Clarke’s New Security Measures . . . ‘Violate Human Rights’ Says Amnesty

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‘The new measures, proposed today by the UK government, targeting non-nationals considered to be threatening public order, national security and the rule of law, violate basic human rights and the UK’s international obligations,’ Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Amnesty expressed concern that: ‘The Home Secretary Charles Clarke ordered an immediate review of his powers to exclude and deport non-British citizens suspected of “justifying or glorifying terrorism, seeking to provoke terrorist acts, fomenting other serious criminal activity, fostering hatred that might lead to inter-community violence.

‘A global database will list foreigners who engage in different forms of “unacceptable behaviour”, such as radical preaching and publishing websites and articles intended to foment “terrorism”, to be vetted automatically before entering the UK.’

Halya Gowan, Europe and Central Asia Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International, warned: ‘The vagueness and breadth of the definition of “unacceptable behaviour” and “terrorism” can lead to further injustice and risk further undermining human rights protection in the UK.

‘Instead of strengthening security, they will further alienate vulnerable sections of society.’

She insisted: ‘The right not to be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, or to be sent to a country where there is a risk of such treatment, applies to everybody, irrespective of whatever offence they may have committed.

‘The so-called “diplomatic assurances” that the UK government seeks when expelling people to countries where they may be at risk of being tortured are a clear violation of international law.

‘If the UK authorities reasonably suspect people of having committed certain criminal offences, their immediate duty is to bring criminally recognisable charges against them and promptly try them according to international fair trial standards instead of offloading them to a third country where they may be tortured.’

Amnesty International said it is concerned that ‘the procedure to be used to process deportations or exclude people who may “threaten public order and national security” may once again include the use of secret evidence at secret hearings.’

‘The UK authorities will be violating the rights of non-British nationals if they seek to deport them or prevent them from entering the country by not allowing them adequate defence in the course of secret proceedings,’ Gowan added.

‘The new measures are similar to those brought under the now repealed part 4 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in that they are discriminatory and arbitrary.’

She stressed: ‘Security and human rights are not alternatives; they go hand in hand. Respect for human rights is the route to security, not the obstacle to it.’

The Amnesty International statement stressed that the organisation is concerned that the new measures, outlined by the UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke undermine the rule of law and fundamental human rights, including:

the absolute prohibition of torture or other ill-treatment, and the principle inherent to such prohibition according to which a person should never be sent anywhere where she or he risk being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment – the principle known as non-refoulement;

the right to seek and enjoy asylum, including the right of all persons who seek international protection to have their asylum claim individually and fully considered in fair and satisfactory procedures consistent with international human rights and refugee law and standards.

Any intention to exclude someone from refugee status should be considered in the context of regular refugee status determination procedures, and should be subject to fundamental principles of procedural fairness, including the right to appeal against the decision to exclude, and to remain in the UK while that appeal is being considered;

the rights to freedom of expression and association;

the principle of legality and legal certainty;

the right of any person reasonably suspected of a recognisably criminal offence to be promptly charged and brought to trial within reasonable time in proceedings which fully meet internationally-recognised fair trial standards;

and the right to a fair trial and due process.

l In an earlier statement on Tuesday, Amnesty condemned: ‘The attempt by the Metropolitan Police Service (Met) to delay the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) from taking over the investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.’

This was ‘directly contrary to international human rights law and standards on the effective investigation and prevention of unlawful killings.

‘Amnesty International is gravely concerned that this delay at the initial crucial stage of the investigation may have critically compromised its effectiveness.’

Amnesty stressed: ‘An investigation into an incident such as the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes be carried out promptly, and that it be conducted independently and thoroughly from the very outset.

‘The investigative authority must have the power to obtain all the information necessary to the inquiry.

‘In light of what has transpired so far, Amnesty International is concerned these key requirements were not fulfilled.

‘For example, the delay in the IPCC taking over the investigation may have meant that crucial evidence was destroyed or otherwise lost.

‘The fact that the Met retained control over the investigation at the crucial initial stage runs counter to the need for it to be carried out independently of those responsible for the killing.

‘This fact, together with the initial statements about the circumstances of the killing, attributed to the UK authorities, have given rise to allegations of a cover-up.’

Amnesty called for ‘all the circumstances leading up to the killing, as well as its immediate aftermath, including the above-mentioned official statements and the alleged cover-up, should be investigated’.

In particular, Amnesty International urged ‘that there be full public scrutiny of the actions of state agents and agencies involved, including the Met and the security services, so as to ascertain whether the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes was lawful.

‘Specifically, the investigation should consider whether the force used was no more than absolutely necessary and a proportionate response in the circumstances.’

Amnesty stressed it is vital the IPCC carries out its investigation ‘in a manner which earns and maintains the confidence of the victim’s family and of the general public that it will be effective in getting at the truth.’

‘The IPCC should ensure that the inquiry is carried out independently, impartially and thoroughly, and that it obtains all the information necessary, as required by human rights law’, particularly human rights legislation that enshrines the right to life.