Ester [Islam in Europe]: “Recently Amnesty International repeated its call to the British government to stop its “regime” of control orders. These orders, which allow the Home Secretary to restrict a person’s freedom of movement, were introduced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Control orders are supervised by the courts, but they allow admitting secret evidence against the suspects and this supervision is, as Amnesty puts it, ‘limited’.
Amnesty’s critique is simple. The state has an obligation to protect its citizens, but this should be done without violating their human rights. Amnesty feels that despite Britain’s efforts to protect their citizens’ liberties, they are violating the European Human Right Convention.
Amnesty’s suggestion is that terrorism should be handled by the ordinary criminal justice system.
It’s worth noting that their suggestion is just as flawed, if not worse. In their report they state that over 200 people (now over 280) have been convicted of terrorism related offenses in the UK. They don’t mention that in that time, there have been over 1,700 terrorism arrests: a conviction rate of about 6%. This means that over 90% of those arrested for terrorism by the criminal justice system, were arrested for no reason. Either that, or the criminal justice system is not capable of handling terrorism.
Meanwhile, there are currently about a dozen control orders in force. The Muslim community has been affected much more by the normal measures taken by the ordinary criminal justice system, such as stop-and-searches, surveillance cameras and anti-terrorism community initiatives.
Every citizen should be concerned when a government allows itself special powers which infringe on his liberty. At the same time, citizens should be just as concerned when a government does not take the necessary steps to protect their most basic human right to life. Amnesty’s take on this is expected, though simplistic. The terrorist suspect can sue for his human rights. The terrorism victim can’t.
Amnesty points out that one of the flaws of this system is the legal costs of the frequent court challenges. This is not a flaw. It shows that Britain’s legal system is functioning as it should, trying to deal with the very complex challenge of terrorism. Such challenges should be encouraged, in order to allow the courts to do their job: supervise the executive.”
Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.