Sunday, February 19, 2006

Freedom of Association.

There is an excellent opportunity in the coming months to study how two different countries go about banning dissident organizations and the differences of a 'Political' and 'Legal' constitution.

In both the United Kingdom and Denmark there are calls to outlaw the Muslim political organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

In the UK, the Terrorism Bill, which the House of Commons passed on Wednesday, will make it possible to outlaw organization that "glorify" terrorism.(1) The bill is likely to become law, in spite of expected opposition to it by the House of Lords. With this Act in hand the government can issue 'Proscription Orders', which then needs to be passed by Parliament, against non-violent organizations deemed to "glorify" terrorism. Since the government to a very large extent controls Parliament through the 'Whip" system, it can basically ban any organization it wants to. The most prominent organization that the UK government is likely to outlaw is Hizb-ut-Tahrir.(2)

In Denmark there has been several calls by political parties to outlaw Hizb-ut-Tahrir, most recently by the 'Social liberal Party' (Radikale Venstre), which otherwise has a strong civil liberties profile.(3) The Danish Justice Minister has rejected these calls and a ban is very unlikely to happen. The Danish Constitution states that "Associations employing violence, or aiming at the attainment of their object by violence" or "instigation of violence...shall be dissolved by court Judgement."(4) The only criteria for banning organization is therefore violence and then only by an independent Court of Law.

I do not know much about Hizb-ut-Tahrir, but I find it disturbing that the UK government, through Parliament, can decide which associations that are to be dissolved. On this issue, I believe Denmark (and other nations with written "legal" constitutions) have got it right. Freedom of Association, which is also guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights article 11, should only be restricted on the basis of use of violence and no political institution such as Parliament should decide if an association fails that test. The UK's 'Political' constitution is therefore, in my opinion, completely inadequate to protect civil liberties from an authoritarian government.

(1)See Liberty's analysis of the Bill here.
(2) see The Guardian 16.02.2005.
(3) see Politiken 14.02.2006.
(4) Paragraph 78 (2).


Post a Comment

<< Home