“The Spy Cops Bill is one of the most terrifying pieces of legislation that even I have seen in my working life.”Shami Chakrabarti.
Baroness Shami Chakrabarti sat down with Labour Outlook for a hard-hitting interview to expose the terrifying nature of the Spy Cops Bill, and the alarming threat Boris Johnson’s Government poses to our rights.
Labour Peer, Shami Chakrabarti, has been opposing the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill in and out of parliament. Better known as the Spy Cops Bill, the former Shadow Attorney General and leading civil liberties campaigner explained that it is “one of the most terrifying pieces of legislation” seen in her working life.
When asked to summarise her opposition to the bill, Baroness Chakrabarti made it clear that undercover policing has to happen, and that undercover operatives will sometimes have to commit crimes to keep their cover.
“But what the spy cops Bill does” she explained, is to license undercover agents, not just police officers, “to commit crimes with total immunity from prosecution and civil claims.” While this has terrifying implications for the Rule of Law, specifically the principle of Equality before the law, it’s also particularly alarming “for the Left, for trade unions, for peaceful protest movements” because of the dangers of agent provocateurs.
“Throughout history there’s been infiltration by the police and state agents” into progressive movements “for the purposes of discrediting them.” The Labour peer explained that undercover agents targeting political movements, and acting with impunity, present a threat to democracy itself as well as the safety and security of citizens across the country.
When asked about the Government’s track record on defending human rights and civil liberties, Shami held nothing back labelling Boris Johnson’s administration as “the worst Tory Government ever for disregarding the rule of law.”
She passionately criticised the Tories for playing “straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook” when the US was hopefully moving away from the authoritarianism he represents.
“We know that they’ve been trashing judges and lawyers for a long time, we know that the Tories have been trashing human rights for a long time” and the Bills proposed by the Tories, particularly the Spy Cops Bill and the Overseas Operations Bill, represent their harmful rhetoric being put into action.
Exposing the nature of these Bills further, Shami explained that the Overseas Operations Bill is about creating actions with impunity “over there”, while the Spy Cops Bill creates immunity “over here.”
In a scathing attack, she detailed how the Overseas Operations Bill “was founded on a lie.” Specifically, the myth that there are spurious prosecutions being brought against members of the armed forces, from ambulance chasing lawyers. “When the reverse is true.”
She further detailed how Part 2 of the Overseas operations Bill will actually “strip away vital protections that veterans have when they bring claims against the Ministry of Defence.”
If the bill becomes law, it will be harder for veterans to take the MOD to court and it will be much harder to prosecute the “very tiny minority” of members of the armed forces who commit serious crimes. One seriously concerning aspect, is the introduction of a five year limitation for bringing prosecutions forward.
“In the context of conflict, five years is a very short time.”
To give further context, the UK has no Stature of Limitations. If you commit a serious crime like murder, you will always be able to be charged for it. She argued that the time-scale limitation is dangerous because “a lot of war crimes won’t even be detected within five years… they happen overseas. They’re difficult to detect and prove.”
When asked about the next steps that activists could take to oppose the government, and further legislation that threatens human rights and civil liberties, Shami made it clear that we need to inform the public “what is being done to them in their name.”
Although it’s difficult to stop the legislation passing now that is has gone a long way through parliament under a Tory majority Government, “we need to commit to fighting it and getting it repealed one day.”
Shami Finished the interview by explaining the need to show the importance of Human Rights to the public. She added that the Tories will play “divide and rule” with the law itself, as they have done elsewhere in our society.
It’s up to us to expose the lie that human rights don’t protect you. Faced with an increasingly authoritarian Boris Johnson Government, we need to explain exactly why human rights matter.
“Without human rights, without the Rule of Law, there is no civilisation. Let alone democracy.”