UK rights committee attacks Brown’s terrorism case

From: Clive Denton

Date: 2008-06-05 07:12:23

UK rights committee attacks Brown’s terrorism case   By: Katherine Baldwin Date: June 4, 2008 Source: REUTERS LONDON – Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s move to toughen Britain’s terrorism laws came under attack on Thursday from an influential parliamentary committee, less than a week before a vital vote on the issue. Brown wants to extend the maximum time limit that terrorism suspects can be held without charge to 42 days, from 28 days, but opposition parties and sections of his ruling Labor Party oppose the move on civil liberties grounds. Defeat at a vote on Wednesday would seriously undermine Brown’s leadership at a time when his popularity has plummeted so far that some Labor lawmakers are questioning his position. Brown aides privately think the government has done enough to win over critics after it offered new human rights safeguards although publicly they say the vote is by no means won. In a boost to Labor rebels, parliament’s joint committee on human rights on Thursday said the proposed amendments to the bill were negligible and that the move would still violate the European Convention on Human Rights. ‘While of course I welcome any new safeguards, no matter how minor, they do not answer the main point that we have seen nothing that would justify the extension beyond 28-days maximum detention,’ said Labor parliamentarian Andrew Dismore, chair of the committee. ‘The proposed extension to 42 days would almost certainly not be lawful,’ he added in a statement published alongside the committee’s report. The two main opposition parties oppose the 42-day pre-charge detention plan. Even if Brown wins the vote in parliament’s lower house, the bill is expected to run into opposition in the House of Lords. Brown aides argue the legislation does not violate human rights laws. ‘We are very confident of the strength of our argument but any suggestion that the votes are already in, already won, are wide of the mark. We’re not at that point yet,’ Brown’s spokesman said on Wednesday. In one of its amendments, the government said the 42-day detention powers would only be used against a ‘grave exceptional’ threat – envisaged as something on the scale of suicide bombings in London that killed 52 commuters in 2005. The human rights committee argued that having a government minister declare that such a threat existed to parliament ‘is not, in reality, much of a safeguard, at least without some meaningful opportunity for that assertion to be tested by independent scrutineers, whether in parliament of the courts.’ Brown has sought to play down suggestions that he would have to resign if he lost Wednesday’s vote, although defeat would prompt fresh speculation about his leadership and his ability to lead Labor to victory in the next election, due by 2010. Read Report

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