Human Rights Under Attack in UK?

by Laurence on 9/10/2004

Wonder what Human Rights Watch has to say about this report on the UK?

“In fact, it has adopted draconian anti-terrorism legislation allowing it to detain foreign nationals suspected of terrorist involvement indefinitely without trial if they refuse to return to their country of origin. These laws give police the right to interrogate any terrorist suspect, British or foreign, for 15 days without a lawyer before charging or releasing them.”

Human Rights Watch has complained about the UK before, of course, for example about a recent court decision that permits the use of evidence obtained under torture:

British Court Decision Undermines Global Torture Ban

(London, August 11, 2004) — A ruling by Britain’s second-highest court undermines the global ban on torture, Human Rights Watch said today. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the Court of Appeal said that evidence obtained under torture in third countries may be used in special terrorism cases, provided that the British government has “neither procured the torture nor connived at it.”

“This is a dramatic rollback in fundamental rights,” said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division. “The global ban on torture is absolute. Britain should be a leader in upholding that principle rather than looking for ways around it.”

The court ruled that the British government can use evidence obtained under torture outside the country when deciding to detain indefinitely foreign terrorism suspects, unless Britain was involved in the torture or encouraged it. The same material can also be considered by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which hears appeals by these suspects against indefinite detention. Much of the evidence before this commission is heard in closed proceedings to which the detainees and their lawyers of choice have no access. Instead, they are represented by security-cleared lawyers appointed by the government.

Under the Convention Against Torture, to which Britain and more than 130 countries are party, evidence obtained under torture is inadmissible in “any proceedings” before a court. But the majority in the Court of Appeal said today that because the Torture Convention is not part of British domestic law, the Home Secretary has no obligation to enquire about how information from third countries was obtained when he certifies foreign nationals as suspected international terrorists.

“The court’s decision sets a devastating precedent,” said Denber. “Arguing that torture is acceptable provided that the British government is not involved is a shocking abdication of responsibility.”

You can read the whole HRW report here.

Given the logic of Human Rights Watch reporting on Uzbekistan, one can hardly wait for the new glossy HRW book on Tony Blair’s Britain with a title like Creating Enemies of the State, and new HRW public demands for the US to stop supporting the British against Al Qaeda…

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