21 January, 2011
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UK: Statewatch analysis: Six months on: An update on the UK coalition government’s commitment to civil liberties:
Statewatch publishes a follow-up to its June 2010 analysis of the coalition government’s commitment to civil liberties: Within weeks of its formation in May 2010, the coalition government announced with much fanfare its intention ‘to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power.’ An easy victory over Labour’s politically bankrupt National Identity Scheme followed, but since then the government’s approach has been characterised by caution and pragmatism rather than an unerring commitment to liberty.
This is largely because there are splits within government on many of the key civil liberties issues that fundamentally define the relationship between citizen and state: how long and under what conditions can the government detain us, to what extent should the state surveil us, and what data on us should it hold? These internal divisions have been compounded by significant pressure from the civil service and security agencies to retain Labour policies that served to empower them.
On intrinsically divisive topics such as the future of the Human Rights Act and counter-terrorism legislation, commissions of enquiry have been used as a stalling tactic to avoid creating friction within the coalition and to provide time during which common ground can be found. Difficult decisions cannot be delayed indefinitely and it remains unclear which party will hold sway. The contents of the much anticipated Freedom Bill will go a long way towards revealing the extent of the coalition’s commitment to civil liberties.
Statewatch: June 2010 analysis:
Statewatch: Monitoring the state and civil liberties in Europe
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