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'Mass sleepwalk' launches new Amnesty film and petition against 42 days pre-charge detention

A “ mass sleepwalk ” will take place through the streets of Leeds tonight as Amnesty International launches its new film, ‘Sleepwalk’, heralding the next phase of the organisation’s campaign against UK government plans to extend detention without charge to 42 days. The film, by Oscar-shortlisted directors DarkFibre, features an exclusive new soundtrack by The Orb and a voiceover by actor Christopher Eccleston.

Amnesty is concerned that civil liberties are still under attack in the Counter-terrorism Bill and warns that people in the UK may be sleepwalking into an assault on their basic human rights. Political rumours that the plans will be dropped cannot be relied upon and the 42-day proposals must be defeated once and for all, Amnesty says.

The film accompanies a new online petition at , urging MPs to oppose the 42 days proposal. Amnesty is specifically calling on MPs who did not support previous proposals for 90 days pre-charge detention, but did vote for 42 days in June, to oppose 42 days this time round (see notes for a list of these MPs).

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“There’s a real danger that people in Britain are sleepwalking into an assault on our human rights. This film is Amnesty’s wake up call: we have got to stand up for our basic freedoms.

“We can’t rely on Westminster rumours that 42 days won’t become law – this is too important, hard-won liberties are at stake. Plans to extend detention without charge should be abandoned once and for all. We don’t want them returning under another guise - not next month, not next year.

“We’re asking people to sign our petition at em>, urging MPs to stand up for our rights and oppose 42 days detention without charge.

“Giving the authorities the power to lock someone up for a month and a half without even charging them would strip people of human rights that protect every one of us in this country.”

People will ‘sleepwalk’ through the streets of Leeds wearing dressing gowns and slippers and clutching pillows and blankets to highlight Amnesty’s ‘sleepwalking’ message. After the new film is given its first public screening they will hear speeches from Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen and 7/7 bombing survivor Rachel North.

Rachel North said:
“When people find out that I'm a survivor of the 7th July London bombings, they expect me to be in favour of giving the government powers to lock up people merely suspected of terrorism for weeks without charge. No way.

“I expect terrorists to try to divide us, to make us afraid and to attack our freedoms. I don't expect it from our democratically-elected representatives.

“Older generations faced daily bombings and thousands died to protect our ancient liberties. It is deeply shaming that we even consider such a law. Fight back!”

The Amnesty campaign against extending the pre-charge detention limit for terrorism suspects – which at 28 days is already longer than that of any state with a comparable legal system – follows criticism of the 42-day proposals from a wide range of experts. Former MI5 heads Eliza Manningham-Buller and Stella Rimington, former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS Sir Ken Macdonald, former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, the Council of Europe and the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights have all criticised the government’s plans.

The UK government has argued that ‘safeguards’ inserted into the Bill will get round human rights concerns but Amnesty dismissed them as meaningless.

Kate Allen said:
“The proposed ‘safeguards’ cannot remedy that fact that the 42 days proposals will undermine fundamental human rights in the UK.

“Parliamentary scrutiny will be meaningless because of the risk of prejudicing future trials and the suggested judicial safeguards are wholly inadequate.”

The new film was directed by DarkFibre, the directing duo that made Amnesty’s controversial youtube hit “The Stuff of Life” film exposing the reality of the US ‘waterboarding’ torture technique. ‘Sleepwalk’ was produced by Stink and Executive Produced by Blake Powell.

The protest is due to start at Monday 13 October 2008 at 1915 BST at City Square, Leeds followed by a screening of the film "Sleepwalk" at the Hi Fi Club in Central Road at 1945 BST and then speeches from Amnesty's UK director Kate Allen and 7/7 bombing survivor Rachel North.

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