What Shami Chakrabarti can teach us about valuing civil liberties and human rights

As a member of the civil liberties organisation Liberty, it was with sadness that I read earlier this week week that

Chakrabarti has written a thoughtful piece for The Guardian to coincide with the announcment of her depature from Liberty. In it, she notes: “When fear stalks the land, blank cheques become all too easy and ever more dangerous.” This defintiely rings true of my recent experience campaigning against the Investigatory Powers Bill as part of the Open Rights Group. For me, the lowest point of the campaign (so far – it’s not over yet!) was when David Cameron sought to use the Paris Attacks to justify an attack on encryption, despite the fact that the terrorists had in fact coordinated the attacks using regular unencrypted text messages.

I was also struck by another of Chakrabarti’s observations:  “We all love our own rights and those of friends, family and people like us. Other people’s freedoms seem cheaper until it’s almost too late.” Again, I have encountered this in my campaigning for the Open Rights Group. The common response of “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” when privacy concerns are raised in relation to the Investigatory Powers Bill reflects many people’s belief that they (and by extension, their friends and family) will never be adversely affected by expanded online and so we need not worry ourselves about the balance of power between citizen and state.

While I will be sad to see her go I can understand her reasons for stepping down, given the pressure and responsibility she must have felt over the past 12 years. I would like to thank Shami Chakrabarti for everything she has done to defend civil liberties and human rights.

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