by Shayla Warmsley
GLOBAL POLITICS have been “rooted in pessimism” and operating in “a culture of fear that uses up political energy” since 11 September 2001, international human rights lawyer Conor Gearty told a Westminster audience recently.
The event was part of a series organised by the Labour Party Irish Society aimed at provoking debate on issues around the peace process.
Speaking about human rights in a new age of imperialism, Gearty, a practising human rights barrister and a professor of law at the London School of Economics, told his audience that repressive legislation introduced in the UK parliament since the September 11 attacks “fed off a prepared culture”.
He warned against “civil liberties drained of life”, becoming in effect “a consolation prize for the loss of collective bargaining”.
“All that we dreaded -- all we heard in Northern Ireland about miscarriages of justice and thought must be exaggerated -- has turned out to be much worse than we imagined,” he said.
Describing imperialism as a “a retaliatory rhetorical device”, Gearty tracked a path through the history of 19th and 20th century colonialism to “post-democratic culture” in the US.
Singling out “the reconstruction of the language of democracy,” he lamented that in the UK those defending civil liberties after 11 September were perceived as “just another pressure group” in the “balance” between national security and civil liberties.
Professor Gearty identified the marginalisation of civil liberties -- and civil libertarians -- as “extraordinary and dangerous”, and he launched an attack on “liberal ironicists” to whom “language games matter more than public engagement”.
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