United Kingdom: Rushed legislation opens door to human rights violations

The Act will permit non-nationals to be detained without charge or trial for an indefinite period of time. People will be detained when the Home Secretary states that he reasonably believes and suspects a person to be a national security risk and a suspected 'international terrorist'. The Home Secretary's belief and suspicion may be based on secret evidence and then confirmed by a judicial body that can hold hearings in secret, from which the detainee and their lawyer may be excluded, and base its decision on secret evidence.

Amnesty International remains concerned that these provisions will result in the creation of a shadow criminal justice system without the safeguards of the formal system.

The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act was enacted just one month after the publication of the legislation, which contained over 100 provisions, on 13 November 2001.

'The extraordinarily short time allocated for parliamentary and public scrutiny of the emergency legislation is of grave concern. Some provisions are draconian and will have far-reaching implications for the protection of human rights in the UK,' Amnesty International said.

In order to permit the government to introduce legislation for indefinite detention without charge or trial, the UK derogated under Article 5 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Amnesty International believes that the necessity for the derogation remains open to question. This is reinforced by the Home Secretary's statement in October that 'there is no immediate intelligence pointing to a specific threat to the UK'.

'As EU governments meet in Laeken, we appeal to them to place human rights provisions at the core of European policies,' Amnesty International said.

'The UK is the only EU government that has derogated from its international human rights treaty obligations and it must not be allowed to undermine the European human rights framework.'

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