The meaning of 42, Jacqui Smith and everything

So, the media’s been awash with 42 days – news, blogs, comment, cartoons, more comment – for oh, about 42 days now.

There’s a letter in the Guardian today saying that the almost weird fascination the government has with the magical “42 days” is obviously all to do with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the fact that 42 is the meaning of “life, the universe and everything”.

I’m not so sure!

Could it instead be that the government’s trying to look tough on terrorism and has closed its ears to mounting human rights concerns?

Yesterday Gordon Brown was writing in the newly revamped Times (lots of colour, check it out!) stressing his “principles” on this issue. He was doing the same for most of yesterday.

But what’s so principled about seeking to lock someone up uncharged for six weeks on the basis that the police might just need these powers?

Today it’s all about how Jacqui Smith is “winning round” wavering backbench Labour MPs (Chicken Yoghurt puts it down to the Home Secretary’s new found “Britain’s Got Talent skills!). But surely no amount of tinkering with “safeguards” is going to alter the fact that imprisoning someone for six weeks without charge is a draconian measure.

I’ll say that again: no amount of tinkering with “safeguards” is going to alter the fact that imprisoning someone for six weeks without charge is a draconian measure! Let’s not forget – people can already be held in a cell without knowing what they’re charged with for virtually a month.

As various commentators have pointed out, we’ve already got by far the longest pre-charge detention period of any common law country. If you took a step back from all of this, you’d have to say that if there’s one country that DOESN’T need a longer pre-charge detention period – that country’s the UK!

Anyway, I was doing my Amnesty spokesman bit on 42 days on TalkSport last night. Imagining that I might get interrupted (about 42 times) by a heckling presenter, I was pleasantly surprised to have a balanced, intelligent interview with Max Rushdon (check his show out: sounds ok).

Naturally I did get a texter saying that he’s sick of “liberals” defending terrorist “scum”! – but it’s becoming more obvious that in general the government can’t just cry “terrorist threat” and expect people to meekly surrender their hard-earnt civil liberties.

So, sign up to our No10 “Not A Day Longer” petition and stand by for more staunch defence of our basic rights from your freedom-loving Amnesty mates!

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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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