Lawyers launch civil liberties campaign

Lawyers Against the War held a meeting on Monday night to discuss the way forward. Over 30 left-wing barristers and solicitors attended to discuss how to combat the many attacks on civil liberties witnessed during the war. Setting up a civil liberties website was agreed. It will provide information on arrests and police harassment. The site can also publicise the illegal actions of the US and Britain in Iraq and the authoritarian measures being used by governments throughout the world against the anti-war movement. While there have not been many arrests on the large demonstrations, police have been very heavy handed in dealing with smaller protests. School students who took part in demonstrations outside parliament carried the bruises which show the nature of police tactics. Laws not used since the miners' Great Strike of 1984-5 have been re-introduced in an attempt to undermine the movement's ability to act. Police recently turned back coach-loads of protestors on their way to the RAF base at Fairford on the basis that they were on their way to commit a breach of the peace. Also demonstrators caught up in crowd control manoeuvres outside the American Embassy have been arrested for obstruction. With dozens of people being forced to turn up at magistrates' courts every day there is a need for free representation and advice. Students who have been expelled or suspended also need legal support, as do the soldiers currently facing court-martials for refusing to kill civilians. A pro bono service has been set up to help people who need advice and help. It is important that our movement organises its resources to fight these attacks. Legal observers will be used from now on to monitor the police and ensure there are witnesses to incidents. A card giving details of rights and contact numbers will be handed out to demonstrators. A steering committee was set up from the meeting. It was agreed to send a letter of protest against the war to the press and look for other avenues to intervene. There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the new challenges that lie ahead. All those who are interested in involving themselves in this excellent initiative should e-mail Lawyersagainstthewar@lineone.net. Anne Mc Shane