British Prime Minister Theresa May has declared that she is prepared to dispense with human rights laws if they hinder her efforts to fight terrorism. The statement is a chilling example of how politicians are willing to take a hatchet to civil liberties and privacy in response to attacks. The more chilling fact is that many citizens will willingly part with their freedoms based on such promises of greater security. May has already pledged to curtail free speech on the Internet to fight extremists.
May is pledging to dispense with the niceties of human rights in a speech that seems lifted from Rodrigo Duterte:
“But I can tell you a few of the things I mean by that: I mean longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorist offences. I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terror suspects to their own countries.
“And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and the movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they present a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.
“And if human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change those laws so we can do it.”
The proposed measures would impose curfews, longer periods without trial for suspects, travel limitations, limits on communication devices and expansions of intelligence powers.
The pledge to set aside human rights laws should be a disqualifying factor for a Western leader. However, many will rally to the notion of restricting their own freedoms. If the English would entertain the advice of a former colonist, they would be wise to consider Benjamin Franklin’s warning that “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”