UN slams Britain’s ‘Big Brother’ anti-terrorism strategy
The report, which was drawn up before the May 22 suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people, is highly critical of many policies overseen by Prime Minister Theresa May in her prior role as home secretary.
It comes just 10 days before a general election that polls say May could win with a narrow majority.
The report, written by Maina Kiai, who was the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly until last month, slammed the government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy, which aims to safeguard vulnerable individuals who are at risk of radicalization.
The strategy relies on intelligence coming from community leaders and schools.
“Overall, it appears that Prevent is having the opposite of its intended effect: by dividing, stigmatizing and alienating segments of the population. Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it,” the UN report says.
The report also criticized Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act, introduced last year, as “intrusive … bound to have a detrimental impact on the legitimate activities carried out by civil society and political activists.”
“The specter of ‘Big Brother’ is so large, in fact, that some families are reportedly afraid of even discussing the negative effects of terrorism in their own homes, fearing that their children would talk about it at school and have their intentions misconstrued.”
The report also warns of an “alarming” shift towards criminalization of peaceful protest and free expression in the UK. It says British society is a “national treasure” at risk from police tactics, anti-terrorism legislation and curbs on charities and trade unions.
Kiai wrote that he had information that the police may have used “International Mobile Subscriber Identity Catchers” to gather intelligence from protesters’ phones during peaceful protests in Birmingham, London, Leicester and in Wales last year, which he said was a violation to their privacy.
The report, to be debated at the UN Human Rights Council next month, follows a critical report on British policing that Kiai wrote in 2013.
MI5 formally launched an internal investigation on Monday to review whether it should have paid more attention to warnings about the behavior of Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber.
Security services had identified Abedi as a possible radical, but did not have him under surveillance, a source told Reuters.