UK anti-terrorism proposals include internment for terrorist "suspects" and data retention by communications providers


In the UK House of Commons on Monday 15 October the David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, announced in outline three emergency measures to be passed through parliament by "affirmative" procedure (ie. only debate(s) in parliament no detailed consideration by committees).

The measures include two pieces of legislation at this stage: i) an Emergency Anti-Terrorist Bill and ii) an Extradition Bill. The Extradition Bill will, the Home Secretary says, mean the UK derogating from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This would allow for the indefinite detention of foreign nationals "suspected" on the basis of security and police reports of being "a threat to national security" where there was no extradition agreement with a third country or where the return of the person meant they could face torture or death if returned.

To these Bills are added a number of other non-legislative measures:

* agreeing a "code of practice" with the communications industry to retain communications data (eg: e-mails, faxes and internet usage);

* requiring carriers to give law enforcement agencies access to details of passengers and freight (air and sea). It is not clear whether this power will solely relate to terrorism or crime in general;

* allowing customs officials and tax revenue officials to pass information the law enforcement agencies. It is not clear whether this power will solely relate to terrorism or crime in general;

* extending the role and jurisdiction for British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and the Atomic Energy Authority. It is not clear whether these powers will solely relate to terrorism or crime in general;

* giving the police and customs officials the power to demand the removal of "facial covering or gloves". It is not clear whether these powers will solely relate to terrorism or crime in general.

Home Secretary dodges question on the scope of "terrorism"

Chris Mullin MP, chair of the parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee, said there was a long history in the UK of "anti-terrorism legislation being introduced in haste and repented at leisure". He tried to pin down the government on the proposed definition of "terrorism" and asked:

"The EC may be proposing to cast the net a little too wide. Will he ensure that whatever definition [of terrorism] is finally agreed is robust, watertight and confined to dealing with terrorists and not with other people who might, from time to time, get up the noses of the established order?"

The Home Secretary did not answer this question - which leaves wide open the issue of whether the EU definition of "terrorism" extends to protests and "urban violence".

Home Office News Release, 15/10/2001
BLUNKETT OUTLINES FURTHER ANTI-TERRORIST MEASURES

MEASURES

Details of the Government's legislative package to combat terrorism were outlined to the House of Commons today by Home Secretary David Blunkett. The Home Secretary said:

"It is the first job of government and the essence of our democracy that we safeguard rights and freedoms, the most
basic of which is to live safely and in peace.

"I am determined to strike a balance between respecting our fundamental civil liberties and ensuring that they are not exploited."

The Bill will include:

§ Tough financial controls to staunch the flow of terrorist funding - powers for account monitoring and swift asset freezing, seizure of cash in-country, and strict reporting obligations on the financial sector including making it an offence for a bank not to report a transaction where it knows or suspects funds may be intended for terrorist
purposes;

§ Measures to allow quicker and more effective co-operation with fellow EU countries on police and legal issues;

§ An extension of the incitement law to cover religious, as well as racial hatred. Both incitement offences will have an increased maximum penalty from two years to seven years;

§ Widening of the incitement law to cover

 

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