UK: Belmarsh internee to be freed at last as Blunkett loses appeal


- "It remains of the greatest importance that, in a society which upholds the rule of law, if a person is detained as M was detained, that individual should have access to an independent tribunal or court which can adjudicate upon the question of whether the detention is lawful or not." - Lord Chief Justice Woolf

Britain's most senior judge ruled today that the Home Secretary must release a Libyan man known only as 'M' detained without charge under the draconian Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act. Lord Chief Justice Woolf upheld a ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Committee of last week that the man's 15-month detention at Belmarsh prison in south-east London was unjustified. The Home Secretary had astonished the legal community by securing an appeal against the SIAC ruling, despite the tribunal's express judgment that were no grounds. Lord Woolf said last week that if SIAC ruled detention was unlawful, the detainee should be released; Amnesty International described the stay as "tantamount to appealing against an acquittal verdict".

'M' is the first of the 16 people detained under ATSA to successfully challenge their detention which is based on secret evidence put to the Home Secretary, then to SIAC, by the intelligence services. Yesterday (17 March 2003), the government's lawyers accused 'M' of being involved in forged documents and transferring £600 to a man suspected of having links with al-Qaida. Lord Woolf replied to the QC:

"If I was a grocer and I delivered groceries to somebody who was a member of al-Qaida, do I fall within that [definition of a terrorist]?"

In his judgment today, he said:

"The need for society to protect itself against acts of terrorism is self-evident."

"It remains of the greatest importance that, in a society which upholds the rule of law, if a person is detained as M was detained, that individual should have access to an independent tribunal or court which can adjudicate upon the question of whether the detention is lawful or not."

Sources: Guardian, 18.3.04; BBC news online 18.3.04.


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