The power of letters

Front page of today's Guardian, via the Guardian's siteShami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties), has an editorial letter published in today’s Guardian which begins:

Sir – 75 years ago today, in a Britain strained by economic crisis and social unrest, and in the long shadow of international conflict, the birth of the National Council for Civil Liberties was announced in a letter to this newspaper.

Little has changed. As is reported elsewhere in the same edition, students from the University College London Student Human Rights Programme, have prepared a report setting out the current assaults on liberty in the UK, under the suitably Orwellian title of The Abolition of Freedom Act 2009. It was prepared for this weekend’s forthcoming Convention on Modern Liberty (organised by the UK’s leading human rights campaigners, including Liberty and the Guardian) and it makes for chilling reading.

The situation is equally as grim in Ireland. Today’s Irish Times carries an article by Elaine Byrne on a forthcoming report prepared by her for Transparency International on serious shortcomings which have weakened the quality of Ireland’s democracy. The same edition carries an article on the financial costs associated with the forthcoming data retention regime being challenged by Digitial Rights Ireland. More generally, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) was formed in 1976 for reasons similar to those which motivated the 1934 letter writers; and – as I have already noted on this blog – it too is one of the organisers of a forthcoming conference on the state of civil liberties in Ireland.

Were it not for such organisations, more of our civil liberties would be eroded by stealth. What liberties we still have we owe to their vigilance. So, what are you waiting for? Get involved: click on the links in this post; click on one of the buttons in the right-hand column; or find your own way to begin to contribute. Lest they perish, we must all do our bit to protect our civil liberties, human rights and fundamental freedoms.