British govt seeking to legalise internment


So, the British government is seeking to extend the length of time people suspected by police of involvement in terror offenses beyond the current twenty-eight day limit:

Gordon Brown will push for an extension […] in a bill to be included in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

But Downing Street is playing down reports he wants to double the current time limit to 56 days.

The prime minister wants to head off a potential backbench rebellion by stressing new safeguards to protect civil liberties.

He has promised greater judicial and Parliamentary oversight of detention.

The 28-day limit came into effect in July 2006 after rebel MPs defeated plans for 90-day detention.

Indeed, and since then there has not been one single case of a suspect having to be released without charge because the police had gone over the four week limit…

The Home Secretary has admitted that there has not been one single case since 9/11 when police enquiries would have been aided by holding a terror suspect for more than 28 days.

Despite the admission, as she gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Jacqui Smith insisted the Government will press ahead with plans to increase the period of detention without trial, because the police argue that terrorism cases have become far more complex and international.

Smith’s argument to MPs comes down to this: if there’s a terror attack, it’ll be your fault. Which is a bit rich coming from someone who is part of a government that has done nothing but increase the likelihood and occurrence of terrorist attacks at home and abroad.

But now, to the big story, as The News Line reports:

GOVERNMENTS around the world will be watching the House of Lords proceedings on 29-31 October which will determine whether they can rely on United Nations authority or involvement to escape legal liability for human rights abuses during military engagement. The UK government will argue that the language of UN Security Council Resolution 1546 permits indefinite internment of Iraqi nationals without Britain’s legal responsibility.

The government will also argue that UK forces in post-conflict Iraq are under UN (not UK) control and beyond the reach of UK human rights standards.

Liberty will argue that responsibility for British forces has not been ceded to the UN and therefore our legal standards apply to detainees in British custody.

The right to a fair trial was not displaced or modified by UNSCR 1546, which suggested indefinite detention of suspects in Iraq in 2004.

Alex Gask, Liberty’s Legal Officer who intervened in the case, said: ‘The United Nations was always designed to preserve peace, law and human rights in the world.

‘It would be ironic if British and other forces could wave its flag to avoid liability for human rights abuses.’

The case is being brought on behalf of Mr Al-Jedda, an Iraqi-British dual national with four British children, who has been held by UK forces in Iraq for three years without charge or trial, after he returned to Iraq in 2004 to visit relatives.

Hilal Abdul-Razzaq Ali Al Jedda v the Secretary of State for Defence will be heard by the Law Lords on 29 – 31 October 2007.

This case follows the July 2007 House of Lords decision in Al-Skeini v Secretary of State for Defence, in which the Law Lords found that the protections within the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights apply to anyone held in British custody, even overseas.