UK Commons approves 42-day terrorism detention without charge limit

[JURIST] The UK House of Commons Wednesday voted 315-306 [Sky video] in favor of an amendment to a proposed anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] that would allow authorities to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days [JURIST news archive]. Rights groups, opposition MPs and even some governing Labour Party backbenchers sharply criticized the measure, but a majority of MPs supported it after it was amended [text; JURIST report] to only apply in cases of "grave and exceptional" terrorist threats. Current British law authorizes detention without charge for 28 days [JURIST report], but bill proponents have argued that this time-limit endangers national security. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has argued for the necessity of the bill [Times column] and told MPs before Wednesday's vote that it is the government's duty [PMQ transcript] to provide such security. The House of Lords must still approve the legislation for it to become law. AFP has more. The Guardian has local coverage.

UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December 2007. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by then-UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits [JURIST report]. A proposal [JURIST report] was floated last July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and permitted judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification. Former UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and European rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg [JURIST reports] joined backbench MPs and rights activists in speaking out publicly against Smith's 42-day plan.

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