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UK: Suicide threat from man seeking to escape Control Order

A Palestinian refugee in the UK, subject to a Control Order since 2005, may commit suicide in the coming days if he is not provided with travel documentation to leave the UK, according to his lawyers. Amnesty International has issued an ‘Urgent Action’ alert to supporters, who will be writing to Home Secretary Alan Johnson and urging him to lift the Control Order and grant travel documents to Abu Rideh.

Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s mental and physical health has been severely damaged by years of persecution at the hands of the UK authorities. He is often unable to move without the use of a wheelchair. 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 are concerned that his “despair at losing his family forever” may increase the risk of suicide. He has previously attempted suicide on three occasions, most recently in May 2008.

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.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“All Mahmoud Abu Rideh wants to do is escape the hell that the UK government has put him through for the last eight years, whether by getting his travel documents or taking his own life.

“Since 2001 he has either been imprisoned without charge or subjected to severe restrictions under a Control Order. He has never been allowed to see or challenge the ‘evidence’ against him. It’s little wonder that his mental health has suffered to this extent.

“The Home Secretary should lift Abu Rideh’s Control Order and allow him to leave the UK. If the government thinks he has links to terrorism then they should put him on trial.”

On 4 June, Mahmoud Abu Rideh's lawyers filed an emergency application to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the UK authorities’ refusal to provide him with an internationally recognised travel document. His lawyers are also currently awaiting two other court hearings, one appealing against the renewal of the Control Order and another against an appeal by lawyers for the UK authorities seeking to prevent disclosure of the secret material relied upon to impose the control order.
Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s lawyer Gareth Pierce said:

“How utterly hypocritical of the UK to say that this stateless Palestinian is free to leave this country, but to refuse him the means to do so. His UN refugee travel document expired whilst we have for seven and-a-half years first detained him unlawfully without trial and then destroyed the very heart of his existence with year after year of Control Orders. He is trapped in the UK, by the UK.”

Following decisions by the High Court in August 2008 and subsequently by the European Court of Human Rights on his internment, Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s lawyers are currently seeking to enforce disclosure of information relied on by UK authorities to impose a Control Order. However, lawyers for the UK authorities are appealing the High Court decision and are seeking to prevent the disclosure of that information to Mahmoud Abu Rideh and his lawyers. The case is currently stayed pending a decision by the House of Lords on the legality of Control Orders. The severe restrictions on Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s liberty remain unchanged.

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.

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.

Amnesty International UK media information:
Steve Ballinger, 020 7033 1548,
Out of hours: 07721 398984,
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