Written evidence submitted by the Centre
for Social Cohesion
I understand you are looking into the law-firm
Carter-Ruck as part of a Culture, Media and Sport Committee report
on Press Standards, Privacy and Libel. I hope the following information
may be of interest.
The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) is a non-partisan
think-tank that studies issues related to community cohesion in
the UK. In May 2008 the CSC proposed to release "A Guide
to British Muslim Organisations", a handbook which intended
to give the background, stated aims and current political attitudes
of approximately 25 Muslim-run groups in the UK.
One of the groups we studied for this proposed
report was Interpal, a Muslim charity that describes itself as
a "non-political, non-profit making British charity that
works with international funding partners and partners on the
ground to provide relief and development aid to Palestinians in
need, mainly in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the refugee camps
in Lebanon and Jordan".
The report's entry on Interpal covered a variety
of the group's activities, including its stated aims. However
as part of an attempt to give a rounded picture, it also referred
to its proscription by the US Government as a terrorist organisation
in 2003; a BBC Panorama documentary outlining its alleged glorification
of terrorism and alleged links to Hamas, a designated terrorist
group in the US and the European Union; and three Charity Commission
investigations launched to ascertain whether Interpal had fundraised
for Hamas (in which the CSC specified that the Commission were
yet to find any evidence of wrong-doing on Interpal's part).
All the information in the report was a matter
of public record. However in order to allow the opportunity to
correct any inaccuracies, on 26 March 2008 the CSC sent all organisations
featured in the report a draft version of those sections relevant
On 2 April 2008 the CSC received a libel threat
from Interpal, who were being represented by Carter-Ruck. The
letter specified that the CSC's work was "grossly defamatory"
and "entirely untrue", although did not highlight which
extracts specifically were so. They also denied being a "Muslim
organisation", and therefore not eligible for inclusion in
the report. This was despite accepting that all their trustees
and staff, and most of the charity's beneficiaries, were Muslim,
and our draft document highlighting a quote from Interpal Chairman
Ibrahim Hewitt in which he calls the group "Muslim-run".
The CSC was at that stage an extremely young
organisation, and the libel threat issued by Carter-Ruck was the
primary reason we could not publish the report. However I feel
that a small organisation such as the CSC being threatened with
a lawsuit and potential bankruptcy simply for reproducing information
already reported in numerous reputable sources is an unacceptable
restriction on freedom of speech.
I have attached all relevant documentation.
Please feel free to get in contact if you would like to discuss
this matter further.
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