I lived for many years in South Africa, during the dark days of apartheid. During that time, Britain’s legal system was held up as a beacon of light and hope, as the prison bars of the apartheid state closed around us.
At that time, the apartheid regime was issuing control orders that restricted the right of some citizens to congregate, to work and, in some cases, to leave the confines of their own homes.
Those orders had a devastating effect on the life of the suspect and his or her family. I should know—my first husband was served with one of them in 1971.
He was put under house arrest because the apartheid state believed that he was a threat to its security. He probably was—he was campaigning to give black people the right to vote and join trade unions.
House arrest hampered him, but did not stop him, which was probably why, just before his five year order was due to expire, he was shot dead in front of our two young daughters.
I know that this is Britain and not South Africa or Burma, but we must not underestimate the importance of what we are doing today and the message that it sends to countries where we are talking about good governance. The example that we set will stay with us for many years.