Without human rights, there is no real justice

A real test for Nick Clegg.

It began as a farce. In April 2009, the Met's then head of counterterrorism, Bob Quick, was photographed carrying classified case documents outside No 10. The papers, labelled "Secret" (like a prop from a Peter Sellers movie), revealed details relating to an investigation that Quick was overseeing at the time. Unscrupulous journalists splashed the gaffe across the front pages. The Clouseau-esque assistant commissioner resigned, muttering about the "terrific price" he had paid for his "foolish" mistake.

But the real price seems to have been paid by the 12 men arrested in the panicked swoop that followed. Working to a "revised time scale", the police hastily apprehended suspects in Lancashire, Manchester and Liverpool. Jacqui Smith, then home secretary, called it a "successful" operation; but no explosives were found and all of the men -- most of whom were Pakistani students -- were released without charge.

Among them were Abid Naseer and Ahmed Faraz Khan, both 23. They are now at the centre of yet more media hysteria, fuelled no less by the civil-liberties-averse Tories. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) has granted their appeal against deportation on human rights grounds, but has insisted that Naseer is an al-Qaeda operative and that Faraz Khan . . . erm . . . may have thought about becoming one (or, as Judge Mitting somewhat absurdly puts it, he could "safely be taken to have been willing to participate").

Siac should have deported them, says the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who insists that "protecting the public is the government's top priority". Accordingly, the Lib-Con gang is "taking all possible measures to ensure they do not engage in terrorist activity".

"Measures", for now, means control orders -- a controversial form of house arrest that takes its name from a similar programme used in apartheid-era South Africa. The orders allow the loosely defined "terror suspects" to be restricted in movement for an indefinite period of time, without charge or trial.

Writing in the Times today, Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti calls control orders "profoundly unfair and un-British"; Nick Clegg, too, denounced them in opposition. But living under the orders is preferable to the torture that could await the students, if deported.

In the wake of Siac's seemingly contradictory act of asserting the suspects' guilt while allowing them to remain in the UK, the flag-wavers have started to vent their paranoia. The Tory MP Douglas Carswell, for example, has attacked the ruling as "shocking and outrageous", citing it as a clear illustration that "human rights are not working in the national interest".

He seems to want the students hoofed out at all costs, regardless of what is right in the eyes of the world.

The reaction is hardly surprising; the Tories have long been champing at the bit to scrap the UK's commitment to the Human Rights Act, in preference of a British Bill of Rights. Chakrabarti perfectly summarises the attitude when she criticises the Tory instinct to prioritise "English liberties" over universal ones: their conception of freedom "attaches to nationality rather than humanity".

Human rights legislation must not be looked upon as an inconvenience. It is worrying that some voices among the Liberal Democrats -- who have officially described control orders as "an affront to British justice" -- seem to be echoing this reactionary sentiment. On Tuesday, the Liberal peer Lord Carlile said: "We do not want people who have been held to be terrorists walking our streets." But if they have been "held to be terrorists" in suspect conditions, surely the moral picture is clouded.

Sarah Kellas and Gareth Peirce, solicitors for Naseer and Faraz Khan, said in a statement:

The decision of Siac today in respect of the two students we represent is in fact, for them, the worst of all worlds. On the basis of secret evidence, which it refuses to disclose to the students, the court tells the world in its judgement that they are closely connected to an al-Qaeda plot to cause explosions in the UK.

The court acknowledges they have not been told why it comes to this conclusion, yet these young men have been branded publicly and thereby exposed to personal danger for the rest of their lives. Siac, moreover, refused them permission to appeal against its decision on the basis that they had "won".

This doesn't sound like British justice to me. It is hardly believable that such cases -- which make use of secret evidence, and refuse to disclose even to the suspects what makes them "terrorists" -- are being used to paint a picture of human rights GONE MAD (as the tabloids would have you believe).

Let's hope that the next five years don't lead to a free fall in the very values that define the UK: our universal rights to life and fairness.

Yo Zushi is a sub-editor of the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Eidola Records.

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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad