Ed Miliband speech: Amnesty welcomes human rights comments

Amnesty International has welcomed comments on human rights from the new Labour leader Ed Miliband in today’s conference speech.

In his party conference speech Mr Miliband said his party had “too often” “seemed casual” about British liberties, in particular identifying attempts by the previous government to introduce 90-day pre-charge detention periods and sweeping use of anti-terrorism powers.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen, who listened to the speech in Manchester today, said:

“We’ve waited years to hear the Labour leadership say - in effect - that it has got the balance wrong on counter-terrorism and that, from now on, it is going to do more to defend human rights.

“This was an important moment and I was delighted to hear these words from the new Labour leader.

“Mr Miliband should certainly ensure that the opposition mounts a robust defence of human rights, including by calling for ‘control orders’ to be scrapped and the forthcoming torture inquiry to be rigorous and far-reaching.

“Amnesty has always said that defending this country must also mean defending our country’s key principles of liberty and fairness. I look forward to meeting Ed Miliband and his colleagues to see how we can help make these aspirations real.”

Amnesty recently made a 17-page submission to the Home Office as part of the Coalition Government’s review of counter-terrorism measures. The organisation has also written to the head of the inquiry into alleged UK involvement in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad.

Both interventions come against the backdrop of repeated criticism from Amnesty and other human rights organisations of the previous government’s record on counter-terrorism policy and practice. In April, for example, Amnesty described the UK as “the most influential and aggressive” promoter in Europe of the policy of seeking “diplomatic assurances” as a means to deport people it labels a threat to national security. Amnesty has long said that these “no torture” deals are unreliable and unenforceable and endanger those deported under such arrangements.

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