Convention report highlights massive assaults on civil liberties

By staff writers
February 27, 2009

The Convention on Modern Liberty, which will this weekend bring together people from all parties and belief persuasions across Britain, has published a new report highlighting a massive governmental assault on civil rights.

The 'What we’ve lost report' has been produced by UCL Student Human Rights Programme, in collaboration with the Convention - which is co-sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Trusts, openDemocracy, Liberty and the Guardian, and supported by a number of NGOs, including Ekklesia, which is coordinating a discussion on 'Faiths and Freedoms'.

The report has provocatively been styled "The Abolition of Freedom Act 2009". Commentator Henry Porter introduces its purpose and remit as follows:

"One of the problems with the erosion of liberty in Britain over the last decade was that the public failed to pay attention to what was happening in Parliament. Laws that fundamentally challenged our traditions of rights and liberty and flew in the face of the Human Rights Act were passed with relatively little debate. Few grasped the impact they would have on our society and Ministers were able to brush aside protests with assurances that their desire to protect us was equal to their respect for civil liberties.

"The difficulty campaigners faced was to press home the argument about the scale of the loss. An account was needed to show that the legislative programme, which swept away centuries old rights and transferred so much power from the individual to the state, actually existed. Now we have that evidence and the Convention on Modern Liberty can demonstrate with confidence what Britain has lost and discuss how this crisis of liberty took root in one of the world’s oldest democracies and what to do about it.

"This report by the UCL Student Human Rights Programme is a concise and approachable inventory of the loss. It is a profoundly disturbing document, even for those who thought they knew about the subject, for it not only describes the wholesale removal of rights that were apparently protected by the HRA and set down nearly 800 years ago in Magna Carta, it also shows how the unarticulated liberties that we assumed were somehow guaranteed by British culture have been compromised. The same is true of constitutional safeguards that were once considered beyond the reach of a democratically elected legislature.

"The attack is as broad as it is deep. Over 25 Acts of Parliament and some 50 individual measures are involved. This document is organised around the articles of the Human Rights Act and also draws on the guarantees of Magna Carta, but it is important to remember that many of the freedoms that are disappearing have never been codified, which makes it all the more difficult to keep track of the attack on liberty. Part of the future work of those associated with the Convention must be to continue to monitor and report on these dangerous trends. Opposition can only begin when we are in full possession of the facts."

The London Convention on Modern Liberty event, which will attract over 1,000 people, has already sold out. But there is good news for those who want to be involved but can't get there or to one of the parallel regional and national events, says organiser Guy Aitchison: "It will now be possible to follow the Convention live via webcast on www.modernliberty.net thanks to Global MIX."

There are also parallel Modern Liberty events in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester (http://www.modernliberty.net/satellite-conventions).

Read the full report here: http://www.modernliberty.net/research/what-weve-lost

'Faiths and Freedoms' - http://www.modernliberty.net/programme/afternoon-sessions/faiths-and-fre...

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