l BRITAIN'S Home Secretary has always had the power to deport foreigners whose presence in the country was considered “not conducive to the public good”. In the past he has had to justify his action retrospectively, always assuming that news of a deportation got into the public domain and that he was challenged about it. Yesterday's announcement by Mr Clarke of the grounds on which he might in future exercise his powers of deportation was therefore a recognition that such expulsions are likely to be numerous in future and that it will be better if everyone knows the rules of the game in advance. However, the list of offences, their open-endedness and their legal obscurity has shocked many lawyers and human rights organisations. The key provision covers any foreign-born national “writing, producing, publishing or distributing material, public speaking, including preaching, running a website, or using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader to express views which foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to criminal acts; or foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” It is a formidable check-list yet Mr Clarke felt it necessary to add that it is “indicative not exhaustive”, meaning presumably that he will feel able to add to it as he thinks necessary. Some lawyers will be rubbing their hands at the vagueness of it all; there is hardly a phrase in the passage just quoted which does not need interpretation and words such as “foment, justify, glorify” will be a legal battleground. Remember, too, that there is, as yet, no internationally accepted legal definition of “terrorism”. The director of Liberty asked yesterday, “Before the war in Iraq, would an Iraqi asylum seeker in Britain who advocated the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein have been “justifying” terrorism?” Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, said he would apply the “Nelson Mandela” test; during his imprisonment, would his followers in Britain have been deported for supporting the bombing campaign aganst the apartheid regime in South Africa?” Mr Clarke said that his powers are “Not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religion or other issues.” But that may be just their effect.


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