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Indefinite Incarceration: Habeus Corpus

Pat F. 
 
Some years ago, the French armed forces infiltrated a bomb squad into New Zealand and blew up a Greenpeace boat, killing the Greenpeace activist on the boat. The perpetrators were caught and convicted. They had killed a man, destroyed a valuable boat, violated New Zealand’s immigration laws, attempted to escape, and failed to express remorse for their crimes. 

They were convicted of some lesser crime, and sentenced to a few years in prison. Quite soon the New Zealand Prime Minister allowed the criminals to be repatriated to France to complete their sentences. After a very short time the criminals were released from prison in France and faded from view. 
 
These people were terrorists. They attacked civilian targets with deadly force. They were not acting in a conventional war situation. There was no consideration of whether they were involved in a “just” war; no consideration of the “proportionality” of the French response. They did not deliver a ‘smart’ bomb using a ‘stealth’ bomber. They launched a deadly attack on a civilian target, careless of the lives of civilians. But not at the time, nor since, have they been called “Terrorists”. 
 
Why? Because the word “terrorist” is a word used to describe only the enemy, usually irregular forces, who are to be depicted in a negative way. They are given a name which causes people to fear and despise them as crazy, blood-thirsty killers of innocent people. 

Every people’s movement contains people with widely divergent ideas, values, and agendas. A recent very useful article in Vanguard spoke of the people’s movement in Northern Ireland. The author spoke of the role of the Catholic Church, and the lack of a mature M/L leadership, leading to mistakes, inappropriate objectives, and ultimately to the defeat of the movement after the achievement of only minor and temporary gains, (but gains nevertheless). The Irish freedom fighters were called ‘terrorists’, or ‘ters’, by the Brits. 
 
It is a concern that the ‘war on terror’, being waged on the military and ideological fronts primarily by US imperialism, is obscuring the fact that although the people’s movements in the Arab world do contain fanatical religious bigots, they also contain working people and others who have learned to hate and oppose the US and British imperialists who have plundered and destroyed the lands, families and cultures of Arabic people and have imposed on them puppet monarchies like the Saudis in Saudi Arabia and other monarchies in UAE, Jordan, etc. 
 
It is particularly concerning that parliament, police, and courts in Australia are referring to people convicted of crimes in Australia, as ‘terrorists’, and considering ‘indefinite incarceration’ of people convicted, who do not recant, or reform, or abandon the beliefs which support their activism. It is worrying that these laws seem clearly to violate “Habeus Corpus”, which is the old and revered principle of bourgeois democracy asserting that a person may not be imprisoned unless convicted by a court of a crime. 
 
 In recent times draconian laws have been passed in Australia to suppress drug dealers, motor cycle gangs, trade unions and ‘terrorists’. These are laws which limit free association, self and family protection, privacy of communications, public assembly. They are laws which accept guilt by association, incarceration without conviction, and which limit and diminish freedom of speech. 
 
The Communist Party is not yet one of the proscribed organisations which bring these laws into operation. Possibly the reactionaries still remember the failed attempt to proscribe the CP in the fifties. But now the laws required by fascism are in place, and ready to be applied when the state judges it is opportune. 
 
Opposition to such fascist laws can form the basis for a broad opposition involving progressive liberals, workers, and students. As a Lutheran minister in Nazi Germany might have said; “When they incarcerated the Jews, workers’ leaders, and liberals, I said nothing. However when I realised the laws could be applied to me, I squealed like a pig.” 
 
Let the collective and diverse squealing be heard around Australia! 

 

 

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