UK: Control orders- Abu Rideh granted document to leave the country, decision welcomed by Amnesty

Amnesty International today (3 July) welcomed the Home Office’s agreement to issue a travel document to Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a stateless Palestinian refugee who is under a Control Order. Subject to the Home Office formally granting him the document, for which he has now applied, Mr Abu Rideh will now be able to leave the UK and seek entry to another country.

Amnesty continues to call for Mahmoud Abu Rideh to be issued with a UN travel document, to which he should be entitled as a refugee. However in the interests of being able to leave the UK swiftly and attempt to be reunited with his family, Mr Abu Rideh has agreed to apply for an inferior document that will allow him to leave the UK and enter another country.

Amnesty International UK counter-terrorism campaigner Sara Macneice said:

“It is very welcome news that Mahmoud Abu Rideh will now be able to leave the UK and seek entry to a safe country, and will no longer be subjected to the repressive measures of his Control Order, which have driven him to utter desperation.

“I have spoken to Mr Abu Rideh and this decision has given him real hope that he may now be reunited with his wife and Children's rights, and be able to rebuild his life.

“Amnesty is supporting Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s application for a UN travel document, to which he should be entitled as a refugee. However he seems willing to apply for an inferior document in order to leave the UK as soon as possible. The Home Office should issue this document to him promptly, rather than subjecting him to yet more delays.

“This is a minor victory for one man, but the pernicious system of Control Orders, which has driven him and his family out of the UK, remains in place. Amnesty continues to call for an end to the Control Order regime and its replacement with measures which respect people’s basic human rights.”

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. The Control Order was imposed on him immediately after his ‘release’ in March 2005, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

Under the terms of his current Control Order, he is required to stay inside his home for 12 hours a day, and to phone a monitoring company three times a day. Any visitors to his home while he is there must be approved by the Home Office and he is not allowed to have an Internet connection in his home. Any breach of these obligations is considered a criminal offence.

Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s mental and physical health has been severely damaged by years of persecution at the hands of the UK authorities. On 25 May his wife and six Children's rights left the UK for Jordan, to live with his wife’s parents, and his lawyers were concerned that he might commit suicide. He has previously attempted suicide on three occasions, most recently in May 2008.

Background information
The system of Control Orders was brought into UK law by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. This allows a government minister to impose severe restrictions on people suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activity, if the minister thinks this is necessary for the protection of the public. The Control Order system is grossly unfair: it relies heavily on secret material which is not disclosed to the people affected by the Order or their lawyers. This means that people subject to Control Orders may not know why they are suspected of involvement in terrorism. Although Control Orders can be challenged in court, the proceedings fall far short of international standards of fairness. People affected by the Orders, and their lawyers, can be excluded from large parts of the proceedings where secret material is being considered. Thus they cannot mount an effective challenge to the orders imposed on them.

On 10 June 2009 the UK Law Lords ruled unanimously that people have the right to know the information used against them to impose Control Orders, so that they can effectively challenge those orders.

In February 2009, the UK government’s independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile, published a report recommending that Control Orders should not be continued indefinitely, and should not normally be used for any longer than two years.

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