UK Control Order man threatens suicide

Imagine being confined to your home for 12 hours every day and having to call a monitoring company to confirm your whereabouts thee times a day, including in the middle of the night. Having no visitors to your home unless they’ve been pre-vetted by the UK authorities. Then imagine that a troop of police burst into your home, terrifying your kids, if you fail to keep up any of these conditions (including if you oversleep and don’t make the middle-of-the-night phonecall). Then imagine that the ‘evidence’ that condemns you to this treatment is kept secret from you, so you can’t challenge it. And that it’s indefinite – there’s nothing you can say or do to stop it.

That is the situation facing Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a Palestinian refugee in the UK who is threatening to kill himself this week if he is not allowed to leave the country and escape the hellish treatment that he’s been put through for the last seven and-a-half years.

Abu Rideh has had his liberty severely curtailed since 2001, when he was detained without charge under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, on suspicion of being involved in terrorism-related activity. The grounds for that suspicion were kept largely secret from him and from his lawyers. A Control Order was imposed on him immediately after his ‘release’ in March 2005.

On 25 May his wife and six children left the UK for Jordan, to live with his wife’s parents, and his lawyers are concerned that his “despair at losing his family forever” may increase the risk of suicide. He has previously attempted suicide on three occasions, most recently last month.

The irony, if that’s the right term, is that he desperately wants to leave the UK and the UK government has previously been pretty desperate to get rid of him. But they won’t grant him the travel documents that he needs to leave the country. And the never-ending nature of the Control Order, plus the departure of his wife and kids, may have pushed Abu Rideh over the edge.

If the UK government thinks that Mahmoud Abu Rideh is linked to terrorism, they should charge him and put him on trial – a proper trial, where the accused can see and challenge any evidence against him. If they won’t do that, they should lift the Control Order against him and let him leave the country if that’s what he wants to do.

Driving a man to suicide through a system that comes straight out of Kafka, however, seems to be the course of action that the UK authorities are taking. We’re asking people to write to the Home Secretary urging him to bring this hellish situation to an end, before Mahmoud Abu Rideh does so himself.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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