What it's like to be locked up as a 'terror suspect'
There’s an amazing article from Hicham Yezza on the Guardian’s CiF site today. He’s the young man from Nottingham University who was arrested and held for six days without charge on suspicion of the "instigation, preparation and commission of acts of terrorism"; charges he describes as “absurdly nebulous”. He’s still facing deportation to Algeria, never a good place to be deported to if your name and the word ‘terrorism’ have been uttered in the same breath.
Amnesty has long campaigned against draconian counter-terrorism powers in the UK and it’s often hard work. They’re never my favourite interviews to do, particularly if you’ve got a right-wing interviewer insinuating that you’re in same way supporting terrorism (which would be a bit of an odd choice for a human rights organisation – but they don’t always get this).
One of the problems is that these measures are seen as something that doesn’t affect ‘ordinary people’, only ‘dodgy people’ – as Yezza mentions in his article, there’s a real feeling that if you’ve nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. Which is of course an argument that has been used by countless governments in countless countries over the years as to justify stripping people of their rights. The hole point of human rights is that they apply to everyone equally. And the whole point of the courts is to fairly decide if someone is ‘dodgy’ (ie guilty) or not.
The people we end up talking about can rarely ever be pictured or named so it’s good to see a piece from an articulate guy who can explain exectly what it’s like to be deprived of your liberty in this way.
The 42 days debate will rear its ugly head again in the autumn and we’ll be out there again, doing those difficult interviews and trying to convince MPs to change their minds and vote against a Bill that will seriously undermine human rights in the UK. The impact of prolonged pre-charge detention on individuals is just one argument among many against the Counter-terrorism Bill. And for anyone who thinks that it’s not that bad, imagine it happening to you.
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.