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Open letter to Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

Margaret Gross | 10.05.2008 12:33 | Analysis | Repression

“LIBERTY: Protecting Civil Liberties Promoting Human Rights”

Dear Shami,
Reading the mainstream media I reached the conclusion that you must be the one and only civil liberties campaigner in this country. With this in mind I set up to check your record since it appears there is no one else I could count on to ensure that my liberties are well safeguarded. It seems there are people out there who clearly think you are doing a good job since the Queen honoured you with a CBE in 2007. But then it occurred to me, as a civil liberties campaigner, aren’t you receiving State’s honours a bit too soon? After all, in order to get similar recognition, Nelson Mandela needed to wait for 27 years sitting in his cell. I say this because, you may not have noticed, but the person who gave you the CBE is the head of a State that is now committing crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also a State passing laws that are in clear violation of our fundamental rights and freedoms. I have been reading your response to the second reading of the Counter-Terrorism Bill in the House of Commons and, even though it is clear that you do not support an extension of the 28 days, I haven’t been able to find a straightforward demand for the abolition of those 28 days. My common sense tells me that what was against our human rights three years ago must still be so today. But then, refusing to speak out against repressive laws seems to be Liberty’s common practice. Going through your response to the Government’s consultation paper ‘Managing Protest Around Parliament’, I was relieved to read your demand for the repeal of sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act – those that restrict our freedom to protest within 1km around Parliament. However, I was a bit disturbed when I saw your take on the Public Order Act: “While Liberty may not support the level of interference permitted under the POA, the law exists, and in our view provides the police with more than adequate powers to manage public assemblies.” Hang on a minute, since when has the existence of a law precluded the possibility of opposing it? The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act is a law that also currently exists but you are willing to oppose that. But then I realised that you might not have had enough time to pay much attention to these minor inconsistencies in your position because you have been far too busy campaigning for the use of wiretap evidence in court. Yes, thanks Shami, I definitely feel more protected from the State now that you managed that one. No offence, but all this is a bit puzzling. You must have received amazing training on civil liberties campaigning during your old job at the Home Office. In any case, the future looks bright for you: a CBE, your portrait at the National Portrait Gallery … what next? I bet a bronze sculpture of you at the Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, sitting on a horse called ‘Liberty’ and underneath a plaque reading: ‘She was a great collaborator’.


Margaret Gross

Margaret Gross


Display the following 7 comments

  1. All very well but............ — Paws Malone
  2. Hear hear Margaret.. — Someone
  3. Flippen eck there is no need to get arsy! — Paws Malone
  4. My favourite Shami — anti-imperialist
  5. It's a fair cop — William Greaves
  6. Liberty within Liberty — Ian Fantom
  7. Gordon Brown 'impressed with his statesmanship', says Chakrabarti — gatekeeper