Free foreign suspects on control orders, says terror watchdog
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1701116,00.htmlAlan Travis, home affairs editor, Friday February 3, 2006
The government’s official terrorism law watchdog told of his « real concern » yesterday about the continued imprisonment of eight foreign suspects for whom there is no realistic prospect of deportation in the immediate future.
Lord Carlile, in his first annual review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, says it would have been far preferable for ministers to have reached a « no torture » agreement with countries such as Algeria before the men were detained and suggests they should be released under « control orders » until the deal is done.
His report was published as the home secretary, Charles Clarke, said he wanted to introduce a further anti-terrorism bill next year looking at the possible use of phone-tap evidence in court, giving a new legal definition of terrorism, and consolidating a « confusing » patchwork of measures into one piece of legislation.
Lord Carlile confirms the official assessment that more suicide bombings involving unpredictable targets in Britain must be expected. He says this « real and present danger of shocking terrorism acts » justifies the control orders putting suspects under near house arrest. They are a « proportional safety valve for the proper protection of civil society ». But he says each case needed to be regularly reviewed to ensure they were reduced to the minimum « consistent with the safety of the realm ». So far 18 people, including one British citizen, have been subjected to the orders in the past year.
More thorough investigations could provide evidence for criminal prosecution and conviction, he says, while renewing his call for phone-tap evidence to be made admissible in a British court.
The home secretary said yesterday that he would accept « in principle » Lord Carlile’s suggestions for improving the operation of the laws subject to the agreement of the security services.
The detention of foreign terror suspects pending their deportation followed Tony Blair’s 12-point « action plan » after the July suicide bombings in London. So far a « no torture, no ill-treatment » memorandum of understanding has been reached with Jordan, Libya and the Lebanon but eight of the nine detained are from Algeria, which has yet to sign a deal.
In the Commons, the shadow home secretary, David Davis, demanded to know what the government would do if it failed to secure a memorandum of understanding with a country. The Liberal Democrats’ Alistair Carmichael said the situation was another example of the government’s failure to uphold basic standards of justice in the face of terrorism.