UK lawyers call for action on detainees, change in terror law

UK lawyers call for action on detainees, change in terror law

[JURIST] Britain's Law Society [profession website], which represents lawyers in England and Wales, has called for the nine foreign terror suspects who have been detained in the UK since December 2001 [background from BBC News] to be tried or released. In a decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] issued last month, a nine-judge panel of the House of Lords ruled that the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects without charge violates the UK Human Rights Act. In a Law Society statement released Monday, Law Society president Edward Nally said:

The Law Society fully accepted the urgent need for the Government to reassess the country's security needs in the aftermath of September 11. We recognise that the Government has a difficult balancing act. However, it is essential that emergency terror legislation [text, UK Anti-Terrorism, Crime & Security Act] protects the country without compromising the Government's duty to uphold fairness and justice.

Indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is totally unacceptable. Some of these prisoners have now been detained for three years and the time has come for them to be tried or released. The rule of law must prevail and the Government can no longer ignore the Law Lords' ruling.

I am not surprised that lawyers are increasingly frustrated by the Government's apparent lack of respect for the law and human rights. What is happening contravenes fundamental legal principles.

Britain's Home Office says it is studying the Law Lords' decision and expects a response to the ruling in the next few weeks. BBC News has more.