Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Terrorism in UK Law - The Second Reading of the Terrorism Bill in December 1999

Readers of this blog and of my other blog Chilcot's Cheating Us will long have been aware that I consider UK military action in Iraq and in Afghanistan (and more recently in Libya) to be "terrorism" as defined in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

In that context it is interesting briefly to review some of the discussion that took place in the House of Commons during the Second Reading of what was then the Terrorism Bill.

The House of Commons Hansard record of the Second Reading of the Terrorism Bill is available online.

It contains some interesting interaction demonstrating that actions in Iraq could be considered to be "terrorism" in the wording of what was then Clause 1 of the Terrorism Bill.

First an exchange between Douglas Hogg and Jack Straw here:

Mr. Hogg: I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I think that this is a serious matter.

Kurdish representatives came to see the then Foreign Secretary, the then Prime Minister and me, to obtain our support for their campaign to drive Saddam Hussein and his army out of north Iraq. On the face of it, that falls within the scope of action capable of constituting terrorism under clause 1.

I understand the right hon. Gentleman to be saying not that I am wrong, but that no one would be prosecuted for encouraging the Kurds to take such action, because of the discretionary power of the prosecution authority. That, however, is a profoundly unattractive situation.

Mr. Straw: I simply do not accept the proposition. The idea that in this country the police would investigate such an alleged offence in respect of Iraq, that the Crown Prosecution Service would bring a charge and that the Director of Public Prosecutions would give his consent cannot exist outside the right hon. and learned Gentleman's fevered imagination.

Of course, we can all invent hypothetical circumstances--fantastic circumstances--in which any of us, according to the criminal code, could be charged and subject to conviction; but there is no point in our doing so. We know that, in the real world in which we live, the criminal law is subject to a significant series of checks and balances, including proper invigilation by the courts of the land and control of the Crown Prosecution Service by Members of Parliament who are answerable to the House of Commons and the other place. Such circumstances therefore do not arise, and I do not believe that they ever will.

At precisely the time when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was engaging in the discussions to which he referred, the Government of whom he was a member were supporting the Jurisdiction (Conspiracy and Incitement) Bill, introduced in 1996 by the then Member of Parliament Nigel Waterson.

Notice that Douglas Hogg isn't told by Jack Straw that he's wrong. He couldn't because Douglas Hogg was correct in his interpretation of the meaning of Clause 1 (just as I believe I am correct regarding the meaning of Section 1, a slightly modified version of the then Clause 1).

Jack Straw is, shamefully, saying that the UK Police and Crown Prosecution Service will turn a blind eye to some "terrorism".

In other words Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, is relying on the political bias of the UK Police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that some terrorism ("our" terrorism?) is not investigated or prosecuted.

So much for everyone being equal under the Law!

Some time later, Tom King raised the following with Jack Straw here:

We then come up against exactly the problem that the hon. Member for Islington, North mentioned: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I intervened on the Home Secretary to make the point about balance, which is one of the principles by which he will determine his actions.

We are talking, without question, about additional powers, not the normal criminal law. With additional powers must come additional safeguards. I shall not try to

14 Dec 1999 : Column 179
pronounce in detail what I think the answer should be. The merit of the Committee scrutiny of the Bill is that those issues, which need to be recognised, can be dealt with.

I shivered momentarily when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) was speaking. I went into northern Iraq to support the Kurds there, supported by 45 Commando and a squadron of Tornados. We were attempting to ensure that the Kurds were protected: we encouraged them to take the most violent action to repel any aggression against them by Saddam Hussein and his forces and we provided back-up in the form of air power and a Marine commando. It is an extreme illustration, but I am sure that lawyers would have a field day with such admissions if I were liable to arrest for aiding and abetting a terrorist act against the legitimate Government of another country. I hope that the Serjeant at Arms does not feel the need to make a citizen's arrest for what might be claimed to be a manifest breach of proposed legislation.

Here we see the issue of UK military action being terrorism in the meaning of the then Clause 1 being raised.

It is clear that the potential for Clause 1 of the Terrorism Bill (which later became Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000) to encompass "terrorism" in Iraq was raised during the Second Reading.

Parliament cannot, I believe, be said to have been unaware of the broad scope of Clause 1 (later Section 1).

How genuine is the "popular uprising" in Libya?

David Cameron is selling his illegal military intervention in Libya as being on humanitarian grounds, in effect to protect a supposed "popular uprising" against Colonel Gaddafi.

But is that an accurate portrayal of the situation?

In Iraq the CIA and/or MI6 sought to induce Iraqi generals to defect against Saddam Hussein.

In Libya General el-Gatrani is prominent in the rebellion but his role is little discussed in the UK media.

In Afghanistan the US and UK supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.

Are there more similarities to Libya than David Cameron would have us believe?

In Libya there is undoubtedly an information gap, Libya: the information gap, or perhaps more accurately several gaps in our understanding of the situation.

To what degree is the situation in Libya genuinely a "popular uprising" and to what degree is it perhaps a Western-sponsored military coup?

I don't know. And I suspect that many others are in a similar position given the low levels of trust that many accord David Cameron.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The text of UNSCR 1970 and UNSCR 1973

Two UN Security Council Resolutions are relevant to Libya - 1970 and 1973.

The full text of UNSCR 1970 and UNSCR 1973 can be accessed by clicking the relevant links.

The House of Commons Debate on UNSCR 1973 of 21st March 2011

The official Hansard record is now available for yesterday's House of Commons Debate on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

When the Attorney General is not to be trusted what should a UK citizen do?

In March 2003 the UK went to war in Iraq on the basis of defective advice of the then Attorney General Peter Goldsmith.

In March 2011 the UK effectively went to war in Libya on the basis of defective advice of the current Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

In a future post I may explore the degree to which incompetence, dishonesty or other factors contributed to the defective advice of Peter Goldsmith and Dominic Grieve.

For the moment I simply want to ask what a citizen ought to do in the face of a war apparently sanctioned by the unreliable advice of the Attorney General?

A citizen with deep pockets could take legal action as provided for in the Crown Proceedings Act 1947.

However, what legitimate and effective options are available to citizens with shallower pockets?

Monday, 21 March 2011

The UK Government announcement regarding the legal position on Libya

I understand that the following is the text released a short time ago by the UK Government regarding the supposed legal basis for UK military action in Libya.

The illegality of that action in UK Law is totally ignored in the material released publicly.

"Following the Prime Minister's statement to the House on 18 March, this note sets out the Government's view on the legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets to Libya.

Under the Charter of the United Nations the Security Council is the organ conferred with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. In carrying out its duties the Security Council acts on behalf of Member States of the United Nations, who agree to accept and carry out its decisions in accordance with the Charter. Among the specific powers granted to the Security Council are those provided in Chapter VII of the Charter which is concerned with action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.

Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) of 17 March 2011 is annexed to this document.

In this resolution the Security Council has determined that the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The Security Council has adopted the resolution as a measure to maintain or restore international peace and security under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which provides for such action by air, sea and land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Provision for a No Fly Zone is provided for by operative paragraphs 6 to 12 of the resolution. Operative paragraph 8 authorises Member States that have notified the UN Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements to take all necessary measures to enforce the ban on flights established by operative paragraph 6.

Operative paragraph 4 of the resolution also authorises Member States making the notifications so provided, and acting in co-operation with the UN Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.

Operative paragraph 13 of the resolution, in substituting a replacement operative paragraph 11 in resolution 1970 (2011), further authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out inspections aimed at the enforcement of the arms embargo established by that earlier resolution.

The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty's Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution's objectives."

Is the House of Commons debate on Libya to descend into farce?

The House of Commons is being asked this afternoon to agree that it "acknowledges the demonstrable need, regional support and clear legal basis for urgent action to protect the people of Libya" without, so it seems, seeing the whole legal advice provided by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC.

If MP's aren't shown the full legal advice from the Attorney General they are in no position to vote on whether or not there is a "clear legal basis" for military action.

You can be sure that the summary won't include the more dodgy aspects of the Attorney General's advice.

It's enough to make you think that the House of Commons is expected merely to rubber stamp David Cameron's State Hidden International Terrorism in Libya without MP's seriously engaging their brains.

Open Letter to Dominic Grieve, Attorney General, regarding David Cameron's misleading of the House of Commons

This post consists largely of the text of an email sent earlier this morning to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC, asking him to re-consider his advice about the military intervention in Libya, in part to avoid David Cameron again misleading the House of Commons in the debate scheduled to take place this afternoon.

It will be interesting to see if Dominic Grieve chooses to "tough it out" and allow his fellow Ministers to again mislead the House of Commons.

There is certainly the potential for Dominic Grieve and David Cameron to have a much tougher ride in March 2011 than Peter Goldsmith and Tony Blair did in March 2003, following Blair's misleading the House of Commons regarding the supposed legality of the Iraq War.

The text of the email follows. Since it was a forwarded email it additionally incorporated the text of the Open Letter of yesterday's date, Open Letter to David Cameron and Dominic Grieve re Illegality of UK military intervention in Libya.


Mr. Grieve,

I write to ask you to re-consider, as a matter of urgency, your legal advice regarding military intervention in Libya to prevent further misleading of the House of Commons by David Cameron (and/or other UK Government Ministers).

I believe David Cameron misled the House of Commons on Friday 18th March 2011 and it seems that his misleading the House of Commons was based on legal advice attributed to you.

Mr. Cameron said, "The Attorney-General has been consulted and the Government are satisfied that there is a clear and unequivocal legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets.". (Quote is from HoC Hansard here: )

In saying that I consider that David Cameron seriously misled the House of Commons.

The legal position in favour of military action is neither "clear" nor "unequivocal".

In fact it is highly suspect. There are serious questions to be answered about the legality in UK Law of the military action in Libya initiated by David Cameron. Some of those questions I expressed in my email of yesterday's date addressed to yourself and Mr. Cameron, among others.

I also consider that it is likely that Mr. Cameron (and/or other Government Ministers) may again mislead the House of Commons today, concealing from the House serious questions about the legality of UK military intervention in Libya.

I therefore wish you to consider, as a matter of urgency, whether your supposed advice that UK military intervention is lawful is, in fact, correct given consideration of matters in UK Law such as those I raised with you in my email of yesterday's date.

It seems to me that the Government must, if it is to maintain any facade of integrity, inform the House of Commons as a first step in today's debate of the questions that exist regarding your legal advice.

Should the Government fail to do so, then there is a prima facie case that the Government is premeditatedly deceiving the House of Commons. Not only that, it would (assuming my analysis is correct) be concealing from the House of Commons serious criminal offences by David Cameron and other Government ministers.

Further, it seems to me that your advice to the Government, given its seemingly defective nature, is a matter which ought to cause you to consider your position. That, of course, is primarily a matter for you in the first instance.

Given my serious concerns on this matter, I am copying this email to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, and to the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Select Committee, Kevin Barron.

There are a number of further visible copy recipients of this email who are likely to have an interest in the subject matter of this email and the email of yesterday's date.

In addition there is a significant number of recipients of blind copies. I wish it to be clear, and a matter potentially of public record, that any misleading of the House of Commons later today by Mr. Cameron or other Government Ministers is calculated and premeditated.

For the avoidance of doubt, this email is an "open letter". Recipients of copies, visible or blind, may freely copy it to others who may have an interest in this matter.

Tony Blair was able in March 2003, on the basis of defective of advice from his Attorney General of the time, to mislead the House of Commons about the supposed legality of the Iraq war without being called to account for his deceit.

Mr. Cameron is in a less comfortable position, since his misleading of the House of Commons on 18th March 2011 has been identified more quickly and its possible repetition today puts him in a uniquely uncomfortable position as a British Prime Minister, I would suggest.

Thank you.

(Dr) Andrew Watt

List of visible copy recipients

David Cameron MP
Kevin McGinty, Attorney General's Office
Edward Garnier MP
Nick Clegg MP
Jessica Lee MP

John Bercow MP
Kevin Barron MP

HM Treasury Ministers
Department of Justice Ministers
Ministry of Defence Ministers

Stop the War Coalition

Alan Rusbridger
Richard Norton-Taylor
Afua Hirsch

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Open Letter to David Cameron and Dominic Grieve re Illegality of UK military intervention in Libya

In this post I record a communication sent a short time ago (at 06.05 on Sunday 20th March 2011) to David Cameron, Prime Minister, and Dominic Grieve QC, Attorney General regarding the illegality of the UK military intervention in Libya.

The email was entitled,
URGENT: Illegality in UK Law of Military Intervention in Libya

The text of the email, which includes a list of recipients of visible copies, was as follows:
Dear Prime Minister and Attorney General,

I write to request and require that the UK Government forthwith ceases its current military action in Libya since such military action is contrary to UK Law.

In a public statement on Saturday 19th March 2011, the Prime Minister stated that the military intervention in Libya is "necessary, legal and right".

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's assertion that the military intervention is "legal" is incorrect.

Much of the remainder of this communication briefly will explain some of the grounds as to why the UK military action in Libya is unlawful in UK Law.

The recent UN Security Council Resolution, apparently in accordance with Article 42 of the UN Charter, appears to have removed the standing prohibition in International Law with respect to military action in Libya.

However that UN resolution does nothing to allow the UK Government to act contrary to UK Law.

Mr. Cameron's Government draws its authority from the Queen.

In her Coronation Oath the Queen made the following solemn commitment:

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

As a consequence of that solemn promise all subsequent UK Governments which draw their authority from the Queen are likewise bound to govern in accordance with Law.

In which respect(s) do the UK Government's actions in Libya contravene UK Law?

To answer that question one needs to consider tha nature of the actions threatened and undertaken.

The contravention of Law hinges on the provisions of Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which, for convenience, I quote in full here. Subsections 1(1) to 1(4) are directly relevant to the UK's actions in Libya.

1 Terrorism: interpretation.E+W+S+N.I.

(1)In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where—

(a)the action falls within subsection (2),

(b)the use or threat is designed to influence the government [F1or an international governmental organisation] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and

(c)the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [F2, racial] or ideological cause.

(2)Action falls within this subsection if it—

(a)involves serious violence against a person,

(b)involves serious damage to property,

(c)endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,

(d)creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or

(e)is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

(3)The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

(4)In this section—

(a)“action” includes action outside the United Kingdom,

(b)a reference to any person or to property is a reference to any person, or to property, wherever situated,

(c)a reference to the public includes a reference to the public of a country other than the United Kingdom, and

(d)“the government” means the government of the United Kingdom, of a Part of the United Kingdom or of a country other than the United Kingdom.

(5)In this Act a reference to action taken for the purposes of terrorism includes a reference to action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation.

Prime Minister, I am sure that the Attorney General can confirm to you that the UK's action in Libya is "terrorism" as defined in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Other recipients may wish to read an interpretation of Section 1 here,, which outlines why military action by UK forces is unlawful and has been for more than a decade.

A number of serious consequences follow from the realisation that the UK's military action in Libya is "terrorism" as defined in Section 1.

Not least, the Prime Minister and others under his command have committed offences contrary to Section 56 of the Terrorism Act 2000, for which the punishment on conviction is imprisonment for life:

56 Directing terrorist organisation.E+W+S+N.I.

(1)A person commits an offence if he directs, at any level, the activities of an organisation which is concerned in the commission of acts of terrorism.

(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life.

Given that the UK military action in Libya is "terrorism" as defined in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, it follows that the Prime Minister and others who have "directed", at any level, UK military action in Libya have committed Section 56 offences.

A much larger number of individuals will have committed a Section 57 offence, as defined in the Act:

57 Possession for terrorist purposes.E+W+S+N.I.

(1)A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

(2)It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that his possession of the article was not for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

(3)In proceedings for an offence under this section, if it is proved that an article—

(a)was on any premises at the same time as the accused, or

(b)was on premises of which the accused was the occupier or which he habitually used otherwise than as a member of the public,

the court may assume that the accused possessed the article, unless he proves that he did not know of its presence on the premises or that he had no control over it.

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

(a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding [F115 years] , to a fine or to both, or

(b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.

When Tony Blair conducted his acts of international terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq he had the advantage of, so we are led to believe, not being informed directly of its illegality in UK Law at the time.

Mr. Cameron, you are not in such a position.

I, as a citizen of the UK, request and require that you cease your unlawful actions immediately.

Similarly, Mr. Grieve requires promptly to consider issues wholly ignored by his predecessor Lord Goldsmith with respect to the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Given this communication, you and your colleagues have been informed that your actions in Libya are illegal.

Shamefully, a variety of establishment figures and institutions have conspired to conceal the UK's recent State Hidden International Terrorism in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

For example, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee chose totally to ignore evidence that the UK military intervention in Afghanistan is unlawful. See

Similarly, the Iraq Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot is determined to bury the evidence that the UK intervention in Iraq was terrorism as defined in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The UK's military intervention in Libya is State Hidden International Terrorism.

Be assured, Prime Minister, that the SHIT will hit the fan with respect to your unlawful acts in Libya.

In order to ensure that it is a matter of public record that the UK Prime Minister and Attorney General have been informed early on Sunday 20th March 2011 that the UK military action in Libya is unlawful I am copying this email widely both to visible recipients (listed below) and recipients of blind copies.

I would encourage copy recipients to forward this email widely to ensure that Mr. Cameron and Mr. Grieve, should they be minded to continue their international terrrorism in Libya, will find it politically impossible to do so.

Should Mr. Grieve consider that the UK's military intervention in Libya is not "terrorism" as defined in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, I will be intrigued to read his rationale.

(Dr) Andrew Watt

List of visible recipients:

Lord Howard
Lord Carlile
Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister
Norman Baker MP
Simon Hughes MP
Jessica Lee MP, PPS to the Attorney General
Desmond Swayne MP, PPS to the Prime Minister
William Hague MP, Foreign Secretary
Keith Simpson MP, PPS to the Foreign Secretary
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Opposition
Anne McGuire MP, PPS to the Leader of the Opposition
Chuka Umunna MP, PPS to the Leader of the Opposition
Richard Ottaway MP, Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee
James Arbuthnot MP, Chair, Defence Select Committee
Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for Defence
Tobias Ellwood, PPS to the Secretary of State for Defence
Paul Flynn MP
Elfyn Llwyd MP

Alan Rusbridger, Editor, The Guardian
James Hanning, Deputy Editor, Independent on Sunday
Andrew Gilligan, The Telegraph
Paul Reynolds, BBC
Nick Robinson, BBC

The Stop the War Coalition,
Kate Hudson, CND UK
The Chilcot Inquiry
Sarah Goom, Legal Adviser to the Chilcot Inquiry
HM Treasury Ministers
Department of Justice Ministers
Ministry of Defence Ministers

Blind Copy Recipients

Not listed