Issue 3 Online Extra: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

Every issue we highlight the work of an innovative and relevant charity. This issue Lydia Andal, Managing Editor of The New Idealist magazine had a chat with the warm and charming Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty.

This post includes extra excerpts from the interview not included in the magazine. The main interview can be downloaded here as part of our International Politics Issue.

Please note: This article was originally published on the original version of The New Idealist online in November 2013 before being added to this newly created site in July 2015.

Can you tell us about your work representing the families of Cheryl James and Sean Benton?

Your readers may remember in the late 90’s four young, trainee recruits to the army were going through their basic training at the Deepcut barracks in Surrey and they all died of gunshot wounds. There are very serious questions about those deaths and we’re representing the families of two of those who died; Cheryl James and Sean Benton and we’ve got some real concerns about the circumstances of their death…so we’re trying to get fresh inquests into those two deaths.

What is your view on whether or not Julian Assange would potentially face extradition to the US if he left the UK to face the charges against him in Sweden?

This is tricky because I’m really horrified about our extradition treaty with the US so in a sense I think he’s most at risk if he’s on the streets on London. I don’t believe in summary extradition I think that nobody should be taken anywhere without a basic case being shown in a local court first.

People will say to me “oh but you can get a fair trial in wherever it is, Sweden, the US, France these are all great democracies” and that may be the case but it varies. Even if it were true that you would always get the Rolls-Royce fair trial in a country like the US…you’ve got to recognise that being taken from your home and your family, and your work and your life and your language or whatever it happens to be, taken to another country; wherever that happens to be, possibly to be detained for quite a long time as a fugitive before you start a trial, that could be a punishment in itself and nobody should go anywhere in my view without a basic case being demonstrated and tested in a local court.

That’s what we no longer have in the UK in relation to the Euro-arrest warrant and in relation to the treaty with the US. Of course there should be extradition; I don’t think that people should be able to escape justice by hopping on a plane…but we are human beings and that’s why we shouldn’t be treated summarily.

What opportunities are there for someone to support the work of Liberty?

There’s so much that people can do, particularly now with the advent of new media which I think has really injected campaigning and activism with new possibilities and energy. I think modern activism is not about sitting in a room that’s been hired above a pub and talking to your mates about the state of the world, now there are campaigning actions that people can do from their phone, at their computer, but at Liberty we are a membership organisation so our members can actually stand for election to our policy council if they want, and eventually to the board.

They can get involved in particular campaigns; they can pick and choose the one’s they feel particularly strong about wherever it’s No Snoopers’ Charter or the battle to save the Human Rights Act, we give them periodically, particular campaigning actions whether its petitions or messaging…and it’s the membership that funds it and keeps us independent but it’s also an activist base which we try and mobilise on different campaigns.

You can find out more about membership, the Military Justice and No Snoopers’ Charter Campaigns at www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk

You can read the full interview in Issue 3 here.

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