By Janet Alder
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Fighting for Our Rights

This article is over 17 years, 3 months old
Janet Alder explains why getting justice for her brother is part of a wider struggle.
Issue 296

The Labour Party brought in the Human Rights Act five years ago, and claims it as one of its proudest achievements. It was supposed to create respect, equality and fairness for all, but none of this has been shown to many British people.

We were told that this act would ‘strengthen representative and democratic government’ by enabling citizens to challenge actions of the state more easily if they failed to match the standards set by the European convention. It was to create a ‘new and better relationship between the government and the people’. But the Labour Party has failed many ordinary working class people.

It has taken us into a war which most of the public were strongly against. We have seen time and time again the lies that were told and the many Iraqi people and our own troops that have died for a black liquid. It is a blatant action by the rich to take from the poor in the name of so called ‘liberation’.

Britain and the US were in need of oil and they had the power to take it without any thought for the lives of our soldiers or women and men in Iraq – and let’s not forget the innocent children. And when I saw pictures of Iraqi detainees being subjected to inhumane treatment and torture, bells rang in my ears.

My brother Christopher – a black man and an ex-paratrooper decorated for his service – died on the custody suite floor at Queens Gardens Police Station with his trousers and boxer shorts around his knees. He was handcuffed behind his back and police officers stood around him laughing and joking as he choked and finally gasped his last breath. This was all captured on CCTV for all to see, and it was aired on BBC1 on 14 April 2004. There is something very wrong with this government when absolutely nobody has condemned his death.

I approached the Attorney General very early on about the inhumane treatment of my brother, and he watched the CCTV footage. He is responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service in parliament and now the asylum detentions. We have more than a few bad apples running the system. Zahid Mubarek lost his life in Feltham young offenders institute at the hands of a racist. But to top it we have prison officers taunting prisoners and setting up bloodthirsty games known as ‘Coliseum’.

David Calvert-Smith, who at the time of Christopher’s death was in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service, said in March that government watchdogs should aim to establish core respect for minority groups. Is this an admission that the police are part of a system that is full of racism after exposés such as The Secret Policeman, Death on Camera, Undercover Asylum and the Zahid Mubarek public inquiry and many more deaths at the hands of the state with no accountability?

Former home secretary David Blunkett refused to hold a public inquiry into how five police officers responsible for Christopher’s death were able to walk away without accepting any blame. He refused to have an inquiry looking into the deaths at the Deepcut army barracks, but could spend plenty of taxpayers’ money having an inquiry into the fast tracking of his nanny’s visa. Millions of pounds are spent covering misdemeanours within the system that could be spent on public services.

The police officers responsible for the death of my brother were heard making monkey and chimpanzee noises and referring to the Ku Klux Klan while Christopher was lying there. And still the Labour Party speaks of respect, equality and fairness.

We are seeing internal inquiry after internal inquiry, mostly backed up by the Home Office. The lack of transparency shows how these public organisations and bodies pay lip service to the truth but accept no responsibility. The proposed new charge of racial misconduct for the police force is hogwash. It holds no criminal force and is merely a disciplinary offence.

I believe we need change in this country and the only way we can achieve it is by ordinary working class people standing in unity together to spread hope between us. RESPECT stands for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community and Trade Unionism. This is why I am standing for Respect in Tottenham to help to promote the most basic rights.

No Justice, No Peace!

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