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UK top court limits control orders targeting terror suspects

[JURIST] The UK Law Lords ruled Wednesday that the government can continue to impose control orders [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on terror suspects in lieu of detention, but said that some elements of the orders issued under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 [UK Home Office materials] violate human rights. In a series of decisions - Secretary of State for the Home Department v. JJ and others, Secretary of State for the Home Department v. MB, and Secretary of State for the Home Department v. E and another [judgments] - the judges of the House of Lords who make up Britain's top tribunal said that control orders which authorize 18-hour curfews constitute a deprivation of liberty in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and that evidence used against terror suspects when determining whether to apply a control order should not be withheld from defendants and their lawyers. Other aspects of the control order system, including a curfew for up to 16 hours, were upheld. UK rights group Liberty welcomed the decisions as a "significant blow to the control order regime" [press release], but noted that the Lords "stopp[ed] short of outlawing the controversial policy altogether."

Control orders allow the government to impose house arrest and electronic surveillance on suspects and to forbid them from using mobile phones and the Internet when there is not enough evidence to prosecute the suspects. They were first introduced [JURIST report] by the Tony Blair government in 2005 and, apart from being politically controversial, have already run into repeated problems in the courts [JURIST report]. Control orders have been used in 17 cases, though seven terror suspects under control orders have disappeared [JURIST report]. The Guardian has more.

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