UK government: a civil partnership?
Lots of discussion today of UK civil liberties, following Nick Clegg’s speech, Theresa May on the Today Programme and of course the decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) yesterday not to deport two Pakistani students accused of having links to terrorism.
Much of it has focused on the Human Rights Act, bête noir of the right wing press, who are giving the Act a good kicking again today. I think a lot of journalists are interested in the Act more as a potential point of friction between the two coalition parties – when the Conservatives have promised to get rid of it and the LibDems have promised to defend it, you’d imagine you’re in for a scrap.
Instead though, it seems that we’re in for a Commission, to examine the Act – a bit less exciting than a fight. There’s a good blog from the BBC’s Mark Easton looking behind the headlines to investigate how realistic the ‘Scrap the Act’ proposals really are (the conclusion – not very).
As for the SIAC decision, it’s an interesting one. It’s welcome, of course, that the men haven’t been deported to a country where they would be likely to face the threat of torture (or more accurately, it would have been appalling had they been deported).
What’s shocking, however, are the procedures of SIAC. In short, it’s not fair: the idea that someone can be in some way punished, in this case by being publicly branded a ‘terrorist sympathiser’, on the basis of evidence that they can neither see nor challenge in court, is at serious odds with the principles of a fair trial.
So for now it’s Control Orders for the two men, in all likelihood – another measure that falls well short of basic human rights standards and one condemned by the Lib Dems in opposition as “an affront to British Justice”. The Tories have criticised them too. There's a good blog at the New Statesman on the whole affair.
Round two? It could be the sunset clause on 28 days pre-charge detention for terrorism suspects, due for a renewal debate in the next two months. The Liberal Democrats voted against it last time round, and it would represent an opportunity for the new government to restore some of the civil liberties that have been eroded over the last nine years – something they’ve been talking up since taking office.
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.