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UK Home Secretary spars with chief justice over terror threat and civil liberties

[JURIST] [JURIST Europe] UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] sparred Tuesday with a former South African chief justice chairing an independent panel of inquiry into UK terrorism laws as Clarke testified on government policies that limit civil liberties. The two disagreed on the use of controversial control orders [Liberty UK backgrounder, PDF] than can include restrictions on travel, the imposition of curfews, and electronic tagging. Justice Arthur Chaskalson [official profile], chairing the Eminent Jurists panel of the International Commission of Jurists [advocacy website], asserted that the threat of terrorist attacks did not warrant the extent to which the orders are used, comparing them to house arrest methods used in South Africa which result in those being affected living under impossible conditions. Clarke resolutely defended the orders, insisting they were only used in exceptional circumstances and saying to Chaskalson at one point "I don`t think you understand. You don`t put yourself in the position of dealing with this threat." The UK Press Association has more. Read a background press release on the ICJ panel hearings in London.

Control orders came into effect in 2005 with the adoption of the UK Prevention of Terrorism Act [text]. Earlier this month, a British court ruled against the use of control orders [JURIST report] in the detention of a suspected terrorist, calling them "an affront to justice" impeding the right to a fair trial as mandated by the UK Human Rights Act. A UK parliamentary panel issued a report [text, PDF] in February stating the use control orders against suspects not facing prosecution [JURIST report] could be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The Independent has local coverage.

Angela Onikepe is an Associate Editor for JURIST Europe, reporting European legal news from a European perspective. She is based in the UK.

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