Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the UK Monday to amend a new counter-terrorism bill, stating that the bill “excessively restrict[s] freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and privacy.”
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill makes it illegal for someone to express support for a terrorist organization if it “reckless[ly]” encourages others to support the organization. HRW has called the provision unnecessary because glorification and encouragement of terrorism is already illegal. The bill would also make it illegal to view online material that would likely be useful to “committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” Although not knowing that the material would contain such information is an allowed excuse under the law, HRW states that the law could restrict journalists and researchers.
In regards to freedom of movement, the bill would make it illegal to travel to terrorist risk zones. Travel to the areas is allowed if the person has a “reasonable excuse” for entering the zones. HRW calls the exception on unjust burden of proof for travelers. HRW also stated that the bill could restrict individuals who wish to visit family, provide aid, attend funerals or report on conflicts.
In regards to right to privacy, the bill provides border security officials the ability to detain and question a person to determine if they have engaged in “hostile activit[ies].” The bill specifies that “grounds for suspecting that a person is or has been engaged in hostile activity” is not necessary. HRW states that similar measures in the UK disproportionately affect minorities in the country.
Several countries have enacted anti-terrorism laws in recent years which have undergone criticisms. In May 2017 the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism criticized Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism laws as being too broad and being a threat to individual rights. In January HRW criticized Sri Lanka’s counter-terrorism laws as allowing the government to arbitrarily detain and torture suspects.