Sunday, August 14, 2011

Activists slam attack on civil liberties

Source: Press TV

Human rights activists have reacted to the British government's iron-fist response to those involved in the recent unrest, which involve impingements on civil liberties.

The British government has proposed a number of measures to deal with the protestors that are throwing them out of state-subsidized housing, unmasking young men who cover up their faces in hoods and shutting down of phone networks messaging services or social networks during unrest.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to tough up on disturbances vowing the police and the courts will be given powers to enable them to impose heavy punishments on those involved in the unrest also threatening to use water cannons, dye sprays and even the military forces to deal with the turmoil.

As if all that is not enough, officials have even talked of imposing night curfews in the areas hardest-hit during the unrest.

Against such a background, human rights activists, including policy director for the human rights group Liberty Isabella Sankey, expressed fears about rushing decisions on the issue saying that would only further divide officials and the youth.

"The events of the past few days have understandably led to calls for tough new measures. But knee-jerk powers ... could cause more problems than they solve," Sankey said.

Meanwhile, Padraig Reidy from campaigning publishing organisation for freedom of expression Index of Censorship said "Cameron must not allow legitimate anger over the recent riots and looting in the UK to be used in an attack on free expression and free information".

Other critics were more vocal comparing Cameron to dictators in the Middle Eastern and North African countries who are facing public uprisings over the legitimacy of their governments.

One of them, Egyptian activist known by his weblog where he writes under the pseudonym 'Sandmonkey', Mahmoud Salem, wrote in a twitter posting "if the UK limits social media to contain the riots, then we are witnessing a spectacularly revealing moment for First World regimes".

That was echoed by a Syrian activist who wrote on Twitter that Cameron "will now be the most cited reference by all despots clamping down on social media”.

This comes as David Kennedy, director of Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, dealt a final blow to Cameron on his choice of heavy-handed policies.

"That's absolutely the script that the United States followed for decades, and the results are always the same. You don't get the public safety and crime control that you desired, and you run the risk of alienating the very communities that you are trying to protect," he said.

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