UK Liberty

42 days doesn’t add up

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 5, 2008

writes Philippe Sands in the Times:

On his own account, the Prime Minister abandons the one principle that matters: decent evidence. What seems to have happened is that early on in his premiership Mr Brown took a punt on a number – an arbitrary 42 days – and is now stuck with it. The policy was fixed on the basis of an ill-conceived political objective – tough on terror – and not on the basis of the evidence or any proper consultation. Consequently, the principles now invoked by the Prime Minister seem almost absurd.

“There should always be a maximum limit.” Terrifically reassuring.

The 42-day debacle would be much less worrisome if it stood in splendid isolation. Let him have his 42 days, some might say, and then we can move on. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s muddled and dangerous thinking on this issue is part of a wider pattern. Mr Blair launched an unremitting assault on the rule of law. He caused Britain to be the only one of the members of the Council of Europe to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights to allow indefinite detention without charge or trial of certain non-nationals. The courts struck that down.

According to the JCHR, the UK is the only country out of 45 in the Council of Europe to have derogated from Article 5; the only country in the world to have derogated from Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and, except for the USA, the only country to have resorted to the indefinite detention of people suspected of terrorism.

In legal proceedings in England he wanted to be able to rely on evidence that may have been obtained by torture in legal proceedings in England. The courts struck that down too. After the July 7 bombings Mr Blair’s Home Secretary boldly stated that the Government “would not be constrained by international conventions or by the way the judiciary interpreted them”.

Many hoped that those days of Labour’s broken relationship with the rule of law and evidence-based decision-making had ended with the arrival of a new prime minister. Sadly, they have not. …

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