BBC One’s news broadcasts on Monday (1pm, 6pm and 10pm, 04OCT04) featured reports from Margaret Gilmour, their Home Affairs Correspondent, on the detention without trial in the UK of foreign terrorist suspects who cannot be deported for legal reasons. The report on the 10 O’Clock news ran for a lengthy ~2m 43s, opened by Huw Edwards with:
The highly controversial powers to detain foreign terrorist suspects without charge
or trial have been challenged in the highest court in the land, the House of Lords. The case focuses on nine men who have been held for up to three years. Lawyers for the men say the powers are fundamentally inconsistent with core values of liberty and equality.
Gilmour commences her piece with:
This is the dilemma for the law lords: Does the post September 11th terror threat justify declaring a public emergency in the UK, because that’s what the government has done in order to suspend certain human rights laws so they can hold foreign terror suspects without trial. Are they legally allowed to do this? Well that’s what this case is all about.
We then run through a bit about the hearing room, a painting in the room (Moses and the ten commandments), the nine law lords judging this case, the opt-out of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, “11 foreign terror suspects are being held without trial under the act”, David Cairns MP (Lab) – supporting the Home Secretary, most held in the high security Belmarsh Prison in east London, a former prisoner who “met them in jail” (he isn’t identified and his reason for being in jail isn’t mentioned) who claims the detainees have “lost all hope in the British legal system”, then a clip of Conor Gearty of the Centre for Human Rights Law at the LSE (to the effect that ‘the case is about trade-offs between liberty and security’, oh really?), and then back to Gilmour, who sums up with:
This is about the balance between the war on terror and human rights. Whatever the law lords decide will set a new benchmark establishing how far civil rights issues in future should be taken into account by government and the courts.
All the while with both Edwards and Gilmour omitting the crucial seven words that hit upon the essential truth of the story – specifically that the case is about foreign nationals, terror suspects, ‘who cannot be deported for legal reasons’ – for that is the nub of the story – foreign nationals whose behaviour has made them unwelcome here (which we, as a nation, are perfectly entitled to determine), but who cannot be deported (under our law, mind, in case their home countries abuse them) and who won’t leave of their own accord.
In other words, they are locked up and looked after at our expense to protect us from them and them from their own governments, until circumstances change or they go home or find somewhere else willing to take them – which, to me, whilst far from ideal, seems the best compromise under all the circumstances.
But without those seven words (at the very least), which take all of three seconds to say (not much to squeeze into a 163 second segment!), Gilmour’s reports are quite misleading, particularly as we had various repeated reports over the weekend of a small protest outside Belmarsh (all the usual suspects, SWP, Respect, Liberty, Loopy Lawyers 4 Freeing Terrorists etc.) promulgating the usual leftie lies that Belmarsh is Britain’s Guantanamo Bay and so on, when it patently isn’t – these foreign nationals are free to leave at any time, so long as they’re leaving Britain.
Furthermore, Gilmour (and some other reports) also omit the significant details that there were originally seventeen people detained under this legislation (bottom of report) – two of whom have left the UK voluntarily, one who has been released under ‘house arrest’, one now detained under other legislation and one who has been released following the consideration of new evidence.
Given the complexity and the emotiveness of this issue, why didn’t Edwards or Gilmour manage to spend three seconds addressing such a crucial point about exactly why these people are being held in the way that they are?
If you have the time and the bandwidth you can, for now at least, see the report for yourself here (224Kbps, Windows Media format) – it starts about 8m 53s into the programme and ends around 11m 36s.