Sunday, November 21, 2004

Arrest Without a Crime in Britain

Britain: Arrest Without Committing a Crime, No Juries
Reuters | November 21 2004

The government is considering new tough anti-terrorism laws to prevent an al Qaeda attack including plans to target suspects even if they have not committed an offence, Home Secretary David Blunkett will say today.
The proposals would see the creation of special anti-terror courts which would sit without juries, allowing information obtained from phone taps to be used as evidence in trials, and civil orders against people suspected of planning terrorism.
Those breaching such orders could face jail even if they have not committed a crime.
The measures are likely to provoke anger from civil liberty campaigners who say emergency anti-terror laws already passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States are draconian and discriminatory against Muslims.
Outlining the plans in an interview with ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme to be aired later on Sunday, Blunkett said any new laws would not be brought in until after the next general election widely expected next year.
"It's not my intention to try and push a bill through this side of the general election whenever the prime minister calls it," he will say.
Britain, Washington's closest ally in its war on terror, has long been seen as a top target for al Qaeda because of its support for the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Blunkett, an uncompromising hardliner, has been instrumental in seeking new police powers which he says are vital for Britain's security. Critics accuse him of using fear to trample over the rule of law.
In October nine foreign terror suspects held indefinitely without charge under the emergency legislation went to Britain's highest court to challenge the validity of their detention.
The government had to declare an emergency and suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights to enact the law and the detainees' lawyers argued the new powers were illegal.
The court is yet to deliver its verdict.