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UK judge strikes down control orders

[JURIST] A UK High Court judge ruled Wednesday that control orders [JURIST report; BBC backgrounder] authorizing the electronic monitoring or house arrest of terror suspects where there is not enough evidence to prosecute or convict them violate Article 5 [text] of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text], which protects against indefinite detentions. Mr. Justice Sullivan quashed the control orders of six suspects in his Wednesday ruling [text]. In April, he ruled against [JURIST report] the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 [text] which authorizes the control orders, saying that the Act violates the Human Rights Act 1998 [text] because the suspects held under control orders were not allowed a fair hearing. At the instance of the UK Home Office, the Court of Appeal will consider both rulings next Monday.

The control orders statute has been under fire since it received royal assent in March last year. A UK parliamentary panel issued a report [PDF text] in February stating the use of control orders against suspects not facing prosecution [JURIST report] could violate the human rights convention. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists [press releases] have previously questioned the legality of control orders under international law.

Mr. Justice Jeremy Sullivan has lately been a judicial thorn in the side of the Blair government on a range of rights-related issues. In addition to his two control orders rulings, he recently granted asylum [JURIST document] to nine Afghans convicted of hijacking a plane to the UK in 2002, allowing them to remain in the United Kingdom rather than be deported to Afghanistan. Prime Minister Tony Blair immediately assailed that ruling in public [JURIST report] as "an assault on common sense" and has since directed a review [JURIST report] of the judicial application in the UK of the European Convention on Human Rights through the Human Rights Act 1998. BBC News has more.

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