(CC Image Courtest of mayu on flikr)

Risking Prison for Principles: A Watershed Moment for Muslims in Britain

Fahad Ansari looks at the significance of CAGE international director Muhammed Rabbani’s principled stance on risking prison to object to the Schedule 7 law as a turning point for civil rights in Britain.

Within every civil rights movement there comes a watershed moment which marks the beginning of real social change, a critical turning point from which there is no going back. They are usually marked with individual acts of courage and personal sacrifice that not only raise public awareness of an unjust law or policy but act as the catalyst to the abolishment of the same.  Vilified by the power structures of their time, future generations have celebrated them as heroes with their persecutors confined to the dustbin of history.

When Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat in December 1955 to a white passenger on the bus on the way from work, she was fully conscious that she was breaking the law in Alabama which required black people to relinquish seats to white people when the bus was full. Her arrest and imprisonment sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system. It also led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.

Parks, who is now known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’, later said: “I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

At the height of his celebrated boxing career, world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali refused to serve in the US army during the Vietnam War. He was not only stripped of his license and title but he was also sentenced to five years in prison. Ali was willing to defy the law based on his principles.

As he famously said: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Four years later, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction by a unanimous 8-0 decision. Ali’s stance in sacrificing the prime years of his boxing career, his wealth, his reputation and his liberty for his principles, energised the civil rights movement and made him a global icon.

In his famous letter from prison in 1963, Martin Luther King differentiated between just laws and unjust laws and argued that “an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

There are many other examples from around the world including Nelson Mandela’s incarceration for organising a worker’s strike against apartheid in South Africa and Gandhi’s regular imprisonment by the British colonial forces in India for his acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

Today, international director of CAGE, Muhammad Rabbani will report to a police station in east London where he expects to be charged with a terrorism offence. His crime: refusing to provide the police with the passwords for his devices after being detained at the airport on his return from abroad.

Whilst some may pontificate about the wisdom and sensibility of Rabbani’s actions, they need to be viewed within the context of the legislation under which he is being prosecuted. Rabbani was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2001.

This law permits the authorities to detain and question any individual at any port of entry or exit to the UK for up to six hours. Under the legislation, you do not enjoy a right to silence and must answer questions. You must provide your DNA sample and allow yourself to be strip-searched if requested. You must surrender your passwords to your devices when asked.

Critically, the authorities do not need to have even the remotest level of suspicion to enable them to carry out any of these powers. Paradoxically, if the police were to arrest someone on suspicion of being involved in a criminal offence, that person would have more rights than if detained at the airport without suspicion.

Every year, over half a million people have been detained under Schedule 7 since the power was introduced with approximately 50,000 people being held every year.

The fact that only 0.2% of those detained have been arrested with an even a smaller number charged underlines the disproportionate nature of the power. This means that tens of thousands of innocent people are harassed under anti-terrorism laws every year in what is essentially a large-scale fishing expedition. The vast majority of those affected comply in the hope that they can get on with their journey and out of fear of imprisonment for not doing so.

Rabbani himself has been detained under Schedule 7 over 20 times in the past decade. He has never previously provided his password when requested to do so.  However this was the first time he was arrested for not complying. He believes it is because the material on his laptop included documentation relating to a legal case being built around alleged torture involving US intelligence agencies.

Rabbani pleaded that he could not disclose that material without the express consent of the alleged victim of torture. Like those before him, Rabbani is willing to go to prison for his principles.

If Rabbani is charged today and jailed, we should not only support him but celebrate his arrest as it may prove to be a watershed moment for civil rights in Britain.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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[Infographic] 7 facts the Home Office concealed: Damning data on terror arrests

The most recent data published by the Home Office on police powers under the Terrorism Act show a trend of racial discrimination and increasing evidence of what has been referred to as ‘Al Capone’ style disruption in communities.

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1- 70% of those arrested are never charged with a terrorism offence:

While arrests are often grandly announced in the media, a close look at their aftermath reveals that the overwhelming majority of those arrested are never charged under terrorism laws. An alarming 63% are not charged with any offence at all.

However what these numbers conceal is the impact arrests and raids under terrorism laws have on families. ‘Khalid’ who was raided by the police told CAGE:  “It is after this day that my mother and father find it hard to sleep at night. Any time there is a small movement or noise they think it’s the police.”

‘Khalid’ had to endure “a year of going through hard times and explaining to [his] family that I am not involved in terrorism”. Such is the stigma attached to victims of these raids.

His case is an example of the many who experienced raids but were never charged or convicted of a crime.


Read more: 6 months as a terror suspect, stopped, followed, raided and held on bail

2- Increase use of police bail

A trend CAGE has picked up, is the use of bail as a means to restrict individuals’ freedoms. At times clients feel that they have been placed on bail for an indefinite period of time.

When compared with the relatively small conviction rate, it seems that police bails are used vindictively with the aim of stopping otherwise innocent individuals from living freely.

‘Imran’ who was held under bail conditions for 2½ years described it “like a prison sentence without being in prison.” He said “It’s a huge burden on my shoulders. I can’t plan anything and my family and I live in fear that they may raid our home again.”

3- 90% of those arrested are not convicted under terrorism laws

Of all the 260 individuals arrested, those actually found guilty of a terrorism offence are just 10% or 26 people.

The low rate of conviction must be used as call to review policing tactics in order to improve police-community relations.

The continued heightening of tensions between police and communities, as well as the ongoing fear campaigns in the media, seem completely at odds with the figures available.

The rate of error – 90% of all arrests –  naturally gives rise to a broader attitude amongst impacted communities that they feel specifically targeted by the authorities.

4- 88.4% of those detained at ports and airports are from an ethnic minority or otherwise ‘not stated’

This shocking figure proves the discriminatory nature of the controversial Schedule 7 powers. (According to the last UK census, minorities constitute only 14% of the population).

This is further exacerbated because of 19,355 people stopped at airports, only 5 were charged with not complying or other terror related charges. This is a total of 0.02% or a rate of error 99.98%!

For years, CAGE has advocated that people should not be stopped if there is no indication they have committed a crime.


know your rights: schedule 7

As far back as 2012, former reviewer of terrorism legislation David Anderson stated: “Indeed, despite having made the necessary inquiries, I have not been able to identify from the police any case of a Schedule 7 examination leading directly to an arrest followed by a conviction in which the initial stop was not prompted by intelligence of some kind.”

All this demonstrates that Schedule 7 is of little value to detect crimes but, since it allows invasive questioning by police, it is rather a mass intelligence gathering operation.

5-  72% of those stopped and searched under terror laws are from ethnic minorities or ‘not stated’.

The police carried out 483 stops, 54% belonged to ethnic minorities, a further 18% refused to state, and only 28% identified as white. These stops target and profiles communities in a similar fashion as it once did black communities.

Ayman Marwa, who was stopped under these powers, said: “I was traumatised by the arrest. Before I used to have a fear of people, because I was a victim of a stabbing, and now I also fear the police. I have nerve damage on my left side and I also have a colostomy bag. The police showed no regard for my health conditions despite my protests and agony. The reason they allege [they stopped me] was because I was carrying a box, that I bought from a hardware store, which they believed was an explosive.”

Hindering the lives of the innocent

There is a clear continuation of the trend of ‘disruption’, an approach by security services which focusses on hindering the lives of ‘suspected’ individuals rather than prosecuting them.

It short-cuts due process since individuals are not given the chance to be presumed innocent nor are they allowed to challenge the assumptions made against them.


Read more: The Henry Jackson Society’s fear-mongering report paints a totally false picture of Terrorism and Muslims in the UK

From CAGE’s work, we have observed that this disruption targets Muslims disproportionately. Officially, however, these statistics remain hidden from the public. The data remains incomplete when it comes to publishing the faith distribution of those impacted, especially in airport stops where this data is recorded according to numerous testimonies we’ve collected.

This gives credence to the belief that these statistics, should they be released, would be highly embarrassing for police, who are continually insisting that they do not target Muslims.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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3 ways the War on Terror contributes to starve millions in Somalia and 3 ways you can help them straight away

Millions in the Horn of Africa are facing starvation due to the droughts. But droughts are nothing new in the region and have been managed successfully in the past. Though they are not man-made, the reasons droughts turn into famines are. In this case, the War on Terror has worsened the situation and contributed to a humanitarian disaster. These are some 3 reasons why and what you you can do about it.

1) Influenced by its backers, Somalia’s spends most of its money on security and administrative costs

In 2015, the Somali government’s total spending on administrative and security spending accounted for more than 85%, while only about 10% of total spending went towards economic and social services.

Over the years infrastructures such as water-reservoirs, wells and food storage facilities  previously used to cope with droughts have been left in ruins.

Despite the UK having pledged over £100m to relief efforts in Somalia, the security-heavy political restrictions placed upon charities means that aid does not find its way to the most needy.

This week, the British government announced £21m more aid to the stricken country. This aid, however, is to assist with efforts to “counter extremism” and bolster the National Security Architecture. This includes funding African Union forces and the Somali National Army, both of whom have been accused of atrocities against civilians.


read more: Britain’s war in East Africa

2) US restrictions prevent humanitarian aid in large parts of the country

Al Shabaab continues to control vast swathes of rural territory.

The designation of Al Shabaab as a terrorist organisation, first by the US then later by the UN security council, and subsequent terrorism financing laws have had a chilling effect on relief efforts. Fearing criminal prosecution, charities have been discouraged from operating in Al-Shabaab areas.

Al Shabaab has banned UN agencies and other charities from operating in the areas they control, citing ‘misconduct’ and ‘espionage’. They also placed conditions and restricted access into its areas, except to those it considers ‘independent’ and ‘neutral’.

For Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International, talking to the “other side” is a necessity during such crisis.

“Concerns are outweighed by the extraordinary humanitarian imperative to get assistance to those people who will not survive without it”, he wrote in 2011.

3) Humanitarian aid is used as a bargaining chip

Somali journalist for Al Jazeera Hamza Mohamed hinted to this problem in a recent Facebook post:

“Have you asked yourself how the West can airdrop bombs in areas under al-Shabaab control but has never airdropped a single sack of maize to the starving Somalis living in those areas?”, he wrote.

“Aid in Somalia is all about politics. It is not about helping Somalis. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“By not giving aid to those living in areas under al-Shabaab the West is hoping they will move away from al-Shabaab areas into government-controlled towns and cities.

This way, the West hopes, al-Shabaab will be left with empty towns and villages.

“This policy by the West is why in 2011 Mogadishu went from being the capital city of the country into an overcrowded IDP camp”, he concluded


Read more:  CAGE Africa calls for a rethink of AMISOM’s involvement in Somalia

TAKE THREE ACTIONS NOW!

 

1) Make dua!

Allah says in the quran: “And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky pure water. That We may bring to life thereby a dead land and give it as drink to those We created of numerous livestock and men”. Surah Al Furqan v 48-49

People have gathered across Somalia to pray for rain, performing salaat al istisqaa (Prayer for rain).

We should all supplicate in our prostration and qunoot for all those stricken by droughts and famine in the world.

2) Donate to trusted, independent charities

“Who is it that will offer up unto God a goodly loan, which He will amply repay? For, such (as do so) shall have a noble reward”. Surah Al – Hadid, 57:11

The urgency requires that we donate immediately to alleviate the suffering of the people on the ground. There are several independent charities which work on the ground. Do your research and don’t delay!

3) Campaign to end the violence that causes famine

There is no doubt that there is an urgent need to get aid delivered to the country, but if we don’t address the man-made causes of the crisis, we will likely see the same disaster again in the coming years, just like we saw it in 2011 with 250 000 losing their life.

There have been calls on social media for accountability for crimes committed by the UN backed AMISOM peace keeping forces in advance of the major London-Somalia international conference.

You can join these calls and support CAGE’s efforts to call for accountability and an end to violence in the War on Terror. Get involved by subscribing and donating.


LEARN how you can Become a CAGE supporter

 

(CC image courtesy of UN Photo on Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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6 months as a terror suspect, stopped, followed, raided and held on bail

As part of our Human Voices of the War on Terror series, we talk to ‘Abu Muhammad’, who tells his story of how he endured being stopped at the airport, raided and arrested, then released after police found nothing to prosecute him.

I come from a stable religious, caring family. Growing up, I began to explore my environment as a young person would. I was involved with the ‘wrong crowd’ but I had never been on the wrong side of the law, nor was I ever arrested.

I believe my family instilled in me virtuous values, which helped keep me safe despite the temptations around me at the time.

It was only after a major trauma in my life, which placed me in a coma, that I entirely reformed my life. It took me 2 years to make a full recovery and rebuild.

I managed to start a profitable business and developed a very close relationship with my family. My life is made up of my parents, wife and daughter.

So it was extremely upsetting to go through what I did. It was a massive shock for someone who has never been stopped and searched or arrested by the police to find himself raided and arrested on a terrorism charge.

I was aware of the work of CAGE, but I never informed myself of my rights. I never thought that I would be targeted. Unfortunately I was unaware of what to expect.

How it all began

The last few years have been extremely busy for me. Running the business has taken over my life, and I rarely have time to spare.

But I had managed to take a well-earned break to see my in laws in Morocco. It had been four years since my wife had last seen her parents. To say we were excited and happy travelling to Morocco is in an understatement.

We arrived at the airport and checked in with nothing out of the ordinary happening. But when we were due to board the flight, I noticed two plain clothed figures in the distance standing in the tunnel leading to the plane. As I drew closer to them they called my name and asked to check my passport and tickets once again.

I found this strange as my passport and ticket had just been checked moments ago at the gate. My wife and daughter were with me, but these two men, who identified themselves as officers, were not concerned with them. The focus was on me.

I had a sense of unease with them, despite remaining courteous and obliging. They began to ask me bizarre questions relating to my work sector, about prices of products and the effects of inflation. I asked myself how is this line of questioning related to security?

Their tone was very patronizing and aggressive. They then asked me about where I was going and some details about my travel arrangements.

“Why am I being stopped?” I asked them.

They turned red with embarrassment before telling me it was ‘random’.

This was extremely humiliating. The plane was full of tourists and only I and my wife, both visibly Muslim, were being held as people walked past and entered the plane. Eventually we were allowed to board.

I was followed by security services in Morocco

My impression of Morocco and its people is a very positive one. People are very friendly where my wife’s family live.

However this holiday was different. About a week into my break I began to feel I was being followed. I dismissed these thoughts until my brother-in-law also noticed that I was being followed. I did not allow this to affect my life and continued as normal, until I was visited.

A community figure known locally knocked on the door of my in-laws’ home and asked for me. To his surprise my father in-law, who was a respected official, came out to speak to him. This man apologized profusely and said he was ordered by the DST (Moroccan security services) to investigate my whereabouts.

In the course of his discussion with my father-in-law, he let slip that the British intelligence services were the ones behind the request. According to him, the British authorities were concerned I would not make the connecting domestic flight in Morocco.

The conversation ended with this community figure saying he’s satisfied I’m ‘okay’ as they’ve ‘seen me’. That was the end of all the following but they left behind a feeling of unease.

Half an hour to get through customs

My return to the UK was relatively uneventful. Once we landed in London, we waited normally to be processed through customs. My wife went first and passed through in a matter of seconds. It’s worth noting that my wife is not a British national, which is made all the stranger when compared to what I had to endure as a British national.

It took the person at the customs desk about half an hour to process me. I was asked to turn to my side, remove my glasses make strange movements as though I was being asked to pose for a mug shot. Eventually after a lengthy wait I was allowed to pass. It was the first time I experienced excessive identity checks.

I left thinking that this was a consequence of flying while Muslim. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

Police raid my home and arrest me in front of my family

I hadn’t slept much the previous night; I was still exhausted from my travel. After Fajr (dawn) prayers, and around 6:25am there was a violent knock on the door. I quickly told my wife to put on her scarf, and at that moment my father opened the door and police officers stormed in screaming my name.

I repeated the Islamic remembrance:

حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل‏

Allah (Alone) is sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us)

‏ إنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return

I prepared myself for what was to come. The officers swiftly put me under arrest and moved my entire household into a single room. Even my ill elderly grandmother was moved, but the officers allowed her to return out of compassion. We were all in complete shocked, and it took a while to register what was happening.

The police were extremely aggressive; they wouldn’t allow us to communicate with each other. They looked like members of a far right organization. The only difference was that they had police badges.

I was arrested on suspicion of funding terrorism. They allowed me to clean myself and dress up before I was escorted out.

Despite their foul behavior towards my family and me I never felt any ill feeling towards them. I wish good for them, even now.

One particular officer was markedly better than the rest. When it was time for me to be cuffed, this officer approached me and requested if I would like asking my daughter to leave the room. This officer also covered my hands when I was led out of my home so neighbors and onlookers don’t see me in cuffs.

Two other officers then came along and were extremely hostile. They insulted me and my mother, who as you can imagine was crying seeing her son led away like a criminal.

I told them that this time was not an ideal time. I had just retuned from a holiday the night before. Nevertheless I was placed in the police vehicle, where another round of abuse commenced. The officers made jibes about eating pork, joking that it may be idolatrous. I responded when I could, but the whole experience was overwhelming.

News came in through the radio that there had been a bombing in a religious building in the fareast. One officer asked if there had been any Brits among the dead, but there had been none.

“That’s alright, it doesn’t matter,” one officer said.

I then thought to myself: do only British lives have value? Is this the attitude that police officers should have to human lives? It was an appalling response.

A book about my rights, which said I had none!

The officers remained in my house for a number of hours as they conducted their search. They were aggressive towards my wife and attempted to question my young daughter about my work. I felt they were attempting to use my family against me.

They confiscated all the electronic devices in my home including my daughter’s Ipad. When my wife pleaded with them, an officer sharply responded “No!”

“This case is different isn’t it?” they added.

My wife was asked to surrender the password to her phone, which she did.

At this moment I was in the police station, completely oblivious to what was happening at home. I also had no idea what my rights were.

Funnily I was given a booklet which was meant to inform me of my rights, except that it caveated that those rights were not applicable to terrorism cases.

I then threw it away, and requested a Quran. I asked Allah for comfort and resolve and began to recite the Quran, but now the verses I read had a completely new resonance with me. It was as though I was reading it for the first time. I then called upon Allah for assistance for myself and my family.

I prostrated to Allah and my heart was filled with tranquility. This verse came to my mind:

فَأَنزَلَ اللَّهُ سَكِينَتَهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ وَعَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

But Allah sent down His tranquility upon His Messenger and upon the believers

In such situations, alone and captive, you only have two options:
– To educate yourself about your rights.
– To use this time to connect with Allah.

Released on Bail

I was released on bail later the same day at around 10pm. It was a relief but soon it dawned on me that the number of restrictions I had placed on me ensured I was kept in near virtual imprisonment.

I was losing money on a daily basis as all of my business documents, including important contact details with suppliers had been saved on the devices the police had taken away. Furthermore I could not visit certain areas and my home was the only address I could remain in overnight.

I was also waiting on the results of a tumor I had removed and was anxious that there would be no further complications. In addition my passport had been confiscated and my wife’s visa was ending soon. Without my passport I couldn’t possibly extend her stay.

It was an extremely stressful time that was only further exacerbated by the extremely restrictive police bail conditions.

This continued for six months as the police carried out their investigations. Then without warning the case was dropped and in an instant I was free again.

MI5: “We think there’s something there”

A week or two after my case was dropped, I began to receive unsolicited calls from individuals saying they were calling from a government department. They insisted on arranging a meeting. I ignored the calls.

Then they contacted my home and asked my parents for me. But my response again was to ignore the calls.

When I did speak to them, they were using passive threatening language. They said “we think there’s something there”, despite the police having found no evidence of wrongdoing against me. They wanted me to feel vulnerable so that I would cooperate with them.

On one occasion, I was approached in the street by a male and a female agent who wanted to sit and talk with me over coffee. I said if they did not refrain from approaching me I would sue them for harassment.

As this began to escalate, I got in touch with CAGE and thankfully, I followed their advice and the harassment stopped.

Despite these interactions being limited, knowing that the MI5 is pursuing you makes you feel extremely insecure.

We tell ourselves that they “know everything”, which is an intimidating thought. But the reality is that this is an exaggeration. Only Allah knows everything and He is the one who is in control and above us all.

Be patient and smart

What this taught me is that we can challenge this type of harassment. We can do something and that ultimately there is nothing to worry about. We must have patience and console ourselves with the stories of the prophets who were tested.

It is only through turning to Allah with certainty that we can hope for His aide and assistance.

We must also take advantage of the resources available to us. We should educate ourselves and spread awareness of these issues amongst our communities. Importantly, such experiences mustn’t dissuade us from continuing our work and support for the needy across the world.

My wife is now expecting our second child, and praise be to Allah, my affairs are coming back together. I’m optimistic for the future and hope that my story empowers others and sheds some light on an important issue.

In any eventuality we must accept the decree of Allah and do as much good as we can.

 

(CC image courtesy of West Midlands Police of Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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[Webinar] 14 Ways To Resist and Build Unity in Hard Times

We are living in an age where the security state is becoming more dominant over our everyday lives, and where counter-terrorism legislation threatens our rights, charities and privacy. But there is still a lot Muslims and their organisations can do to resist oppression and build unity within the community. We’ve taken Timothy Snyder’s ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century’ as a rough guide and added some steps of our own:


(video begins @ 02:00)


Read more: [Infographic] 7 steps to consider before you press ‘condemn’

  1. Believe in the Truth:
    Never let go of the truth that Allah is in complete control. When times get tough, hold this close to your heart. Use this as the basis for all your actions.
  2. Inform yourself and others:
    Don’t accept manipulations of the truth. Inform yourself with a wide range of alternative, objective news that quotes real, named sources from non-partisan organisations.
  3. Resist the crowd:
    In the face of oppression, people often anticipate what the state wants and they do it without even being asked to. Don’t be one of these people. Question authority fearlessly and stay true to your principles.
  4. Support charities and institutions:
    Lend your support, voluntary or otherwise, to a group or institution whose aims and ethics contribute to a robust civil society. There is strength in numbers.
  5. Do not use or buy into the language of oppression:
    Watch out for loaded terms such as “terrorism”, “radicalisation” and “extremism”. Reclaim language for yourself and others. If you have to use such terms, mention the wider context and qualify your use of them.
  6. Don’t be afraid to set an example:
    Standing out from the crowd can be scary, but once you do it a few times, you get used to it. If you’re speaking truth, people will follow. Courage is contagious.
  7. Talk to people:
    Technology is not enough to keep you connected. Nothing beats face-to-face time with like-minded people. Make new friends. Follow up. It is crucial for forging unity.
  8. Investigate events and broaden your knowledge:
    Invest your time in good investigative journalism (yes, those long articles). Read books that provide a critical world view like:
    – ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons for the Twentieth Century’ by Timothy Snyder
    – ‘Misunderstanding Terrorism’ by Marc Sageman 
    – ‘Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror’ by Judith Herman 
    – ‘Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient’ by Edward Said 
    – ‘Drone Theory’ by Gregoire Chamayou
  9. Protect yourself:
    Encrypt your devices. Keep your private life private. Minimise interactions online. Have important meetings in person with your phone switched off or even left at home.
  10. Find common ground:
    Interact with others that disagree with you and try to find where you can work together. Oppressors love it when “their subjects” fight with each other; it keeps them strong. Resist the urge to argue over small things. Find middle ground. Practice healthy debate.
  11. Work outside the common constraints:
    Power attempts to place you within a pre-set framework of known constraints and outcomes. You must break the mould and work to find alternative solutions outside these frames. Be creative in your activism.
  12. Be resilient:
    Working against oppression will entail taking risks. You will make mistakes, and you will be targeted by the media and politicians. You must be resilient, uncompromising over the rights of your community and overall patient and dignified. Change happens with time.
  13. Be calm in the wake of an act of violence:
    Wait for the truth to emerge. Remember acts like these are often used to divide communities and introduce more oppressive laws and policies. You don’t want to be complicit in that.
  14. Be resourceful
    In confronting oppression and tyranny you will be less resourced and will be locked out of the public space. You must be resourceful in breaking this blockade and maximising your efficiency.

NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Ethiopia’s Liyu Police commit war crimes under banner of ‘War on Terror’

*Image of Liyu Police

In June last year, Ethiopia’s paramilitary force, the Liyu Police, in retaliation for the wounding of one of their officers in a dispute with local traders, entered into the village of Jaamac Duban in eastern Ethiopia’s majority Muslim Somali Regional State, and began shooting indiscriminately.

They killed at least 14 men and seven women, and severely injured a baby boy, whose mother died while holding him.

Now, nine months later, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a report stating that the incident has still not been investigated by the Ethiopian government, and the region itself remains largely closed to international observers and journalists.

“During the shootings, a number of people ran into the village mosque seeking shelter. Liyu police officers pursued them and fired through the main door into the mosque. At least one elderly man … was wounded – shot in the leg – while inside the mosque,” reported HRW.

Residents fled the village and the Liyu Police prevented them from returning to bury their dead for almost a day. When they were allowed to return, they found their shops – which had been stocked up for Ramadan – had been looted.

According to eyewitness accounts to HRW, residents were forced to bury their dead in mass graves while the Liyu Police stood by and ordered everybody to remain silent and not to cry.

Old conflicts co-opting the language of the ‘War on Terror’

The Liyu Police were formed in April 2007 as a counter-insurgency force to counter  the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

The ONLF has, since its founding in 1981 in Somalia, campaigned and fought against Ethiopian abuses and dominance, in what it terms in its political programme as “a conflict between a colonised people and their coloniser”.

However, the conflict in Ogaden pre-dates the War on Terror and even the ONLF, and boils down to decades long conflict between the majority Muslim population in the eastern region, who are historically, ethnically and religiously affiliated with their neighbours in Somalia, and the Christian-dominated Ethiopian government, which seeks to consolidate central control and valuable natural resources.


Read more: CAGE Africa opposes Trump’s battle plan for Somalia

The ONLF seeks a separate state for Ogaden, which contrasts with  other Muslim movements in the region that seek to re-establish a  “Greater Somalia”, which comprises Somaliland, Somalia, Ogaden and the Somali regions of Kenya.

In 1993, the ONLF was voted in by a majority of 84%, securing administrative power in the region.

Mohammed Aden, Director of the Ogaden Somali Community in South Africa, explained to CAGE Africa that in the aftermath of this election, the Ethiopian government embarked on a smear campaign against the ONLF, killing some administrators and imprisoning others, effectively removing them from power.

A counter-insurgency force operating on the dark side

Since their founding, the Liyu Police have exacted collective punishment against civilians who show even the slightest criticism of them, or the Ethiopian government, or the slightest support for the ONLF or other Muslim organisations.

The founder of the Liyu Police is Abdi Mohamed Omar, known simply as “Illy”, and he operates with total impunity. All Liyu members report to him since he is also the de facto president and commander-in-chief of the eastern Somali State.

Working for the Liyu Police has its appeal for some. Members of the Liyu Police, according to a report by Norwegian Country of Origin Information Centre, Landinfo, an independent body within the Norwegian Immigration Authorities, are well paid, and they get to keep looted goods.

Members of the Liyu Police are often influenced by clan affiliations and are mostly members of the same clan. Since they have been charged with flushing out ‘Islamist’ insurgencies, the ‘War on Terror’ has worsened existing clan conflicts.

Their crimes are many, and include gang rape, extrajudicial killings including beheadings, and the dismemberment of bodies.

British funds sustained the Liyu Police

It is not surprising that the Ethiopian government has refused to investigate these and other civilian killings; they fund and support the Liyu Police, with the backing of the United States and the United Kingdom in their ‘War on Terror’.

In 2013 between 12 and 15 million pounds were given by the UK directly to the Liyu Police to run “peacebuilding training” given by UK approved “NGOs and private companies”.


Read more: Britain’s war in East Africa

Amid allegations of abuse, the Liyu police launched a publicity campaign to prove to its funders that it was aiding development – but the ONLF claimed the campaign was staged.

The British media duly followed this campaign with a glowing report sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, describing the Liyu Police’s alleged “developmental agenda”, despite abuses continuing through 2013 and 2014.

More broadly, the Ethiopian government, which funds the Liyu Police, is one of the largest recipients of UK aid, with almost £256m donated between 2015 and 2016.

Ethiopia’s ‘War on Terror’ supported by the US

Human Rights Watch in its 2008 report highlighted the way in which Ethiopian counter-insurgency operations are sold to the international community:

“The application of terrorist rhetoric to the internal conflict with the ONLF, however, appears designed mainly to attract support from the United States as part of the “war on terror.” It does not justify violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

Testimony by Human Rights Watch to the US Congress in 2007 stated it more plainly. According to a docket launched in 2011 with the  South African Police (to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed by the Ethiopian Government) by the South African-based Muslim Lawyers Association:

“The state [Ethiopia] that is perpetrating abuses against its people in Ogaden is a key US ally and recipient of seemingly unquestioning US military, political, and financial support.”

The United States justifies its support for the counter-insurgency in Ogaden by saying that they are preventing the spread of al-Shabaab in the region.

However, rumors of the ONLF’s links to Shabaab fell through when Shabaab castigated them when ONLF allegedly fought them alongside Hizbul Islam (who were former Shabaab allies).

Mohammed Aden told CAGE Africa that the amount of support in Ogaden for al-Shabaab is negligible. Rather, he said the continued human rights abuses by the Ethiopian-backed militias are seen by the Ogaden people as a ploy to push individuals towards violence:

“They are trying to push the people harder, so they will go somewhere else, or where they will go and do extreme action. That’s the agenda, they want to prove the idea … so that they can get more funding from the international community…”

A negotiated settlement can stop the cycles of violence

The impunity enjoyed by the Liyu Police both nationally and internationally have emboldened them and the Ethiopian government. They are rapidly becoming a destabilising force in Ethiopia, not just in Ogaden.

Recent reports have emerged that Liyu Police are now partaking in raids in the Oromo region of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government, in dealing with Oromo, has often used ‘War on Terror’ language to justify abuses, even though the majority of Oromo is not Muslim.

A centuries long atmosphere of mutual distrust between the Ethiopian government – who have been funded and supported by various colonising powers throughout history – and national liberation movements such as those in Oromo and Ogaden, mean that the endless ‘War on Terror’ facilitates endless conflict and atrocities against civilians.


Report: Inside Africa’s War on Terror

But the distrust on both sides must be broken down and a negotiated settlement realised, outside of the confines and oppression of ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric. This, as well as the complete disbandment of the Liyu Police, could be the key to stopping decades of bloody conflict.

It is also crucial for the stability of Ethiopia that Britain and the United States end their silent but tacit support for Ethiopia’s campaigns of violence against civilians.

 

(Image courtesy of Al Jazeera on Youtube)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Make no mistake: Trump is no friend of the Syrian people

The Assad regime has once again demonstrated its depravity by bombing the town of Khan Shaykhoun in Idlib using chemical weapons, killing at least 58.

One of the most emotive scenes to emerge was that of Abdul Hamid Youssef who lost his young twins and 25 members of his direct family. Speaking to CNN he said:

“There was foam on their mouths, there were convulsions. They had all been on the floor,”

“My kids, Ahmad and Aya, and my wife… they were all martyred.”

“My entire family’s gone.”

However he was defiant despite his grief when asked about leaving Syria. Embodying the spirit of true believers Abdul Hamid said: “Why would I leave my home? We were born of this land and we will die for it.”

“Let him (Assad) come, him and Europe, with his sarin gas ten more times.”

His story is one of defiance against all odds, a story that has become synonymous with the revolution in Syria.

But the reaction of the United States to this human tragedy is astoundingly hypocritical. The sympathy of Trump towards the Syrian people is only as truthful as the sympathy American fighter jets have meted out to the civilian victims of American aggression in Aleppo, Raqqah and Mosul.

Moreover, once the survivors flee their lands and the bombs raining down from the US coalition, Russia and Syria, they are then faced by Trump’s ‘humanitarian’ #MuslimBan.

Trump using a human tragedy for his own ends

To date the US lead coalition has conducted approximately 7,900 airstrikes in Syria, killing 260 civilians in Syria in March 2017 alone. Most notably was the strike on a Mosque in Aleppo that resulted in the reported killing of 56 worshippers.  

The USA has now been militarily involved in the Syrian conflict for at least 31 months with its presence ever increasing. The civilian death toll has been immense with a reported 2000 killed last month across Syria and Iraq by coalition forces.


Read more: US military attack “killing 56” at Syrian mosque is a war crime

It is therefore extremely naive to describe the latest American airstrikes as humanitarian in nature or even as an attempt to exact ‘justice’ against the depraved regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

Such ‘decisive’ action has not followed the brutal massacres in Aleppo, because it would seem the weapons used there were crude barrel bombs and conventional artillery. The message is clear: so long as Syrian’s are not killed by chemical weapons, western ambivalence to the crimes of the regime will continue.

When it comes to its actions, the US ‘red line’ seems to be concerned with appearances rather than substance.

A public relations move with little impact

The limited strikes, carried out overnight, serve only to strengthen Trump’s image as a ‘strong’ president in contrast with the perceived inaction of Obama. The strikes have not damaged the regime’s capacity to mount airstrikes, nor will it protect the lives of innocent civilians.

At midday yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian warplanes had taken off from an air base hit by US to carry out strikes in the Homs countryside.

Syrian journalist, Mousa Al-Omar questioned the selected targets of the strikes:

“In bombing Syrian civilians the regime primarily relies upon Hama Airports (for barrel bombs) and Al-Dameer, Al-Seen and Khalkhala (for fighter jets). What took you to Al-Shi’rat?”

Reports have also emerged that the regime, which lost only 6 men in the strikes, was alerted and evacuated the targeted airfield before the strikes.

Moazzam Begg, CAGE’s outreach director added in a Facebook post, “…America kills 6 Syrian soldiers with 59 missiles? They normally get far more than that by mistake.”

Assad, once an ally and now a convenient enemy

The US worked very closely with the Syrian regime in the War on Terror. In fact the US notoriously renditioned four Canadian citizens, one of them from the American mainland, and one other German citizen to Syria. They are, Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Muayyad Nureddin, Ahmad Abou El Maati and the German Mohammed Haydar Zammar. They were taken to the infamous Fara’ Falestin, Palestine Branch detention centre, known for its indescribable degrading torture and treatment.

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Left to Right: Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou El Maati, Muayyad Nureddin and inset Mohammed Haydar Zammar.

Another infamous case is that of Abu Mus’ab As-Suri, who was arrested in late 2005 in Quetta, Pakistan, handed over to the US and held at the US naval base on the British Islands of Diego Garcia. He was handed over to the Syrian regime and disappeared, in all likelihood tortured mercilessly for his support of the 1980’s Hama uprising.

This all happened behind the scenes while the regime was designated as part Bush’s of supposed “Axis of Evil”.

In recent years, Assad has become a convenient enemy. Although the coalition and Assad’s regime are bombing on the same side much of the time, in distancing themselves from his actions publicly, the USA is able to occupy a faux moral high ground.

A war of words between war criminals

While we now witness a diplomatic war of words and posturing between Russia, Syrian regime and the US, many more innocent civilians will be killed through their actions.

The regime’s response was a declaration that the strikes have “increased Syria’s determination to strike the terrorist agents”. They too have learned to co opt the language of the War on Terror to justify unlawful activities.


Read more: Saydnaya: If torture “works”, it doesn’t stop people rising up

Syria has become an international bombing arena with countries involved in criminal actions with impunity.

The US secretary of state declared that the gas attack contravened international law and norms. This begs the question: is the US, in its bombing of civilians, following these international laws and norms?

 

(CC image courtesy of Kentucky National Guard on Flikr and Hadi Al Abdallah on Youtube)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Home Office Propaganda Unit admits actions of armed forces are linked to “radicalisation”

A recent court judgement based on an argument from the government’s domestic propaganda unit, research information and communications unit (RICU), has resulted in the censoring of a video clip of British marine Alexander Blackman executing a wounded Taliban fighter.

Though several media companies argued that the clip should be aired as it was in the public interest to do so, the judge repeated the Home Office’s RICU head Paul Wilson’s words when he said: “It [the video] would provide terrorists with material they could use to underpin their ‘justification’ for undertaking terrorist attacks against the western powers and to underpin their extremist narrative at a tactical and strategic level.”

“They would use it to argue that western powers are corrupt, do not adhere to their own rules such as the military rules of engagement and the Geneva Conventions and claim that this was the way the armed forces of the western powers treat insurgents on the battlefield.”

There are four important issues that emerge from the judgement in this case which need to be brought to the fore.

Actions of British armed forces can be linked to political violence

The British government, in its counter extremism strategy in 2015, focusses on ideology as the key driver of “radicalisation”.

This approach, which led to a strategy that targets ideas and beliefs, has since bolstered disastrous state interventions such as PREVENT, widely discredited through its lack of scientific basis linking ideology to “terrorism”.


Read more: Is the government’s PREVENT ‘science’ really peer-reviewed?

Up until now the government has refused to acknowledge the link between political grievances such as anger and disillusionment with British foreign policy, and political violence. In fact the government’s basis for its radicalisation theory, the ERG 22+ fails to acknowledge political factors at all.

However in this case, the judge, with the support of RICU itself, has admitted there is a link between the behaviour of British armed forces in Afghanistan, and political violence. In other words, the actions of British armed forces can be responsible for what the state terms “radicalisation”.

It must be noted that when the government advocates PREVENT, it disregards the actions of its armed forces abroad as a motivator for political violence, and yet as soon as their narrative stands to be damaged, the state provides the same links between armed forces atrocities and political violence that opponents of PREVENT and counter terrorism laws have always argued.

This is an important point that needs to be highlighted, amplified, and further acknowledged by those in power: that violence abroad is linked to violence at home.

RICU provided integral contribution to the court judgement

It is also worth noting that in this case the opinions of a government department formed an integral basis for the final judgement.

The government’s RICU has been at the forefront of a Cold War-style propaganda programme directed at Muslims. This programme has centred on funding organisations supposedly representing Muslims so they can spread information that is supportive of its counter-terrorism programmes. These counter-terrorism programmes themselves are detrimental to the cohesiveness of Muslim and broader society.

RICU has been at the forefront of this “soft” but deeply structural form of oppression against its own citizens.


Read more: [Infographic] How PREVENT propaganda makes its way to you

It is disturbing then, that the propaganda arm of the government is wielding such a strong influence in this particular case – to such an extent that the judge repeats almost verbatim the highly politicised words of the state propaganda chief Paul Wilson.

Double standards in the courtroom and outside

Blackman has subsequently had his murder conviction overturned and reduced to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility due to psychological illness. He will now serve only 7 years as opposed to his previous life sentence.

However what the public discourse around Blackman’s case lacked – in contrast with Muslim’s convicted of similar crimes – was the attempt to tarnish entire communities, investigate “radicalisation” at places of worship, or assess if his actions were influenced by extremist beliefs.

Neither did we see the terms “terrorist” loosely brandished, nor did we see the judge link his actions to a belief in white supremacy.

It is only late last year that a high court judge deemed the actions of a clearly mentally disturbed Muslim, Muhyiddin Mire, to have been “carried out to advance a religious or ideological cause, namely Islamic extremism”. Despite the similarities between the two cases, there is a clear disparity in how each of them was dealt with in the public eye.

It’s not only about censorship; it’s about justice

Several media outlets said the video should have been aired because it was in the public interest to do so.

On the other hand, some might argue that censoring the video is in fact a more powerful indictment of the act than releasing it. Indeed some acts of violence are too deplorable to show, and in silencing, sometimes the suffering of victims becomes more potent.

It is crucial then that the discussion around this issue not become about whether or not the video be censored – though this too does have its merits in debate – but about how we react to the inhumanity that nobody can deny is clearly evident within it.

The moral decay present in Blackman’s company was recently attested to in court by former senior officer Oliver Lee, who described Blackman’s company as “completely out of control”.

Sketching scenes that could have been taken from ‘Apocalypse Now’, Lee said another senior officer had described the company as “psychologically defeated, bereft of ideas, unpredictable and dangerous”.

Lee accused a second company also operating in Helmand, Afghanistan of the same, and said both companies dehumanised the local people and had “scant regard” for the rules of engagement.

The campaign which lead to his charge being reduced, seemed to focus on the “stress” experienced by soldiers. However as columnist Giles Fraser, who taught leadership and ethics to newly promoted majors, said: “Everyone in Helmand was stressed. Not everyone shot their prisoners.”

Tabloids that are heralding Marine A, Blackman, as a hero and victim of injustice will only serve to perpetuate the very narrative the head of RICU feared the release of the video would cause.

In many ways, the release of the footage is not so much about the content, horrific as it is, but on how much we as a society value the principles of equal justice.


Download our report: The Science of Pre-Crime

 

(Image courtesy of MOD)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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[Infographic] 7 steps to consider before you press ‘condemn’

In the advent of any ‘terror’ related event we experience a plethora of apologies and condemnations from leaders worldwide. These are some very important considerations we should all keep in mind before we hurry to issue our responses:

  1. Wait for the truth to emerge. Not every act of violence by a Muslim is “terrorism”.
  2. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Avoid knee jerk reactions and speculation until a motive is established.
  3. Think before you speak. Public statements must be measured and refer to the wider context in which violence is occurring.
  4. Avoid loaded terms. When you speak, use neutral language to avoid pitfalls of loaded terms such as “terrorism”, “extremism” and “radicalisation”.
  5. Be independent. Maintain your independence in analysis and don’t be led by the government and the media on events.
  6. Be mindful of wider agendas. Act only in the interest of your community, while being aware of wider agendas that seek to further securitise our society.
  7. Avoid collective guilt. Avoid statements that imply a collective guilt. They only perpetuate negative stereotypes about Muslims.
Click on image to enlarge

NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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British government uses failed Prevent as a bargaining tool in Brexit

*PM signs Article 50 letter

By Asim Qureshi

The filing of Theresa May’s Article 50, ‘Brexit’, has raised questions around how almost every sector of public life will be impacted by the break in the political and economic Union. A letter from the UK Prime Minister suggested a veiled threat about cooperation on national security with European partners should there be a lack of trade agreements:

“In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the Fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”

This message was somewhat reiterated by the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who said of UK-EU counter-terrorism cooperation:

“If you look at something like Europol, we are the largest contributor to Europol. So if we left Europol, then we would take our information – this is in the legislation – with us. The fact is, the European partners want us to keep our information there, because we keep other European countries safe as well.”

Taking a dim view of the statements issued by the UK, leaders of the European Union expressed outrage that lives might be put at risk due to the UK ‘blackmailing’ the EU into keeping trade with the UK open. According to the leader of Socialist bloc at the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella:

“It would be outrageous to play with people’s lives in these negotiations. This has not been a good start by Theresa May. It feels like blackmail, but security is a good for all our citizens and not a bargaining chip. We still hope that Theresa May can get back on the right track … This was not a smart move.”

The narrative presented internationally by Theresa May, reflects the shift in mood more domestically in the UK when one year earlier, on 25 March 2016, the Home Office wrestled control all international cooperation on counter-terrorism from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

At CAGE we questioned the extent to which this coincided with the Home Office involving itself with international CVE programmes, while selling the Prevent agenda.

Selling a completely flawed product

The US-based journalist, Waqas Mirza, on seeking to gain information about the UK government’s psychology model for radicalisation, the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+), submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Ministry of Justice.

On 11 November 2016, Mirza received a response from the Specialist Communications and Correspondence Manager, Liam Crossan-Maguire, who wrote back to explain that the ERG22+ would be withheld due to public interest concerns – a very normal response to secret government documents.

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Click to enlarge

However, on this occasion, the response resulted in information that had not been previously disclosed being released, namely that ERG22+ serves a profit motive:

Public interest considerations favouring withholding the information* 

  •  The ERG 22+ is the risk assessment tool. As such, release of the tool to the general public could allow for the production of a competing product to the market, prejudicing the commercial interests of the department and allowing us to get best value for money. 
  •  The public interest can be met elsewhere by disclosure of a summary document which outlines its usage without damaging the commercial interest of the department. 

*Partial response to the FOI seen by CAGE

 

In line with the assessment of CAGE, and despite the critique levelled against the ERG22+ study, the government intends on selling PREVENT on to other countries as a ‘marketable’ product with a commercial value attached.

UK based scholars, NGOs and interested members of the public are not permitted to scrutinise the science behind this government produced study, and yet the government deems it appropriate to sell it as a product abroad.

With Brexit now in motion, we will continue to see the government selling off its supposed expertise as a way of maintaining its relevance on the world stage – even where that expertise is based on a false science and flawed research.

Selling PREVENT in this environment only reasserts that British sovereignty away from the EU has little to do with the concerns of everyday Britons, but more to do with the privatisation and commercialisation of the UK’s public sector – including the security industry.

If ever there was a sign of the emergence of a national security industrial complex, then the selling of the false science of Prevent is it.


Read more: Global ‘preventing violent extremism’ policies will promote the failed policies of the UK

 

(CC image courtesy of Number 10 on Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.