Patrick Henningsen and Daisy Jones
It’s official: an Englishman’s home is no longer his castle.
In a move that is hardly witnessed in wartime, let alone in peacetime, the UK’s military establishment has been given the green light to quarter residential homes without any permission or notice.
In the run-up to the 2012 Olympics in London, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) has taken the unprecedented step of erecting surface-to-air missile batteries on top of multiple residential locations around East London.
A group of local council tenants from Leytonstone, East London, lost their high court battle to prevent the military missile encampment from being stationed on the roof of their tower block before and during the Olympics. The action to use their residential block as a military base was signed off by the British Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Defence Secretary in ‘Defence of the Realm’.
Residents were then also refused permission and blocked from applying for an appeal via judicial review because the case falls under the guise of national security.
The Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, was accused by the residents of the block of Breaching Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European convention on Human Rights. These protect an individual’s right to a private life and peaceful enjoyment of their home.
At no point beforehand were any of the residents given consultation by the MOD. Moreover, the ruling against the residents has set a number of new legal precedents in favour of the military, including a ‘zero notice’ policy whereby the MOD has no obligation to inform or consult residents beforehand, nor do they have any legal obligation to offer any compensation if they choose to commandeer a private property to set-up a forward operating base.
David Enright, a human rights lawyer and Partner of Howe and Co. who represented the residents, explains the danger of this new ruling, “Let’s be clear. Whenever the government (or military) takes a power over the civilian population – they never give it back.”
Critics are pointing out that the both MOD and the government agencies had 7 years to prepare and plan their operations, but intentionally left it until only three months before the games before revealing their operation – limiting the time to launch any legal challenge against them.
The residents of the Fred Wigg tower block were concerned, amongst many other issues, that surface-to-air missiles on their tower block could make them a terrorist target. The MOD rejected their claim by saying that missile deployment as part of the security measures for the Games was ‘legitimate and proportionate’. David Forsdick, who appeared in court on behalf of the MOD, said “The MOD, intelligence agencies and the Metropolitan Police do not consider there is any credible threat to the Fred Wigg tower from terrorism”.
It is somewhat ironic that the MOD, intelligence agencies and the Metropolitan Police do not consider there is any credible threat to the Fred Wigg Tower from terrorism. This was probably the case before they put missiles on the roof, but few would argue that this is still the case.
The Judge presiding over the case, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, maintained that the MOD had no duty to consult with residents, nor would they responsible for their relocation or any compensation as a result of the domestic military operation.
Prior to the case hearing, it was also revealed that Judge Haddon-Cave who was appointed to the case, had clear links with MOD. He had worked for, maintained ties with and even lectured for the MOD. He declared his interests at the beginning of the trial but for reasons unknown, his conflict of interest was not contested.
In what has been described as patronising at its worst, Judge Haddon-Cave claimed that although the residents of Fred Wigg tower had expressed ‘shock, anxiety and worry’ over the prospect of missiles being stations on top of their building, they had been under ‘something of a misapprehension’ about the nature of the equipment to be deployed and the risks deployment would bring.
Judge Haddon-Cave justified the MOD’s brash move by claiming there was no need for the MOD to negotiate with residents, as there were ‘no other alternative site for missiles’. Residents and citizen advocates have since rubbished the Judge’s spurious claims pointing out that there are literally thousands of huge open spaces- parks, vacant office buildings, industrial waste land, car parks, construction sites, school playing fields, and ships on the Thames, all of which would suffice if indeed, ‘air defence’ was indeed the primary issue at play here. In addition to all these other options, there are also hundreds of secure government buildings all over London which could be available for use in military operations. Instead, the decision by the MOD to opt instead for residents’ homes as domestic military staging areas places residents firmly into the category of ‘human shield’.
Journalist Brian Whelan, 28, previously posted a video on Telegraph website showing the British Army leaving crates of missiles, rockets and other military equipment outside the entrance of his home, Lexington Tower in Bow – completely unguarded. The MOD responded to the report by insisting that they were ‘dummy missiles’ and no risk was incurred by residents. Whelan was then promptly evicted from his council home after his report went public.
The result of Whelan’s early eviction from his home in Bow, has been that residents in the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone have been afraid to speak to the media regarding their plight for fear that they too might be made homeless for speaking out against the state’s power structure – a disturbing new trend which can only be described as institutional intimidation. This new reality was confirmed by Infowars.com reporters, who were met with a wall of silence when trying to gain comment from multiple residents this past weekend.
In addition to the MOD, British state-run television apparatus BBC has also taken over a number of council properties in East London for its media operations around the Olympic games, clashing with residents and even denying residents entry into their own homes in at least one instance. Demotix.com reported this week:
Following a request from BBC Security, police denied a family access to their tower block home overlooking the Olympic site in Stratford for well over an hour, before having to acknowledge they had no power to do so.
Colin, a resident in Lund Point on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford had invited a group viewing the estate in a tour organised by CARP (Carpenters Estate Against Regeneration) to come to his flat to see the high standard of accommodation in the 1966 tower block and the views across the estate.
The BBC have rented the vacant areas of the top five floors of the 22 story block as a base for their Olympic and Paralympic coverage. The group included a number of UK and foreign journalists, photographers and TV crews with an interest in the area.
This is the thick end of the wedge, where eminent domain and martial law automatically usurp any rights or redress a citizen would normally be entitled to, but can’t because national security has been invoked by the state.
Clearly, one can certainly deduce from these events that Britain is officially in a permanent state of war.
That is the ever lingering question.