Terror Laws Questioned

A committee called on Thursday for an independent review of the justification for the increasingly stringent counter-terrorism measures adopted by Britain since the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities

A committee called on Thursday for an independent review of the justification for the increasingly stringent counter measures adopted by Britain since the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities. The Joint Committee on Human Rights also called for more accountability and a review of allegations of complicity in torture following a recent high-profile court case.

It also said the government should abandon its efforts to introduce a law permitting detention for up to 42 days before a suspect is charged.

Britain has been on high terrorism alert since the September 2001 attacks, the more so since four suicide bombers blew themselves up on the London transport network in July 2005, killing 52 commuters. Other planned attacks have been foiled.

The government has introduced increasingly severe laws, including one that allows suspects to be detained for up to 28 days without charge, and stop and search operations on the streets.

The committee suggested that all too often human rights considerations were being “squeezed out” by the imperatives of national security and public safety.

“Since September 11th 2001 the government has continuously justified many of its counterterrorism measures on the basis that there is a public emergency threatening the life of the nation,” the committee said in its report.

“We question whether the country has been in such a state for more than eight years.”

Committee Chairman Andrew Dismore said he did not doubt that Britain faced a serious threat from terrorism, and that legislation was needed to counter that threat, but added:

“What is needed now is not consolidation, but a thorough-going, evidence-based review of the necessity for and proportionality of all the counter-terrorism legislation passed since that day.”

The committee also expressed concern about the government’s “narrow” definition of complicity in torture, saying it was “significant and worrying,” and called for an independent inquiry.

Last month, the government lost a legal battle to prevent the disclosure of U.S. intelligence material relating to allegations of “cruel and inhuman” treatment of British resident Binyam Mohamed by the CIA, leading to accusations that the domestic spy agency MI5 knew about the use of such methods.

The head of MI5 has denied that his agency colluded in torture.

The committee also said the government needed properly to evaluate whether the power to detain terrorism suspects for up to 28 days without charge was still necessary, and called for it to withdraw its draft Bill extending the period to 42 days on the ground that it might breach European human rights laws.

Full story here http://uk.news.yahoo.com/22/20100325/tuk-uk-britain-rights-fa6b408.html

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