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UK jurists warn of British drift to police state, invoking specter of Nazi Germany

[JURIST] Explicitly evoking images of Germany in the 1930s, senior British judges and lawyers are warning that the Blair government's efforts to put pressure on the judiciary in the interpretation of the Human Rights Act [text] while restricting traditional civil liberties in anti-terror legislation risks turning the country into a police state. Former law lord Lord Ackner has said "The judiciary has been put there by Parliament in order to ensure that the executive acts lawfully. If we take that away from the judiciary we are really apeing what happened in Nazi Germany." Anthony Scrivener QC, a former president of the Bar Council [profession website] lately in the headlines as a possible defense lawyer for ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has meanwhile derided provisions for 90-days detention without charge in the government's new Terrorism Bill [PDF text; Home Office overview] as "street justice", rather than the "summary justice" described by Downing Street. Leading human rights advocate Lord Lester QC has suggested that "If the Prime Minister and other members of the Government continue to threaten to undermine the Human Rights Act and interfere with judicial independence we shall have to secure our basic human rights and freedoms with a written constitution." In December, the law lords turned back a British government effort [JURIST report] to authorize indefinite detention of foreign citizens without charge or trial; this week, they are scheduled to consider whether evidence obtained under torture abroad is admissible in British courts. The Independent has more.

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