UK: today's detention of a Guardian journalist's partner at Heathrow was unwarranted and unlawful

The Edward Snowden journalist Glenn Greenwald was clearly being targeted by the detention

The partner of a Guardian journalist who was detained earleir today while in transit at a London airport was clearly the victim of unwarranted revenge tactics, targeted for no more than who his partner is, Amnesty International said this evening. 

David Michael Miranda - the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who analysed and published information on the documents concerning the USA’s unlawful surveillance programme released by Edward Snowden - was detained while in transit in Heathrow today.

He was held under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for nearly nine hours - the point at which the authorities would have had to seek further authority to continue the detention. Many of his possessions were also confiscated.

Amnesty International’s Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International Widney Brown said:

“It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance.

“David’s detention was unlawful and inexcusable. He was detained under a law that violates any principle of fairness and his detention shows how the law can be abused for petty vindictive reasons.

“There is simply no basis for believing that David Michael Miranda presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government. The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analysing the data released by Edward Snowden.

“States cannot pass anti-terror acts and claim they are necessary to protect people from harm and then use them to retaliate against someone exercising his rights. By targeting Miranda and Greenwald, the UK authorities are also sending a message to other journalists that if they maintain their independence and report critically about governments, they too may be targeted.”

Background

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to detain anyone at the UK’s borders without any requirement to show probable cause and hold them for up to nine hours, without seeking further justification. The detainee must respond to any questions, regardless of whether a lawyer is present and there is no automatic provision of a lawyer. It is a criminal offence for the detainee to refuse to answer questions - regardless of the grounds for that refusal or otherwise fully cooperate with the police.

According to the advice published by the Association of Chief Police Officers’, Schedule 7 should only be used to counter terrorism and may not be used for any other purpose.

A similarly over-broad and vague section of the Terrorism Act 2000 which allowed stop and search without any grounds was held to be unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010. Section 44 - as it was known - violated Article 8 of the European Charter of Human Rights which protects privacy.

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