15 anti-deportation activists were convicted of terror offences but spared jail
'UN human rights experts have demanded that the UK cease the use of security and terrorism-related charges against peaceful protesters, after 15 anti-deportation activists were prosecuted for an offence carrying a potential life sentence.
They described the use of the charge – which had to be signed off by the attorney general – as disproportionate for non-violent protesters. “It appears that such charges were brought to deter others from taking similar peaceful direct action to defend human rights and in particular the protection of asylum seekers,” they said.
The experts, from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote to the government at the beginning of February, drawing ministers’ attention to the importance of the right to peaceful protest after the group, known as the Stansted 15, were prosecuted for endangering the safety of an aerodrome after blocking the departure of an immigration removal flight.
The rapporteurs’ letter will remain private for 60 days to give the government an opportunity to respond, a spokesman said. However, details of the letter were alluded to in a statement published on the OHCHR website.
“We express our grave concern that the 15 protesters were prosecuted and convicted under a statute which is primarily concerned with the translation of the state’s international aviation security obligations into national law – offences which are also listed under the 2006 Terrorism Act,” the UN experts said. The Crown Prosecution Service has strenuously denied that the protesters were charged with a terror offence.'
Read more: UN tells UK: stop using terror charges against peaceful protesters