Proscription list passes "all or none" debates

[TamilNet, Thursday, 29 March 2001, 10:16 GMT]
(NEWS FEATURE) Britain's Home office Wednesday formally introduced the list of organisations proscribed under Britain's new Terrorism Act after the list was approved by the House of Lords. Some of the members, as in the House of Commons earlier this month, protested that they were not allowed to oppose the inclusion of individual organisation but could only support or oppose the entire list. Others said the list, which was debated for only an hour or two in each house had not been sufficiently discussed in depth.

In a statement released Wednesday, Britain's Home office confirmed that 21 organisations, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were proscribed from March 29, following the debates and approvals in both Houses of Parliament.

During the debate Tuesday, Lord Archer of Sandwell observed: "It is an unfortunate factor in this debate that we are faced with a single unamendable order which includes in the schedule 21 separate organisations- faced with a whole spectrum of different regimes and a variety of opportunities either to express or repress dissent."

"We cannot oppose the inclusion of any one organisation without opposing the entire order," he said. Lord Archer specifically opposed the inclusion of the Mujaheddin e Khalq, an armed opposition group in Iran.

Lord Archer expressed concern at the wide definition of Terrorism in the new legislation, which he said had not been sufficiently scrutinised.

"The principle of the Terrorism Act has no more enthusiastic supporter than me," he said. "[But] . It does not address all the problems. I accept my share of the blame. I was content with the general thrust of the Terrorism Bill, as it then was, and I failed to scrutinise the definition; so did we all."

"However, it occurs to me that within that definition, William Tell, Oliver Cromwell and Nelson Mandela were terrorists," he said.

Lord McNally said: "those who dealt with the original Bill did not envisage that secondary powers would be used to hoover up, as it were, 21 organisations in a single instrument. By any standard of natural justice, that does not make sense. It means that the good, the bad and the ugly are put together."

"That was not our intention in seeking comprehensive terrorism legislation that applied to all parts of the United Kingdom," he said. "I make the point that the assumption that people living in this country and working against foreign tyranny are all somehow to be hoovered up under the general term of "terrorist" is extremely dangerous."

He added: "Yet governments intimidate oppositions into accepting legislation because none of us wants to be caught on the wrong side of questions such as, "Who is in favour of terrorism?" and "Are you soft on terrorists?""

The list of organisations had been introduced for debate in a late night session of the House of Commons at 11pm Tuesday March 13. Some MPs protested the late time scheduled and the limited 90 minutes allocated for debate, as well as the all or nothing choice offered.

"This is a travesty of the way in which such an important and serious issue should be discussed. Debate is being limited to an hour and half, late at night, with a catch-all of 21 different organisations that the order proposes to ban," Jeremy Corbyn MP told the House of Commons.

"We have been given no opportunity to discuss those organisations in any detail, or to engage in any other form of parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation," he said.

"We should be very careful about endorsing a proposal on a take-it-or-leave it basis," said Simon Hughes, MP. "It would be better for the Home Secretary to - allow the House to consider each organisation on its merits. It is a great pity that it has not been done."

Following its inclusion in the list, the LTTE is reported to have relocated its International Secretariat from London to the Vanni, according to press reports earlier this month.

The move, intended to pre-empt unnecessary friction with the British authorities, the Sunday Leader said. "All press releases by the LTTE will be hereafter issued directly from the Vanni itself under the aegis of its premier Headquarters or the International Secretariat or both," the paper said.

The Liberation Tigers say the British listing would hamper the Norwegian peace initiative by constraining the activities of their London-based chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham.

 

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