Civil Rights and Suppression of Terrorism
Sustainability, Democracy, Civil Rights and the Suppression
or Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
By Bryan Innes, recent subject of police terror raid in Taupo, along with his family and Oscar Kjellberg, Swedish Bank manager and presenter at Ecoshow 2007.
Every society must be concerned with its own preservation and wellbeing. This is a given in the design of constitutional arrangements.
Legislation, constitutions, case law, common law are the tools we use to govern ourselves.
International agreements and international law are what we use to govern our relationships across or outside external boundaries.
In caring for our national
preservation we have at different times enacted legislation
covering rebellion, sedition, treason and more recently
It is interesting that this legislation is always controversial. It comes, it goes, it sits with us uncomfortably.
When we have such legislation we often find our judiciary set the standards of proof very high.
This is because such legislation threatens the rule of law itself, it always undermines civil rights and hence democracy.
If we look back into our own history we will see the Suppression of Rebellion Act was used as an exercise of “power over” which was in violation of common law and its use against the Tuhoe people is now seen to have been a travesty of justice.
More recently Dr William Ball Sutch, economic nationalist, writer, intellectual, public figure and top civil servant, one of New Zealand’s most committed workers for the people, was tried unsuccessfully, the only person ever to stand trial under the espionage provisions of the former Official Secrets Act. He was acquitted by a jury, not on some technicality but because the jury found him to be innocent. The SIS was behind this charge. He died in 1975 just months afterwards.
Kit Bennetts, one of the SIS
agents involved in the case wrote a book, "Spy", baldly
accusing Sutch of having been one. Media coverage of the
book matter of factly accepted its conclusions and branded
Sutch a spy and a traitor.
For more details on this case and the alleged corruption at the highest levels of New Zealand government in league with the CIA see: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0612/S00078.htm
Today we have the case of the attempted use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act. This resulted in police terrorisation of a small rural community, the usurping of the civil rights of 17 defendants and many others who were raided, myself and family included.
The interests of the judiciary, the people and the executive are finely balanced. If the executive abuses its power this threatens the rule of law.
An example is the recent threat to the judiciary by the military in Fiji who are attempting to use a charge of Treason to suppress a perceived threat without having adequate evidence to support such a charge. They too were out fishing for evidence to support their conspiracy theory as were the NZ police.
When due process is subverted then we quickly move to capricious rule and rule by fiat (proclamation). This is fascism.
In Pakistan at this present moment members of the legal profession are in the streets protesting. This is because the basis for democracy and the rule of law is under dire threat from the head of state.
In the USA we see similar threats to democracy with the introduction of state sanctioned torture and the removal of civil rights creating a new range of crimes which gets ever larger, including the holding of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely without charging them. This is creating a huge struggle within America which has grave implications for us and our freedom and democracy.
In Britain we have seen the police killing of an innocent young Brazilian thought to be a terrorist. Redress was only to be found through the Public Health and Safety Legislation. This redress was found only after the failure of the police to accept responsibility and of Government to accept responsibility for conferring those powers which resulted in the illegal killing.
In Australia earlier this year there was the case of the young Indian Doctor in Brisbane whose rights were abused by draconian Terrorism laws and who was found to be innocent, all for the political advantage of the Prime Minister, John Howard.
In each of these cases it is the heads of government whose abuse of power is destroying democracy and the rule of law.
We are also seeing our
police skill level downgraded and their
powers upgraded, the likely introduction of the Taser, a lethal weapon which has been responsible for more than 300 deaths in North America. 50 New Zealand police officers/year are being trained in Indonesia, a nation that was responsible for terrorising the East Timorese and not at all noted for their concern for civil rights.
Likewise the SIS staff have undoubtedly received training and indoctrination in the United States, particularly in the use of sophisticated mass and personal surveillance systems.
History teaches us that economic disruption always
breeds social and political disruption. Past hard times saw
the rise of socialism and fascism.
We know that peak oil is upon us. Already oil prices are skyrocketing, food prices are behaving similarly. This causes a squeeze on disposable income which will result in a recession. We can fully expect to live the rest of our lives out during a state of economic decline.
Now more than ever before we need to support the forces of social cohesion and community development. Community provides the resilience needed in the face of adversity. The last thing we need is the development of a police state in the defence of the privileged. This will only make our lives miserable and short.
When a bunch of hot heads start talking rebellion it is safest (from the nations point of view) to regard it as a cry of despair, an expression of a community under stress. The appropriate response is to look into the causes.
Tuhoe had their best land confiscated along with their access to the sea. They were subjected to a scorched earth campaign which resulted in death by famine and their women raped. Tuhoe were confined to the mountains, deprived of access to development finance and consigned to the role of wage worker even though they never signed the Treaty of Waitangi. These are matters of grave importance that could easily have been addressed long ago.
It would appear that the “communism” and
business skills of Maori were seen as a threat to the powers
that be and a model that they did not want
Maori success in the early days of settlement was feared so their resources were taken from them, they were shackled with dysfunctional legal structures and excluded from access to finance (finance is made available only when land is used as collateral – yet there are other legal instruments available for security). This situation pertains to this day despite the Treaty settlements. Little wonder Tuhoe anger.
We now have a situation where a section of the media, under the guise of informing the public, have thwarted the rule of law and promoted state repression.
American researcher, Dr Felton Earls, has identified “By far the greatest predictor of violent crime is collective efficacy… a shared vision, a fusion of shared willingness to intervene and social trust, a sense of engagement and ownership of public space. In particular we believe that collective expectations for intervening on behalf of neighbourhood children is a crucial dimension of the public life of neighbourhoods”. What he is saying is that communities that are proactive in working with their children experience less violence. It is interesting that the police have targeted active community members who have taken responsibility to intervene on behalf of Tuhoe youth. What is going on here?
Community development is the basis
of transition to sustainable living.
At a conscious or unconscious level the power brokers of this world see those activists working for community and for sustainability as a threat. This is because it is true that they will have to relinquish much of their privilege. The status quo simply will not continue. For it to do so would be in defiance of empirical reality. It is flat earth thinking. Unfortunately flat earth thinkers can be terribly destructive of society and this may be what we are in for.
The truth is that as societies mature power tends to become more and more centralised whether they are communist or capitalist. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We see this all over the world and throughout history. We are starting to see this pattern emerging quite strongly in NZ today with the politicisation of the public service, including the police force and the removal of civil rights. It is up to civil society to continuously work to counter this tendency.
It is up to every one of us to fight oppression at every turn of the way. The Terrorism Suppression Act (a euphemism for the Promotion of State Terrorism) must be repealed. Disaffected communities must receive social justice otherwise social chaos will inevitably ensue. As the coming depression bites we will all suffer if our civil rights are eroded.