Amnesty International has slammed Tony Blair's government for using "politics of fear" with tougher anti-terror legislation, cracking down on asylum-seekers and allowing the prison population to soar. Amnesty condemned Britain's human rights record on many issues, including suppressing the free speech of anti-war protesters and failing to stand up to the United States over Guantanamo Bay.
Along with its scathing analysis of Britain's disregard for civil liberties, Amnesty challenged the next prime minister to show leadership by changing direction. Kate Allen, Amnesty's UK director, said, "Gordon Brown should reject the politics of fear and show principled leadership which respects human rights and upholds the rule of law." She urged Brown to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay and investigate allegations that British officials have colluded with the CIA kidnapping terror suspects and transporting them around the world for interrogation.
"The UK should use its influence on the world to encourage others to put policy based on fear aside. If the UK is to be credible in this, it must have its own house in order by having a humane asylum policy and counter-terrorism measures that do not undermine basic human rights protections," the report said. Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general, called on Brown to take an international lead to find a solution to the Darfur conflict, which she referred to as "a bleeding wound on the world's conscience."
In its annual report Amnesty noted the British government continued to erode fundamental human rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. "Measures taken with the stated aim of countering terrorism led to serious human rights violations and concern was widespread about the impact of these measures on Muslims and other communities."
Amnesty denounced the policy of deporting people to countries "with a history of torture or other ill-treatment" or placing them on control orders, which curtail their movements. The report said "Consequent judicial proceedings were profoundly unfair, denying individuals the right to a fair hearing." Intelligence material was withheld from the suspects in secret hearings that determined their fate and depended on a "particularly low standard of proof."
Amnesty also criticised police behaviour in anti-terror raids, including the June shooting of an innocent man in Forest Gate, East London. Amnesty said Britain had one of the world's highest per capita imprisonment rates, noting that overcrowding is linked to self-harm and self-inflicted deaths, greater risks to staff and inmate safety and detention conditions "amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."
The report expressed concern about treatment of failed asylum-seekers who "through no fault of their own were condemned to live in abject poverty," and criticised last year's Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Act, which weakens refugees' UN protections.