Archive for the 'Detention Without Charge' Category

Algeria and Syria criticise British human rights record

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.

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Cabinet is split over proposed 42-day detention limit

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.

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Government human rights watchdog attacks proposals for 42-day detention without charge

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.

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Against 42 days

An open letter calling on the government to abandon its attempts to extend the limit for detention without charge to 42 days has been published at Comment is free. The letter has been signed by political and social commentators, journalists, artists and legal experts.

Read, distribute, then contact your MP and let him or her know about your opposition to the the government’s proposals.

Related:
Opposition to 42 day detention without charge grows
Labour facing defeat over 42 day pre-charge detention
34 votes needed to defeat 42 day detention bill
Director of public prosecutions rejects increasing detention without charge to 42 days
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Opposition to 42 day detention without charge grows

Gordon Brown is facing the threat of his first defeat in the Commons since taking over as prime minister, after a Guardian survey found strong – and growing – opposition among Labour MPs to the government’s plans to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days.

As the Labour party gathers in Birmingham for its spring conference, where ministers will be lobbied by opponents of the planned anti-terrorism laws, the Guardian found as many as a third of the party’s 205 backbench MPs could rebel against the government.

Brown has a Commons majority of 67 which means the government could be defeated if 34 Labour MPs rebel, assuming every opposition MP votes no.

The Guardian contacted all 205 backbench Labour MPs. Of the 78 MPs spoken to, 27 said they were planning to vote against the government. Twenty-nine said they would support the government, while a further 22 were undecided or would not comment.

If this pattern is replicated among the other 127 backbench Labour MPs, there may be a further 43 rebels. This would take the total to 70, though even the rebels believe that figure is unlikely.

The Guardian found that opposition extends beyond the “usual suspects” of the 23-strong Socialist Campaign group.

Andrew Dismore, chair of the parliamentary human rights committee, is one mainstream figure planning to oppose the government despite supporting Tony Blair’s more controversial plan to detain suspects without charge for 90 days. He said: “I’m not convinced the government has made a case. I voted for 90 days because I did not see an alternative. What has changed my mind is that I now think there is an alternative package.”

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Related:
Labour facing defeat over 42 day pre-charge detention
34 votes needed to defeat 42 day detention bill
Director of public prosecutions rejects increasing detention without charge to 42 days
Not a Day More

Labour facing defeat over 42 day pre-charge detention

The government is facing defeat over its legislation to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge, which is to be published today without many of the safeguards demanded by opponents.

Government whips are believed to have warned ministers that if a Commons vote were held now on pre-charge detention it would be “touch and go” and the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, must go out and make the case if she is to win over sceptical Labour backbenchers.

Smith, a former chief whip whose weekend media push to sell the 42 days proposal was undermined by her remarks about fear of walking the streets at night, is undertaking an intensive programme of one-to-one meetings with backbenchers in an attempt to save the plan, which the government argues is necessary to give police enough time to gather evidence of complex plots.

The detailed legislation is expected to be tougher than originally trailed, with no legal definition of the seriousness of the alleged offence that could trigger an exceptional period of detention beyond the current 28 days without charge. Critics fear that even the recent case of the “lyrical terrorist”, who wrote inflammatory poetry about martyrdom, could be caught by these wider criteria.

The government was dealt a fresh blow over its plans last night by the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, which described the proposal as disproportionate, unjustified and in breach of human rights law. In a strongly worded letter to the home secretary its chair, Trevor Phillips, said the CEHR, which has powers to seek judicial review, is seeking legal remedies should the counter-terror bill reach the statute book. The commission says the proposal would have a disproportionate impact on Muslims, and suggests that people who are unlawfully detained for the 42 days and lose their livelihoods, homes or families in the process should be entitled to compensation.

Source.

Related:
34 votes needed to defeat 42 day detention bill
Director of public prosecutions rejects increasing detention without charge to 42 days
Not a Day More


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