UK Liberty

Safeguards are still inadequate

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

says the JHCR in another report (307 Kb PDF, 59 pages) on the Counter-Terrorism Bill:

The Committee has already reported several times on the main human rights issues raised by the Counter-Terrorism Bill. The main purpose of this Report is to comment on the adequacy of the additional safeguards which the Government has indicated it intends to bring forward to meet the human rights concerns about its proposal to extend the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 42 days. The report explains the Committee’s conclusion that the additional safeguards are inadequate to protect individuals against the risk of arbitrary detention (paragraphs 1-2).

Ministers at first argued that this proposal was justified by the high level of the terrorist threat. Now they argue that the threat is growing. But the Committee has still not seen any evidence which demonstrates that the threat is growing. It recommends that the Government provide Parliament with the evidence on which it relies when it says that the threat from terrorism is growing (paragraphs 4-9).

In any event, as the Committee has explained in earlier reports, no amount of additional parliamentary or judicial safeguards can render the proposal for a reserve power of 42 days’ pre-charge detention compatible with the right of a terrorism suspect to be informed “promptly” of the charge against him under Article 5(2) ECHR. The Bill is therefore incompatible with Article 5(2) on its face and a derogation from the UK’s obligations under Article 5 would be required to make such a power available (paragraphs 42-44).

This bit is particularly interesting:

Both the ECHR and the HRA … already provide for the possibility, in principle, of extending the period of pre-charge detention in a genuine emergency, in the form of the power to derogate from the right to liberty in Article 5 to the extent strictly required by the particular emergency. We remain firmly of the view that if there is a genuine emergency within the terms of Article 15 of the ECHR the Government should make its case for such a derogation and not seek new legislation.

There is precedent for such a derogation.

It is well worth reading the report.

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