RIP Nelson Mandela, 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013
Just one action made Nelson Mandela the titanic figure he became. Without that one step, he would have been a footnote in history. His triumph was that he refused to disown armed struggle (aka terrorism) in exchange for his personal freedom.
This article was originally published in 2006 in the book “Whose Justice? The Law and the Left” edited by Colin Fox, Gregor Gall and John Scott. A few new footnotes have been added to provide additional background and updates. The issues raised in the article have still to be addressed. I hope they become part of the discussion surrounding Scottish independence.
Home and Abroad:
How Britain’s foreign policy reshaped justice in Scotland
“I found myself in the mind of the Masquerade. I saw the world through its eyes. I surveyed its extensive, universal kingdom of fear. Dread for those who oppose, protection for supporters, nightmares for the silent. I saw far across the lands, into the hearts of nations whose heartbeats had accelerated and been taken over by the powers of fear.”
Ben Okri, Songs of Enchantment, 1993
A week before the Christmas of 2002 three Edinburgh men – Algerian expatriates as it happened – were woken by armed police and driven off to places the press described as “secret locations in Scotland.” A fourth man was arrested later in the day when he turned up at one of the flats where the earlier arrests had been made. Another four men were arrested in London and brought up to those “secret locations in Scotland.” And then a ninth man was arrested in Scotland. The men were all charged with offences under the Terrorism Act 2000.
An MI5 “source” told Scotland on Sunday newspaper that there was a plot to bomb Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party. Official police sources flatly denied any “specific threat.” By the time the men’s bail hearings came up on 14 March 2003, it was clear that there was no evidence against them at all. But the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was just 6 days away. Tony Blair was getting ready to tell Parliament that terrorist groups and the Iraqi regime jointly constituted “a real and present danger to Britain and its national security.” It would have taken a brave Procurator Fiscal to shrug and drop the charges. So the men went home on police bail but the charges weren’t dropped until the following December.