Thu, 24 May 2007

State of emergency, derogation from Article 5 of the ECHR and a further extension to the pre-charge detention period considered

Three suspects subject to control orders have disappeared.

The debate in the Commons is well worth reading in full. Here are a few extracts:

John Reid answering Dominic Grieve:
Unfortunately, within the limits of the existing legal framework, it is very difficult to prevent determined individuals from absconding. Nevertheless, I intend to do several things. First, I am already appealing to the House of Lords in several other control order cases about the interpretation of article 5 of the European convention on human rights on deprivation of liberty. We will consider other options—including derogation—if we have exhausted ways of overturning previous judgments on the issue.
Dominic Grieve:
The Home Secretary has hinted that draconian new powers are needed, yet the existing powers extend to house arrest, if the Government decide that there is such an emergency that that is justified. It is for the Government to determine whether there is a state of emergency. Is the Home Secretary saying that he will come to the House and say that there is an emergency in which the state is threatened? If so, when will he do that? Is it not the case that unless he does that, there is no possibility whatever of imposing derogating control orders, as they would simply be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European convention on human rights?
In an earlier analysis Justice reminds us that:
The United Kingdom may derogate from Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“ECHR”) only:
(a) in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation; and
(b) to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation; and
(c) to the extent that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law
(ECHR Article 15; cf. Human Rights Act 1998, section 14).
John Reid answering Jeremy Browne:
Let me deal first with the question of intercept evidence in court. We have been looking at that for a considerable time, and both Opposition Front-Bench teams know that the disadvantages so far outweigh the advantages that what they are suggesting meets with complete opposition from our security and intelligence services.
Andrew Dismore:
I have great sympathy with my right hon. Friend, because the control order regime is clearly a very imperfect way of trying to deal with the problem, but I hope that he will not adopt the route of derogation. He said that he saw control orders as not even the second-best option. Perhaps he will tell us what he thinks is the best option. Does he agree with the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I chair, that the best option is prosecution? We are concerned about the fact that the existing control order detainees are not subject to continual review to establish whether there is enough evidence to prosecute them. Last summer we recommended a series of ways of making make prosecution easier, one of which was the conversion of intelligence into evidence through the use of intercept. I heard what my right hon. Friend had to say about that, but the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General have said that they consider it an important weapon that would significantly strengthen their ability to prosecute. I hope that before my right hon. Friend presents his proposals he will give serious consideration to the Committee’s recommendations, including that one.
John Reid answering Andrew Dismore:
I repeat that we always want to prosecute when there is a level of evidence that is sufficient to reach the threshold for prosecution. That is self-evident, but it is not the question. The question is: how do we tackle terrorist suspects when we do not have a sufficient threshold of evidence to charge, but have sufficient information to be alerted, through the intelligence and other services, to the fact that they may be preparing to commit an act of wholesale human destruction?
The Government is not asking for the tools that it needs to build a case strong enough to bring to trial suspects—and intercept evidence is used in other countries—but it is using its own failure to deal with three individuals it claims are a serious threat to justify removing some of our essential human rights. Act now to ensure the UK doesn't derogate from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to liberty and security.

The UK Liberty blog has a good analysis at Three control order subjects have absconded and Reid calls for more power.
Note also that all the mentions about the Chahal case are completely irrelevant as it applies to foreign nationals and the three individuals at large are British.

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