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Former UK Home Secretary scolds judges over terror cases

[JURIST] Former UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [BBC News profile] criticized Britain's judges Thursday for rulings that he said undermined the war on terror. Clarke, who led the Home Office [official website] from December 2004 until May 2006, spoke before the Lords Constitution Committee [official website] about the inability of judges to see the implications of their rulings on national security and told members of the UK parliament's upper chamber that anti-terrorist laws are in a "legal and parliamentary circus." Saying that that the Law Lords sitting in Britain's highest court were ill-prepared to discuss what was behind new laws, Clarke stated that "this is a ludicrous way of proceeding which dangerously undermines confidence in every aspect of the police and criminal justice system at a time when the public first and foremost seeks protection against terrorist threats." Clarke also criticized the Court of Appeal for a ruling last spring that allowed nine Afghani airplane hijackers to remain in the UK [JURIST report] for fear they would be tortured in their home country. That controversy prompted debate [JURIST report] about whether Britain's Human Rights Act [text; backgrounder; JURIST news archive] should be revised. The Independent has more.

This is not the first time that Clarke has assailed the judiciary. Last July he similarly took senior British judges to task over terrorism [JURIST report], saying that they had repeatedly refused to meet with him to discuss the interpretation of human rights law in light of security needs, and that their disengagement had to change as it was fuelling "dangerously confused and ill-informed debate which challenges Britain's adherence to the European convention on human rights." Similarly-critical views have been expressed by US cabinet members speaking of their own judges; in a speech [JURIST report] Wednesday, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales noted that "a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country."

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