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42 days: Legislation for the “future” puts us at risk today
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Scottish Republican

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:34 pm    Post subject: 42 days: Legislation for the “future” puts us at risk today Reply with quote

42 days: Legislation for the “future” puts us at risk today
Posted on 15 February 08, 4:00 pm by ourkingdom

OurKingdom is supporting Liberal Conspiracy’s campaign against 42 days detention, and will be publishing a series of posts about it over the next few weeks. Labour rebels will decide whether the bill passes or not. For a full list of those who rebelled last time (on 90 days detention), including email addresses, click here.

Ben Ward (London, Human Rights Watch): As of this morning, there was still no date for the second reading for the government’s counterterrorism bill. The government can expect a rough ride trying to gather parliamentary support for the centrepiece of the legislation: a renewed attempt to extend the time that terrorism suspects can be detained without charge.

The detention plans are so complex that the government published a flow chart to explain how they would work. In essence they permit the Home Secretary to authorize the detention of terrorism suspects for up to six weeks, if the police and director of public prosecution deem it necessary for a particular investigation. Once the power is triggered all terrorism suspects can be held for 42 days without charge, rather than the current 28.

The Home Secretary has said that the detention powers will be subject to “strong parliamentary and judicial safeguards.” The reality is quite different. The power must be approved by Parliament within 30 days. But by the time Parliament looks at the issue, some suspects may well have already been held for 42 days.

The power lapses after 60 days, but there is nothing to stop a new application by the police and public prosecutor based on a different investigation. That creates the potential for rolling periods of 42-day pre-charge detention for terrorism suspects.

The limited judicial safeguards used under the current 28 day limit remain largely unchanged, save that judges reviewing detention must now be “senior.” But the crucial point is the judges still need not consider whether there is any basis for the belief that the detainee has committed a terrorist offense.
The government acknowledges that the police have never needed more than 28 days (already the longest period in Europe, and far longer than the United States or Canada). The government describes its strategy as legislating for the future.

The damage to our rights and to community relations, however, would happen in the present. As a Human Rights Watch briefing paper points out, a further extension of detention would create a significant risk of unjust extended detention, alienating communities in much the same way as earlier abusive security policies at Belmarsh and in Belfast.

Six weeks of pre-charge detention would also be counterproductive. Tip-offs from members of the public are one of the most valuable sources of counterterrorism information. That cooperation is put in jeopardy if communities are concerned that information given to the authorities may result in innocent people being subject to long periods of detention. To quote from the Home Office’s “equality impact assessment” on the bill: “Muslim groups said that pre charge detention may risk information being forthcoming from members of the community in the future.”

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