UK control orders violate suspects’ rights: AI

UK control orders violate suspects’ rights: AI

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[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Thursday issued a report [text, PDF; press release] calling on the UK government to end the use of control orders issued against terrorism suspect. The UK Home Secretary [official website] uses control orders [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to impose a variety of legal restrictions on individuals suspected of terrorism-related activity, regardless of the suspect’s citizenship status or whether he or she has been convicted of any wrongdoing. Restrictions can include curfews, limits on internet access, restrictions on travel, and limitations on employment, school, access to bank accounts and contact with other people. AI has heavily criticized the system in the past, characterizing the orders as legal sanctions without trial [press release]. In the new report the group calls for the repeal of the legislation that created the control order system, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005 (PTA) [text]. AI Europe and Central Asia Program Director Nicola Duckworth explained the group’s opposition to the law:

The measures used under the PTA have created a parallel, unfair and secretive shadow justice system for individuals who are suspected of terrorism-related activity. The effect of the control order regime has been to bypass the ordinary justice system … The secret court procedures in control order hearings undermine the individual’s right to a fair hearing and the restrictions the control order imposes on a person can amount to a deprivation of liberty.

The group recommends that the UK government repeal the PTA “immediately,” commit to using the normal criminal justice system to prosecute suspected terrorists and make legal remedies available to those whose liberties may have been wrongfully constrained by control orders.

Uncertainty regarding how control orders fit in the UK’s conventional justice system and the human rights impact they carry continues to generate controversy. Last month, the UK Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [decision text; JURIST report] that two terrorism suspects could sue the government for damages over wrongfully imposed control orders. In June, the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a control order requiring an anonymous appellant to live 150 miles away from his family and operate under a 16-hour curfew violated his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights (EHCR) [text]. In September, then-Home Secretary Alan Johnson [BBC profile] said the government would undertake a review [JURIST report] of the system. Johnson issued a ministerial statement [text] saying that his “current assessment is … that the control order regime remains viable,” but that he would “be keeping this assessment under review.” In October 2007, the UK Law Lords ruled in a series of decisions that the government can continue to impose control orders [JURIST report] on terror suspects in lieu of detention, but said that some elements of the orders violate human rights.