http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... -libertiesIntroducing our new site: Human Rights and Liberties
Comment is free's coverage of human rights and civil liberties has been enhanced and updated
o Ros Taylor
o guardian.co.uk, Thursday 10 May 2012 16.38 BST
When we first launched Comment is free's Liberty Central site in January 2009, the threats to individual rights and freedoms looked somewhat different. The Labour government was planning to introduce a compulsory identity card, CCTV was a hot issue and councils appeared to enjoy extraordinary powers to monitor people's activity. On the other hand, some things haven't changed: Jack Straw was describing parts of the Human Rights Act as a "villains' charter", the right to a fair trial was under threat, and there were concerns about the government's plans to gather individuals' details on a database.
It's apt that we've revamped Liberty Central shortly after a small but significant piece of legislation, the Protection of Freedoms Act, entered the statute book on 1 May. This assortment of measures was intended to allay fears about DNA retention, CCTV, police and local authority powers and a number of other infringements of individual liberty (including, and very laudably, the right of men convicted of buggery to have their conviction disregarded). But threats to liberty mutate, and preoccupations change. What about the US-UK treaty that has seen British citizens extradited for trial in the US? Does the phone-hacking scandal make the case for a privacy law stronger? Do individuals still have the right to meaningful protest? Is the bill of rights commission a hopelessly divided organisation, or a serious threat to the Human Rights Act? Should we be able to deport someone for trial in a country where the evidence against him may have been obtained through torture – the ultimate sticking point in the ongoing Abu Qatada saga? And why does the government want to hold more hearings in secret?