Don't criminalise solidarity!
An event to oppose new powers to prosecute returnees from designated overseas areas will take place on Friday in London.
An event to oppose new powers to prosecute returnees from designated overseas areas will take place on Friday, 28 June from 6.30-9pm at Room BG01, Brunei Gallery, SOAS University, Russell Square, in London.
The event is hosted by SOAS Kurdish Society and Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) and supported by Kurdistan Solidarity Network (KSK), London Kurdish Solidarity (LKS), Democratic Kurdish Peoples Assembly UK; Kurdish Youth Movement; The Network for Police Monitoring (NETPOL); Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.
The event is chaired by Anne Gray, CAMPACC. Speakers include Les Levidow, CAMPACC; Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Lecturer in Political Sociology, Cambridge University; Dirk Campbell, father of Anna Campbell, UK volunteer who died fighting the Turkish occupation of Afrin; Macer Gifford, former UK volunteer in Rojava, fought Isis with YPG; Emily Apple, NETPOL; Nik Matheou, London Kurdish Solidarity (LKS).
In the wake of the panic caused by British citizens travelling to northeast Syria to join ISIS, and the terrorist threat they may pose upon their return, the British government rushed through the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019. It created a new offence of entering or remaining in a “designated area” overseas. The offence would apply to UK nationals and residents, with a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment, a fine or both. The Act imposes a presumption of guilt upon defendants, who have the onus to provide a reasonable excuse for their presence.
Having failed to prosecute returnees for genuine terrorist acts, the government proposes to criminalise mere travel to a designated area. In practice, such travel has had diverse reasons, e.g. to visit family, conduct research, document human rights abuses, undertake humanitarian relief and to join the fight against ISIS. Faced with up to ten years imprisonment, some people will simply opt not to travel; this outcome would have a chilling effect on family relationships, academic inquiry, investigative journalism and acts of solidarity. The offence also risks criminalising vulnerable people who are groomed or otherwise convinced to travel under false pretences, as well as people who are unable to leave an area once it has been designated.
State powers under all the numerous counter-terrorism laws since 2000 have not brought security to the British people. Ordinary criminal law had sufficient powers to prosecute anyone planning terrorist acts in the traditional sense, i.e. violent acts aiming to cause serious harm or terrorise entire groups. Despite more comprehensive powers under anti-terror laws, the state has often failed to identify potential terrorists and to prevent them from carrying out terrorist acts. Meanwhile non-violent political activity and associations have become increasingly criminalised by the state.
In particular, Britain’s counter-terror regime has helped to legitimise Turkey’s long-standing terror campaign against its Kurdish population in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’. In parallel the UK has continued selling Turkey arms for that offensive, which entered north-eastern Syria earlier this year, providing a cover for terrorist groups such as Jabhat Al-Nusra. UK ‘anti-terror’ powers have reinforced that cover for Turkey’s terror campaign, thus playing both sides of the conflict in northeastern Syria. The ‘designated areas’ powers blur any distinction between terrorists versus those who fight terrorists to protect their communities.
This meeting will discuss how to oppose the new powers and to deter the government from using them.