Amnesty heads 42 days plea to unionist MPs: 'Defend the values that underpin civil liberties in this country'

Northern Ireland's DUP and UUP MPs have received an impassioned plea from Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen ahead of today’s debate on plans to extend pre-charge detention limits to 42 days in terrorism cases.

Describing the vote as 'A watershed moment for human rights in the UK,' Kate Allen urges unionist MPs to oppose any further extension of pre-charge detention. By doing so, MPs 'have an opportunity this week to defend the values that underpin civil liberties in this country.' The letter has been sent to MPs whose votes will be pivotal to whether the Counter-terrorism Bill becomes law, including the ten DUP and UUP MPs whose votes may prove decisive. It concludes:

'I urge you to stand in support of principles that lie at the heart of our society, principles such as justice and liberty.

'The alternative is to succumb to the climate of fear that terrorists seek to breed among us.'

'I urge you to oppose any further extension of pre-charge detention.'

Kate Allen states that the proposal to extend pre-charge detention 'flies in the face of principles of justice' and argues that she is 'not reassured by the Government's recent 'concessions'.' Amnesty believes that the Bill still lacks proper judicial safeguards and that parliamentary scrutiny will be meaningless because of the risk of prejudicing future trials. There is also serious concern that the definition of the 'grave and exceptional threat', that would trigger the Home Secretary’s decision to seek extended pre-charge detention, is too broad.

Amnesty accepts that the government has a duty to protect the public but argues strongly that this should only be done in a way that respects their rights. Allen’s letter argues:

'All states have an obligation to act to protect people from terrorism. The perpetrators of terrorist attacks must be brought to justice. But unless governments respond to the threat of international terrorism with measures that are fully grounded in respect for human rights, they risk undermining the values they seek to protect and defend.'

Amnesty International members have been campaigning against extending pre-charge detention limits since the idea was first proposed.

I urge you to oppose any further extension of pre-charge detention.

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