Black Rod's not getting in

After last weeks Saudi visit - and graphic evidence that neither the Queen or Parliament has yet chucked out the chintz - today weve got the Queens Speech.


So, theres much media anticipation of the colourful ceremony, of men wearing wigs and garters, and of heavily trailed new laws to chew over for the next few months.  Taking my lead from the main commentators, heres a digested version of what Helen Mirrens lookalike will say: more houses, longer schooling, further anti-terrorism laws.

But hang on a minute. Do we need more tough counter-terrorism legislation - and will it make us safer or just less free?

For Amnesty the main problem comes back to widely-leaked plans to double pre-charge detention periods. Holding people in a police cell for four weeks without charge is already too long. Make that eight weeks and youre into very dangerous waters indeed.

With the overnight news that chief spook Jonathan Evans, head of M15, is saying that Al-Qaida is grooming young people in Britain, the fear is that these counter-terrorism measures will actually be counter-productive. Uprooting basic human rights protections and alienating the communities you want to work with dont sound like smart moves to me.

Other news - and disturbing news at that - comes with reports that the Kenyan police might have been involved in the execution-style killings of 450 people in the past few months. This astonishing possibility is raised by Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which has been investigating the disappearance of hundreds of men from the Mungiki sect in Kenya.

The Kenyan authorities are totally dismissing the claims, but its chilling to recall that when the killing began in June Kenyas Minister of Internal Security John Michuki reportedly said of the Mungiki, "We will straighten them and wipe them out. As Amnesty was saying even when the death toll was far lower, this appalling state of affairs urgently needs an independent investigation.

And finally, back to the Queen - kind of.

The Grenadier Guards are officially the Queens regiment, and last nights powerful Panorama showed a unit fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan. This was scary frontline fighting that included - unusually - British soldiers getting injured and killed. The MOD blog has been promoting the programme - and you cant really blame them. Whatever else, youve got to admit that it takes an incredible amount of courage to go through with this stuff as your job.

Next week Amnestys got a report out thats critical of the UK forces (and other NATO troops) in Afghanistan for handing over Taleban prisoners for torture. Were saying that just because theyve got a tough job, it doesnt mean that torture is something that the British troops in Afghanistan can turn a blind eye to. Check this Panorama out: you can watch again until Monday.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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