The United Kingdom came in for robust questioning on its human rights record from other UN member states last week at the Human Rights Council, during the historic first session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Over the course of three hours, 38 countries took the floor to ask UK Justice Minister Michael Wills about a wide range of issues, including racial discrimination, corporal punishment against children, abuses committed by UK armed forces abroad, and failure to ratify particular UN conventions and their protocols.
Coming at a time when the UK government is trying to pass yet another piece of counterterrorism legislation, which includes extending pre-charge detention to 42 days, it’s no wonder a significant number of countries asked about UK counterterrorism policies. Neighbors such as The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland expressed concern about 42 day detention, but so did countries like Syria and Algeria. Algeria’s representative pointed out that the Human Rights Committee – the UN body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – had recently “upbraided” Algeria for allowing up to twelve days of pre-charge detention.
Archive for the 'Law & Order' Category
The BBC profiles Mohamed Bougrine, the Morrocan dissident and human rights activist.
It looks like politicians from our two biggest parties have put aside their differences to come together and defend ‘British values’:
Over at the Telegraph, I notice none of the bloggers who so enjoyed mocking Gordon Brown over his handling of the Olympic torch fiasco, have so far failed to mention anything about Tory support for Brown’s move. The only story tagged under ‘BAE Systems’ is… you guessed it, mocking Gordon Brown.
Pressure was mounting last night on the government to allow the reopening of the criminal investigation into secret payments by arms company BAE to Saudi Arabia following a high court judgment that made clear the inquiry should never have been dropped.Ministers have to decide in the next two weeks over what to do about the ruling from Lord Justice Moses, who with Lord Justice Sullivan, delivered a damning verdict on the behaviour of the former prime minister, Tony Blair, and his government in forcing a halt to the long-running investigation.
The judges rejected claims that the inquiry had to be closed down for security reasons because “lives were at risk”, and said the success of Saudi blackmail attempts had been unlawful. The judgment named Saudi Prince Bandar as the man behind what they characterised as an attempt to pervert the course of justice.
The judges said: “We fear for the reputation of the administration of justice if it can be perverted by a threat … No one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice. The rule of law is nothing if it fails to constrain overweening power.”
The court said that the Saudis should have been made to understand “the enormity of the interference with the UK’s sovereignty, when a foreign power seeks to interfere with the internal administration of the criminal law. It is not difficult to imagine what they would think if we attempted to interfere with their criminal justice system”.
The high court will reconvene in a fortnight to decide what remedy to award the two groups of anti-corruption campaigners who brought the judicial review of the Serious Fraud Office decision to end the inquiry.
A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment.
A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council for more than two weeks.
The council admitted using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) on six occasions in total.
Three of those were for suspected fraudulent school place applications.
It said two offers of school places were withdrawn as a consequence.
Human rights pressure group Liberty called the spying “ridiculously disproportionate” and “intrusive”.
[W]e should urgently try to understand how significant change came about for [the Irish during the Troubles]. Much current reminiscence ignores vital factors, such as the inescapable responsibility of the Irish Republic and, above all, the political weight of the Irish diaspora and the far-sightedness of those who began and maintained contact, long before Blair was elected and claimed the ultimate prize. Throughout the thirty years of conflict, forty million Americans of Irish descent formed an electoral statistic that no US administration could afford to ignore. It is said that on the night before he decided to grant a visa to Gerry Adams, Bill Clinton watched a film about the catastrophic injustice inflicted on one Irish family by the British state. Here, Lord Scarman and Lord Devlin, retired law lords, joined Cardinal Hume, the head of the Catholic Church in England, in educating themselves in the finest detail of three sets of wrongful convictions involving 14 defendants. At one critical moment Cardinal Hume confronted the home secretary, Douglas Hurd, challenging the adequacy of his briefing.
No similar allies for the Muslim community are evident today, capable of pushing and pulling the British government publicly or privately into seeing sense. Spiritually, the Muslim Ummah is seen as being infinite, but the powerful regimes of the Muslim world almost without exception not only themselves perpetrate oppression, but choose to work hand in hand with the US and the UK in their ‘war on terror’. It is for us, as a nation, to take stock of ourselves. We are very far along a destructive path, and if our government continues on that path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting. The choice and the responsibility are entirely ours.
Eight British men planned to explode bombs hidden in soft drinks bottles aboard planes heading across the Atlantic from Heathrow causing civilian “carnage” on an “unprecedented scale”, a jury was told yesterday.More than 1,500 passengers and crew would have been killed on at least seven flights taking off in the space of three hours from the same airport terminal.
Opening the case Peter Wright QC said the plan was for a “series of coordinated and deadly explosions” which, if successful, would have had a “truly global impact”.
“These men and others were actively involved in a deadly plan designed to bring about what would have been … a civilian death toll from an act of terror on an almost unprecedented scale,” he told the jury. Wright said the suicide mission was to be carried out “in the name of Islam”, and as the defendants watched from the dock at the top security Woolwich crown court, he said: “They are men with the cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic.”
The eight men – seven from London and one from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire – all deny conspiracy to murder.
Prosecutors said the bombs would have evaded detection at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 because the components appeared to be innocent.
Liquid explosives were to have been hidden in Lucozade and other soft drinks bottles. Disposable cameras would be used to help set off the devices which would also contain regular batteries, hollowed out to contain chemicals.
The jury was told the bombs would be constructed on board. Wright said: “Once assembled they would have the capability of being detonated, we say, with devastating consequences.”
The first signs of a high-level Cabinet split over proposals to extend suspects’ detention to 42 days emerged yesterday as the government faced criticism from Labour backbenchers. Gordon Brown has been counselled by senior colleagues that there is no real need to push ahead with the extension, adding to the pressure from leading figures in the judiciary, including the director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald.
It is understood that senior figures in the Ministry of Justice, and law officers have privately expressed concern about pushing ahead with 42 days, saying that recent changes in the law make it unnecessary. The controversial counter terror bill received its second reading yesterday, but it is not likely to go to the crucial key votes on this aspect for two months.
It is understood that law officers, in common with the DPP, have been arguing that it is now possible to charge terrorists under the Crown Prosecution Service code, which uses a lower threshold that requires a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed an offence .
This threshold, lower than the normal test for charging of “realistic prospect of conviction”, can be applied where it would not be appropriate to release a suspect on bail after charges. Senior former members of the Blair cabinet point out that this lower threshold was only just coming into use at the time the former prime minister failed to persuade the Commons to allow 90-day pre-charge detention in 2005. They claim there has been vigorous argument in Cabinet to that the lower threshold test has severely weakened the case for 42 days detention. They also claim there is no realistic chance of getting 42 days through the Lords on the current basis.
The government’s own human rights watchdog threatened last night to launch a legal challenge to Labour’s plan to introduce a law that would let police detain terror suspects without charge for 42 days.The Equality and Human Rights Commission says the key part of the counter-terrorism bill goes against human rights law and may breach the Race Relations Act.
As the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, renewed her appeal to Labour backbenchers to support the measure – amid growing international criticism – the EHRC prepared to brief MPs before the bill’s second reading in the Commons tomorrow. The commission makes clear it will mount a legal challenge if the 42-day limit wins parliamentary backing.
“If adopted, we may seek to use our legal powers to challenge the lawfulness of the provisions and to establish clear legal principles on the use of pre-trial detention,” it says in a briefing note to MPs.
The threat of a legal challenge from the EHRC, which has powers to take judicial review on legislation it considers may be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, is another setback to a government determined to increase the time terrorism suspects can be held without charge from 28 to 42 days.