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Europe court rules UK may not suspend benefits to wives of terror suspects

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [materials; press release, PDF] Thursday that the UK may not restrict government benefits to the spouses and families of suspected terrorists. The challenge was brought by three women whose husbands' names appear on the UN list of terror suspects [materials] that have been linked to al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden, resulting in their assets being frozen pursuant to an EU regulation. Under a regime established by the UK Treasury [official website] in 2006, terror suspects' spouses could only receive government benefits under certain conditions [Guardian report], including withdrawing only 10 pounds in cash for each family member, sending a detailed monthly expense list and receipts to the Treasury, and accepting that giving cash to their husbands would be a criminal offense. The ECJ struck down the Treasury's interpretation of the EU rules, finding that it does not fulfill the purpose of combating international terrorism. The case will now return [BBC report] to the UK Supreme Court [official website] for a final ruling.

In January, the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that executive orders allowing the government to freeze the assets of five suspected terrorists are illegal. The men involved in the court's inaugural case [JURIST report] argued that the government exceeded its power when the Treasury froze their assets without the approval of Parliament. The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed a 2008 High Court ruling [JURIST report], which found that the Treasury may not freeze the assets of the five suspected terrorists without the approval of Parliament. The seizures were conducted pursuant to two Orders in Council [backgrounder], the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures] Order 2006 [texts]. The orders implemented UN resolutions requiring UN member states to freeze the assets of people on the UN list of suspected terrorists. The High Court rejected the orders because they were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny before they came into force.

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