a long time. For each issue, we are going to give you some background information and then suggest the kind of questions you can put to prospective parliamentary candidates.
Opportunity to ask questions may arise in different ways and you should seize it. Some constituencies may hold debates or hustings. Please attend such meetings and ask the questions. Some candidates may knock your door to canvass for your vote. Here you can ask a question face to face. If you do not get such an opportunity then you can email your candidates. Or you could write to the press particularly your local press if any candidate’s statements or record, or a local news item, makes this appropriate. Remember you can see MPs’ previous voting record on various issues on https://www.theyworkforyou.com/
We have selected TWO KEY issues. For each one of these, we give a summary. If you want more details at the end there are links where you can find more details. We have divided the questions for each issue into several types:-
- what you might say at a hustings meeting to set a trap for a candidate you want to embarrass;
- for written messages, general probing questions to see what a candidate knows about CT measures and how s/he prioritises the civil liberties/HR area;
- more specific written questions (or to use at meetings or interviews) where we see a candidate has a position that offers us some opening and want to push them further. Race Equality Councils and police consultative committees may meet during the pre-election period and may even invite candidates – if so this might be a good chance to question your sitting MP.
Please bear in mind that these are suggestions about how to do this, not prescriptive. There is a lot of scope for creativity and remember that the best questions are those that come from what you passionately feel about.
FIRST ISSUE : PREVENT AND THE ‘CHANNEL’ PROGRAMME
You may know that from July 2016, all teachers are required to look out for signs of extremism (radicalisation) amongst their pupils enforced by law. The system has been in place for over 10 years but there was no legal enforcement. Now head teachers and teachers live in fear that if they do not report pupils to the police then their school might be failed by inspectors. Between 2007-2014 3934 young people were referred to Channel, of which only 777 (20%) were assessed by a multi-agency panel to be vulnerable to terrorism. Remarkably, 80% of the referrals were set aside as warranting no follow-up action by the police. Enormous damage done to individuals and families who are subjected to the process Testimonies demonstrate the intimidation of the referral process such as: police trainers moulding teacher attitudes through fear of Muslims; collection of names and political opinion of children through questionnaires without consent; the trauma of children being interrogated without their parents; the targeting of children for innocent conduct and political views; the anxieties of parents about their future of their child after the allegations; the targeting of parents for their religious views; and finally teachers over-referring children for trivial matters under pressure to implement the Prevent duty. The various arbitrary interpretations of ‘extremism’ create a climate for systematic human rights violations including the right against discrimination, and the right to freedom of expression
If this damage is already done during the screening and assessment stage, then it becomes worse when a child goes through referral to the multi-agency panel. A young person may be perceived as suspect by the peer group and thus suffer emotional harm. Families undergoing this treatment feel stigmatised and isolated, thus poisoning relationship between teachers, students and parents.
Here are some web sites you can refer to for examples of the above and further arguments, if you need more information:-
Labour candidates can be reminded that Andy Burnham once said the PREVENT programme should be scrapped. That was when he was shadow Home Secretary, in June 2016. Now of course he is mayor of Manchester. See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/09/andy-burnham-calls-for-toxic-prevent-strategy-to-be-scrapped.
CAMPACC is a signatory to the ‘Together Against Prevent’ statement on our web site at http://campacc.org.uk/index.php?page=together-against-prevent-2 )
Arun Kundnani of the Institute of Race Relations, in his report, ‘A Decade Lost: Rethinking Radicalisation and Extremism ‘(2015) argued in that by combining its new counter-terrorism powers and the Channel project, the government has a set of powers that could be used to prevent certain opinions from being expressed, without the need for scrutiny of those powers in a criminal court. Together with the criminalisation of the ownership of books and strongly worded social media comments, the government is in danger of generating a mood of political self-censorship among Muslims that would be both counter-productive and damaging to democracy.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission has produced a comprehensive page of Prevent Strategy Campaign resources and the following links are also helpful:
Possible questions on PREVENT….
Possible questions on PREVENT
Is it appropriate that children as young as 4 are being investigated for signs of radicalisation? Or that desire to pray in the lunch hour is sometimes being regarded as such a sign?
- Probing question:-
(Preface if in front of a public audience; ‘You will be aware of the many press stories about how the PREVENT programme has led to police investigation of schoolchildren who had no terrorist intention at all, and of the concern about how universities’ duty to promote free speech conflicts with the duty imposed on lecturers to report so-called extremism and on university administrators to ban some meetings just in case so-called extremist views are expressed’.) Would you change or scrap the Prevent programme and if you would change it, how?
- Detailed questions for candidates who have already shown an interest:-
If elected would you press the government to abolish the duty of universities and schools to report students ‘at risk of radicalisation’ ? What do you think of UCU’s position on this issue?
Would you press for NHS staff and social workers to be relieved of the duty to report ‘extremism’ for police investigation, given the vague and islamophobic way in which this term is being used and the potential interference with proper professional processes in the field of counselling and mental health treatment?
Would you challenge the government’s assumption that there is a ‘conveyor belt’ between non-violent ‘extremism’ and violent ‘extremism’? In particular, do you see dangers in the way pro-Palestinian speeches, meetings or leaflets are being associated by some teachers and by some university administrations with ‘extremism’ particularly when those involved are Muslims ?
Would you accept that laws against violent activity and against racial hatred which existed prior to the Terrorism Act 2000 are adequate to deal with the issue of terrorism, and that the definition of terrorism in that Act is far too broad ?
What comments do you have about the reservations of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights at https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtrights/105/10503.htm on the proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill ?
SECOND ISSUE: ‘SCHEDULE 7’ STOPS AND QUESTIONING AT BORDERS AND AIRPORTS….see next page
SECOND ISSUE: ‘SCHEDULE 7’ STOPS AND QUESTIONING AT BORDERS AND AIRPORTS
Many of us know of someone who has been harassed and delayed at an airport under ‘schedule 7’ of the Terrorism Act 2000. They have included the partner of a Guardian journalist, David Miranda who was carrying computer data for Glenn Greenwald related to information obtained by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The latest is that CAGE international director, Muhammad Rabbani, has just been charged with a criminal offence after refusing to reveal his laptop password during a S.7 search in November 2016. He said it covered confidential information about his clients as a lawyer. He will appear in court on 20 June. Watch this space! See:
CAGE has a good briefing and more examples of lawyers and journalists being targeted. https://cage.ngo/schedule7/
In 2013 CAMPACC wrote to MPs asking them to press for
1) the repeal of Schedule 7, or, if that cannot be achieved…
2) the requirement of a ground of reasonable suspicion of involvement in terrorism for any part of the Schedule 7 powers to be used
3) the removal of the criminal offence for failure to answer questions
4) the right to refuse to answer irrelevant questions, that is:-
- a right to refuse to answer questions not related to determining whether or not they are a terrorist;
- a right to refuse to answer questions about other people’s behaviour/actions;
- a right to refuse any request or suggestion to spy on/inform on members of the community.
The first is probably now a big ask, given the recent concern about ISIL/DAESH-inspired attacks in western Europe. But points 2,3 and 4 are still very strong and realistic demands. Schedule 7 is often used to harass and intimidate people, especially Muslims but also sometimes journalists or their associates like David Miranda (see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/19/terrorism-act-incompatible-with-human-rights-court-rules-in-david-miranda-case
STOPWATCH is a great source of information about how many people were stopped and for how long. http://www.stop-watch.org/uploads/documents/Schedule7-201314.pdf
For further information see the following web sites:-
In 2013 Statewatch pointed out the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Policing Act whilst reducing the maximum period of detention to 6 hours actually made powers to seize and retain property and data in phones, computers etc WORSE and thus increased the risk that s. 7 would become a data fishing expedition. See http://www.statewatch.org/news/2013/jul/schedule7.htm.
See also http://www.mcb.org.uk/uk-muslim-representatives-take-schedule-7-terror-law-supreme-court/. Sadly, in 2015 Ms Beghal lost her appeal against conviction for refusing to answer questions; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beghal_v_DPP
In 2013 Liberty argued that Schedule 7 should be repealed entirely because it duplicates other existing powers. See https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/terrorism/schedule-7/index.php. But we can see from the above cases why the state really wants to keep s.7.
The s.7 interviews are one of the few chances police have to question people about absolutely anything and make it a criminal offence to refuse to answer. So they can collect information about individuals, about Muslim and migrant communities (Kurds in particular have been subjected to this) and they also use it to try to recruit informers (see for example https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/23/terrorism-act-muslim ). On state attempts to criminalise Kurds under AT powers and force them to become informers, see https://www.kurdishquestion.com/oldarticle.php?aid=surveillance-targeting-and-the-criminalisation-of-kurds-in-the-uk-part-i
POSSIBLE QUESTIONS ABOUT SCHEDULE 7 STOPS
- Trap question:
Why do we need Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act and why are 87% of the people stopped non-white?
- Probing questions:
Would you repeal schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act and is it right that people can be criminalised for refusing to answer questions when stopped at airports, even if they are lawyers or journalists trying to protect confidential professional data ?
Do you think police should have to show grounds for reasonable suspicion before they use Schedule 7 stops?
- Detailed questions for candidates who have shown an interest in the issue:
Use the questions based on CAMPACC’s 2013 letter. You could cite the David Miranda case, the Beghal case, and the case of Mohammad Rabbani, mentione above.