Holding terror suspects without charge is locking up democracy, freedom and justice

On the 28th October 1940 Italy invaded Greece. The invasion inspired my father Nicolas Kyriakides to join the Cyprus Regiment of the British Army in Alexandria; he, along with other Cypriots, was promised that if Cypriots joined the Army after the defeat of the Axis forces Britain would grant Cyrus independence. A higher proportion of Cypriots (compared to their population) fought in the war for Britain than any other Commonwealth or Empire force.  

My father passionately believed in freedom, not just for Cyprus but for all people, and he was prepared to risk his life for what he regarded as the principles of freedom, democracy and justice; he looked at these principles as having been given to the world by the Greeks. 

On 28th April 1941 he was captured by the German Army near Kalamata (where the world’s best olives grow) being in the very last rearguard. The British had evacuated the British regiments and most of the Anzac forces, leaving the Cypriots last, but then it was too late and most of the Cypriots were captured. My father along with his regiment was interned in a prisoner of war camp, Stalag 4B, in Most, Czecholsovakia, until 8th May 1945.

Some of his regiment did not survive the starvation and hardship of the internment. Those that survived were kept going by the knowledge that they were fighting for and suffering to promote the cause of freedom, democracy and justice. 

There is an irony in my father’s story; much earlier, when he was seven years old his local priest got him to read a speech at a funeral oration of someone killed in demonstrations for independence in Cyprus. This was about 1924. He was locked up (as was the priest) by the British forces for seven days without trial, presumably on the grounds of being a terrorist.

Today we have the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, putting forward legislation to hold “terror suspects” for 42 days. Remember that anyone can be a terror suspect – even an 82 year old labour party member who heckles Jack Straw by shouting “that is a lie and you know it” during his speech. Straw would have been outraged if he had been locked up and detained under the anti-terror laws in the late 1960s when he was at the National Union of Students. He’d have had us all out on a demo! 

Apparently, complicated terror plots take longer than 28 days to investigate, so Jacqui Smith’s solution  is to lock people up – people who have committed no crime and are not charged with any crime – to save Government from having to commit more resources to investigate these matter more quickly just in case having already been questioned for an outrageous 28 days they somehow manage to still slip off the radar and blow us all up.

The key question is this: are we all so frightened of losing our lives that we are prepared to lose the freedoms, justice and democracy that those before us helped established at great personal cost and sacrifice?

Just because Ms Smith is frightened (too scared to walk alone at night) and wants us as a nation to restrict freedom and justice to make her feel safer do we have to do it? If my father (and the other millions of allied armed forces members) had taken the Jacqui Smith pathway to self preservation nearly seventy years ago we would be living in a very different world today, a world populated by even more Jacqui Smiths in positions of power which they turn into positions of control.

We should fight people who want to kill us as effectively as we can, but not at the expense of our fundemental freedoms and not in a way that creates an unjust society. These are the reasons we uphold our society as virtuous – more virtuous than that of the terrorists. After all, (as my father might have said) the Greeks taught that justice is not only part of human virtue but also the glue which joins people together in a cohesive (Ms Smith would say “inclusive”) society. If you dissolve the glue, as Ms Smith wants to, you dissolve the very thing that you seek to protect.

2 Responses

  1. 42 days is appalling. I thought the UK was supposed respect and protect human rights.

  2. I suppose it has taken all our eyes off the ball and we now regard the present 28 days as acceptable. Fifty years ago 24 hours was sufficient. People have not become any more wicked in fifty years.

    Eevryone can see just how well we protect human rights!

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