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UK: Counter-terrorism plans a sad day for human rights

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

"Let us not be mistaken – this is not a good result for human rights. It is a sad day when Britain’s three major political parties are publicly bartering over people’s liberty.

"There has been much talk of numbers today – 90, 60 or 28 – but little talk of principles.

"The period that someone can be detained without charge should not be the subject of political horse-trading. The right to be promptly charged is the dividing line between liberty and arbitrary detention."

Amnesty further said that pre-charge detention for 28 days would not satisfy the criterion of promptness and would still amount to a violation of the right to liberty.

Current UK law already allows for detention in police custody without charge of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism for up to 14 days - a period which the UK Foreign Office's own research paper shows is longer than any other country surveyed in its report.

The organisation stressed that the provisions on detention must respect the right to liberty and prohibition from arbitrary detention, the right of a detainee to be promptly charged, the right to the presumption of innocence and to freedom from compulsion to incriminate oneself.

Amnesty International considers that the longer a person is held for questioning in police custody, the more coercive the situation and the less likely that any statements that they do make will be deemed by the courts to have been made voluntarily.

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