The trial of 15 protestors who prevented a deportation flight leaving Stansted airport in March 2017 has begun at Chelmsford Crown Court.
On March 28, 2017, 17 protestors breached security at Stansted Airport and locked themselves to the wing of a charter flight due to deport 60 asylum-seekers to Nigeria and Ghana.
Charged Under Terrorism Legislation
Credit: Teach_A_B Twitter
Fifteen protestors from campaign groups End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Plane Stupid, have been charged with ‘endangering an airport’ under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act.
The 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act was passed following the Lockerbie bombing in December 1988 and it is thought that this is the first time that the legislation has been used against individuals taking non-violent direct action.
Amnesty International’s director, Kate Allen, believes the prosecution of the protestors under anti-terror legislation is heavy headed.
She said: “We’re concerned the authorities are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with this case.
“Public protest and non-violent direct action can often be a key means of defending human rights, particularly when victims have no way to make their voices heard and have been denied access to justice.”
“Human rights defenders are currently coming under attack in many countries around the world, with those in power doing all they can to discourage people from taking injustice personally. The UK must not go down that path.”
Amnesty believes, “the serious charge of “endangering safety at aerodromes” may have been brought to discourage other activists from taking non-violent direct action in defence of human rights.”
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) October 1, 2018
This had led to concerns that the right to protest is being threatened by harsher prosecutions and sentencing.
Last week three anti-fracking protestors were jailed for between 15 months and 16 months for preventing lorries carrying drilling equipment from accessing a fracking site in Lancashire.
It is thought the anti-fracking protestors are the first environmental activists to be sentenced to jail since 1932.
Are Deportation Charter Flights Unlawful?
Campaigners believe that deportation charter flights could be unlawful and breach human rights.
In March 2018, David Ramsbotham, a former Inspector of Prisons and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, were among the signatories of a letter describing secret deportation flights as, “racist and unjust”.
The letter also called for charges against the Stansted 15 to be dropped and, “for the Home Office to immediately cease chartering flights for deportation.”
End Deportations believe that under international law, secretive deportation charter flights may violate two basic principles – the prohibition of discrimination and the prohibition of arbitrariness.
Earlier this summer Swedish student Elin Errson stopped the deportation of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan by refusing to sit down on an aeroplane. Footage of Errson’s successful direct action has been viewed tens of millions of times.
Because she wanted to stop the alleged deportation of an Afghan activist Elin Ersson refused to sit down. What happens in the next minutes shakes everyone on board…Correction: The material is from a life-feed recorded July 23, 2018 not 2017 – we apologize for the mistake in the copyright.
Posted by DW Stories on Tuesday, 24 July 2018
Supporters of the Stansted 15 gathered in solidarity outside the court today and the court case is expected to last for six weeks.