to associate with: omgaan met. balance of probability (hier): met grote waarschijnlijkheid. burden of proof: bewijslast. grace (hier): eerlijkheid. habeas corpus: deel uit de oudste Engelse wetgeving dat zegt dat (a) een rechter de vervolging moet bevelen en (b) de beschuldigde daarvan op de hoogte moet zijn via een openbare rechtszitting voor een rechter (trial). House of Commons: Lagerhuis met enkel gekozen volksvertegenwoordigers.
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to associate with: omgaan met. balance of probability (hier): met grote waarschijnlijkheid. burden of proof: bewijslast. grace (hier): eerlijkheid. habeas corpus: deel uit de oudste Engelse wetgeving dat zegt dat (a) een rechter de vervolging moet bevelen en (b) de beschuldigde daarvan op de hoogte moet zijn via een openbare rechtszitting voor een rechter (trial). House of Commons: Lagerhuis met enkel gekozen volksvertegenwoordigers. House of Lords: Hogerhuis, met niet-gekozen vertegenwoordigers van de adel. to pay lip-service: lippendienst bewijzen, met woorden steunen, maar zich er niets van aantrekken. to revolve around: draaien om. Royal Assent: koninklijke bekrachtiging van een wet. to rule: rechterlijke uitspraak doen. to snooze: dutten. stand-off: impasse. stiff: hard, bars. to tagg: volgen. Troubles: eufemisme voor de periode sinds 1969 toen de strijd tussen katholieken en protestanten in Noord-Ierland gewelddadig werd. The most extraordinary scenes took place in the British parliament two weeks ago. They revolved around the Labour government's attempt to pass a law allowing it to impose 'control orders' on anybody suspected of terrorist acts or of planning terrorist acts. The government had been in a hurry to get this legislation passed ever since its detention of a dozen foreign terrorist suspects had been ruled illegal a few weeks before. Against stiff opposition, some of it from its own MPs, the government had got the House of Commons to accept it. But the House of Lords had rejected it. The House of Commons passed it again; the Lords rejected it again. This stand-off culminated in one of the longest sittings of parliament since the second world war. It start- ed late Thursday morning and continued straight through till the Friday evening. The Palace of Westminster looked like a refugee centre, with MPs and Lords catching an hour of sleep on camp beds or snoozing in armchairs all over it and staff working round the clock to feed them. Eventually, after the bill had bounced a couple more times between the Commons and the Lords, a compromise was reached - there would be an opportunity to amend the bill in a year's time. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats called off their opposition. The bill was passed, received the Royal Assent immediately and became law the same day. All sides claimed victory. If you think all this playing ping-pong with such a serious matter as the terrorist threat was a bizarre, even childish way for politicians to behave, consider what it means. It means that a cornerstone of the British constitution, one which stood for more than 300 years and was supposed to be the basis of political rights in the country, has been taken away. To put it briefly, the law known as habeas corpus states that nobody can be detained without trial. But now, if you - British citizen or not - are deem- ed a security risk by the British authorities, you can be electronically tagged, restricted in your movements and who you associate with, barred from using the internet, forced to consent to having your phone tapped and to allowing the police to enter and search your house without warning, and even put under house arrest - indefinitely - without your case ever going before a court of law. Instead of your 'guilt' being 'beyond all reasonable doubt' (the normal burden of proof in law), or even being 'on the balance of probability' (which is what the opposition parties wanted), all that the authorities need to impose these control orders is 'reasonable suspicion'. At the start of 'the troubles' in the British province of Northern Ireland some thirty years ago, the British government imposed similar - though not such far-reaching - measures on one part of its territory. But at least the government of the time had the grace to admit that these measures were 'draconian', highly regrettable and, it hoped, only temporary. What is truly frightening about the present government is that it doesn't even bother to pay this lip-service to civil liberties. It thinks being hard on terrorism is a vote-winner and presents its control orders as a necessary adaptation to the conditions of the 21st century.