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UK minister tells EU rights might be limited to combat terror

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] told the European Parliament [official website] Wednesday that it may be necessary for EU member states to accept an erosion of some civil liberties in order to protect their countries from organized crime and terrorism. Addressing a parliamentary session [summary of statements] on balancing rights and security, Clarke said that citizens' right to life should outweigh privacy concerns and warned that if European courts don't recognize this concept a change to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) [PDF text] may be necessary. Clarke also used his remarks to warn judges [Guardian report] in the UK courts that they should not try to interfere with government plans to deport terror suspects [JURIST report]. The UK has signed agreements with several countries under which it has been assured that any suspects deported will not face torture upon return to their home countries. Critics of the agreements have, however, argued that the ECHR and the UK Human Rights Act [text] provide absolute protection against deportation to countries with a record of torture and other human rights abuses. Clarke Wednesday also urged the European Parliament to adopt additional measures to enable member states to more effectively fight terrorism, including a proposed rule [BBC report] that would require telecommunications companies to keep phone and e-mail records for a longer period of time. Clarke said that, with "appropriate safeguards," the proposal will not lead to "the mass surveillance of our citizens or to unnecessary invasion of the citizens' right to privacy." The European Parliament has recorded video of Clarke's press conference following the parliamentary session. Reuters has more.

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