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No undercover police operations should undermine human rights

16 October, 2020

‘There is a whole history of undercover police operations undermining bonafide campaigns’

• WE were deeply disappointed as Labour MPs abstained from voting on The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, (Corbyn defies whip on M15 bill, October 9).

We can, however, be proud that 20 MPs, including Islington North’s Jeremy Corbyn, had the courage and defied the whip by voting against what is also termed the “spycops bill”.

This bill if it passes as legislation will strengthen the right for covert police operations and MI5 to continue with such surveillance which may include trade unionists, environmentalists, and justice campaigners.

The trade union movement is against this bill, and UNITE in particular have issued a press release and continue to lobby MPs to stop this bill going through.

We will have a clearer idea in the days ahead as the Labour front bench put in amendments to the bill. But is it much too late.

There is a whole history of undercover police operations that set out to undermine bonafide campaigns, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

One such campaigner was Peter (now Lord) Hain, who was targeted by police for his involvement during the boycott of the South African rugby team back in the 1970s.

There are those who still seek justice, such as The Orgreave campaigners (1984-85, miners’ strike) and the Justice for Shrewsbury pickets (1972 construction strike), who were victims of undercover operations, arrests, and prison sentences.

More recently there has been undercover police involvement with black-listing agencies, who have targeted and victimised construction workers and other trade unionists.

Most shameful of all are operations of undercover police who enter into relationships with women to gain information.

Sir Keir Starmer made great play during the Labour Party leadership campaign of his track record as a former human rights lawyer and his time as Director of Public Prosecutions.

He was a legal representative in seeking justice in the McLibel case (concerning protesters and the multi-national fast food chain).

How ironic that one of the McLibel Two, Helen Steel, was herself unknowingly involved in a relationship with an undercover spycop.

You would think Sir Keir would have the courage to stand against any unethical practice by undercover police ever happening again. Very disappointing.

Islington TUC believe trade union rights are human rights. The right to free collective bargaining, free association, free assembly, and the right to strike are part of the fabric of a democratic society.

No undercover police operations should undermine that.

Chair, Islington Trades Union Council


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