Nine law lords have ruled that legislation allowing foreign nationals suspected of terrorism to be locked up indefinitely and without trial, contravenes human rights laws.
One of the most controversial laws brought in by David Blunkett has been the subject of a legal challenge by nine of the seventeen men currently being held under the act.
Many of the men are being held in Belmarsh prison in south London, dubbed Britain's Guantanamo Bay by civil rights campaigners.
What is your reaction to the ruling? Do you agree that the anti-terror legislation broke human rights laws? What alternatives are there for increasing security in the UK? Send us your views.
This debate is now closed. Here are some of the comments we received:
For those who believe this has weakened the security of our country, perhaps you should keep in mind that we all have basic human rights and that these cannot be traded just to keep those who are terrified of every bump and squeak in the night happy. You can't keep people locked up without trial, it's inhuman and it's wrong. That is one of the basic tenets of our society. The erosion of our civil liberties within this society is not an option. That is why all the "leftie do-gooders" are prepared to fight. And long may the do so...
S Meredith, Manchester, UK
Good on the law lords! It's not often I agree with some of their ideas, but this I certainly do - you either have sufficient evidence against someone to try them or you don't. Having insufficient evidence and an argument they might possibly do some unspecified thing at some unspecified time in the future is not a good enough argument for locking someone up. To be put in Prison, denied access to legal advice and not be told why the Govt have chosen to put you there is completely unjust.
Kitty H, Chesham, UK
Detention of foreign nationals as suspected terrorists is fine by me. I don't care what the law Lords say, it is irrelevant in the face of threats to our national security. Unelected lawyers should not be allowed to interfere with the government policy of elected officials.
Nick Ashley, Huntingdon, Cambs
I cannot see this is a 'left/right' issue - either you believe in the principles of democracy or you don't. If you do you must accept that you cannot detain some terrorist suspects because they are foreign and release the others because they are British. That is all the House of Lords said - in my view, this law is racist !
Jim T, Birmingham
Of course the right answer is one of balance. No one wants people suspected of terrorism with good reason to be out on the streets, but at the same time no one wants to be falsely accused and dumped in a cell indefinitely. We need to tread the path of moderation here. Remember, the next person to get locked up without trial could be you.
Jim Coleman, Basingstoke, England
One way that terrorists win, is by subverting the society we live in. By which I mean they make that society become progressively more draconian in its policies of tackling terrorism, that eventually that society is destroyed by itself. It's an awful problem, terrorists operate outside of the law, some would say that we should therefore take away their right of treatment under the law to eradicate them. I think what the law lords have done is correct, but what now for these people, some of them may well be terrorists. Just because there is no compelling evidence, does not mean they are not implicated.
Chris, Edinburgh UK
Like some of the other views here I am proud that the Law Lords have stood up to the government. If these 'terror suspects' are such a danger then they should be charged, otherwise all opponents of any administration can be locked up. Let's face it are we in Europe or Latin America in the 70's?
Finally some commonsense! The detention without trial has been a blight on our justice system. It is completely unjustified to incarcerate people based on secret "evidence" against them. This is not about the rights of individuals against the masses...it's in all our interests to have a justice system that has a moral backbone.
FK, London UK
The Law Lords do not have access to the full facts or the security information - how can they make this ruling? It is arrogant and naive that they believe that they know best. In my opinion they are out of touch and know nothing of modern Britain or the growing fear and anger in the population. The liberal left in this country (a minority) have had things there way for too long. Will they and their rights protect us from terror? No!.
Roger, Whitwick, England
If there was evidence against them, then they should try them if not, let them go - It's not hard to understand! Do we arrest people because they "may" murder someone in the future, or do we investigate them then arrest them when evidence is found that will stand up in court? Otherwise everybody is guilty until proven innocent. To everyone who thinks us bleeding heart liberals are making the country dangerous - Tough! this is a democracy, would you rather live in a dictatorship?
A great judgement and a fine show of courage from the Law Lords. This being the UK of course the Government is free to simply ignore the verdict and continue the human rights abuse while it "reconsiders". We desperately need a written constitution and a judiciary with the power to overturn unjust laws.
Ian, London, UK
The Law Lords are right. Detention without trial breaches our most basic freedoms. If there's really any evidence that these men are a threat, let it be presented in court. One law for all.
Ben Drake, York, UK
I'm proud of the British legal system. It may not be perfect, but when compared to that of many other countries it comes close. Accepting the idea of indefinite detention without the right to a full and fair trial would lead us down a slippery slope. And once we set off down that slope it is extremely difficult to climb back up.
Ross, Hong Kong
This ruling is correct and long overdue. Do we really want a government with the power to imprison anyone they dislike simply by labelling them a "suspected terrorist"?
Martin, England, UK
Call me a 'civil liberties do-gooder' if you will, but fair societies should present a viable legal argument against a suspected criminal. They should also provide the potential criminal with a fair trial. Otherwise this amounts to state kidnapping on a 'guilty before proven innocent' precedent. Perhaps the "right" would like to explain how they would defend legally themselves if they were wrongly arrested and detained indefinitely without charge, and without access to any evidence against them? It is not possible.
John Park, Leicester, GB
The Law Lords were right to overturn detention without trial, even terrorists should have their day in court. That said the Law Lords are wrong to prevent the deportation of these people from our country. Foreign Nationals that abuse our hospitality should be deported regardless of the risks they face. Our Government's primary responsibility is to look after the welfare of its citizens not foreign nationals.
Whilst I am very uncomfortable with the idea of indefinite detention without trial, these prisoners could and should have left the country as free men at any time. Human rights has to be weighed against prudence. I'd rather a detainee forfeit the rights defined by an idealistic and badly thought-through piece of legislation, than see hundreds or thousands of innocents killed or maimed by another terrorist ┐spectacular'. Tough, but like it or not, we are at war here.
These people were free to leave the country at any time but chose to stay in prison rather than be deported. Its hardly the same as Guantanamo!
I am happy that the judges have ruled in favour of freedom and democracy, it unfair to be held without trial, our grandparents did not die in vain keeping Britain "free and democratic". If the government feels these people are a national security threat then simply deport them.
Stephen, Sheffield UK
No right thinking person can agree that in general it is right and proper to lock people away without trial. On the other hand what are the government supposed to do. Leave all the doors open for any one who wishes to carry out atrocities without any thought of those who may be killed or injured. Again the liberal do gooders have had their way and in so doing helped to make this country a less safe place. What would these same people do if their loved ones or friends were blown to smithereens by a bomber set free to roam the streets. I dare bet they would be the first to complain that the government had failed in its duty to protect the country from such events.
Allen Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent UK
Drawing comparisons with the US is dangerously inaccurate. Belmarsh is not Guantanamo. Guantanamo is not on American territory and its inmates were captured in war as irregular combatants in battle. There is also no justifiable comparison between the law lords of the House of Lords and the Supreme Court of the United States. The British Parliament has shown the same cowardice as the United States Congress in not formally declaring war and making it possible to legally suspend normal legal protections afforded criminal defendants in peace time. However, at least America has not relinquished sovereignty to the degree Britain has. Britain's practices regarding its own security may now be decided by an non British court using standards written into a "European Constitution" and judged by people less than sympathetic to the dangers Britain faces from terrorists on its soil.
So, anyone who is considered too dangerous in his own country, and who no other county will put up with, is welcome here, whether his presence in this country poses a threat to us or not. They may have rights. What about our right not to be endangered by their presence among us. This is the logic of the lunatic asylum. The law truly is an ass.
David, Leeds UK
You cannot imprison people indefinitely without trial. It is wrong. No excuses can be made to justify it. If you doubt that it should be wrong, then try to imagine yourself in the place of such a detainee. How long it is reasonable to detain someone while assembling evidence might reasonably be set longer in such cases, but it must be a set term. A means of appeal could easily be incorporated to protect both the detainee and the interests of the country. Without such safeguards indefinite detention is simply arbitrary use of power against people who cannot be proved to have done wrong, or whose only 'crime' is to express unpopular opinions.
Peter J. Tabord, Caernarfon, UK
The law lords really had no option to rule in this way, and thank goodness they have; detainment without charge or deportation runs utterly contrary to principles of liberty and justice. Deportation isn't an option in some cases because of the UK's international obligations not to deport people who face the prospect of torture, death or suffering. This is no excuse for banging people up indefinitely without charge. The law lords got it absolutely right.
Jon Adams, London
To suggest as have some of your correspondents that the Law Lords ruling is a triumph for the left is a nonsense. I am a conservative and delighted that our country who is apparently fighting against terror and for freedom across the world is being told to apply these principles at home. The idea that nine largely uneducated and unsophisticated detainees could be a threat to our security is quite ludicrous and a frightening sop to populism.
Paul Mihalop, Truro, UK
Don't assume it's the left that takes these cases. Generally its just lawyers who believe in the rule of law. When nine law lords are put on a case (instead of the usual five) because it is important, and they have an eight to one majority decision, I think you have to accept that there is a point made here. That is, the rule of law is correct.
Ivan Pope, Brighton, UK
Whilst the detention of these people may be unlawful according to the human rights convention and whilst I am no fan of the current government, the safety and security of this nation is paramount to the rights of the individual. To whom will the law lords be accountable should ones of the released actually commit a terrorist act with this country, resulting in a loss of life.
F Villar, London, England
This is not a win for the do-gooders or a loss for the hardliners. This is a clear victory for the rule of law. Parliament approved and enacted the Human Rights Act and that is clear statute in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights. If parliament wants to change that law, it can. Otherwise the government must comply with it. All the law lords have done is remind us all of that fact.
Thank goodness there are some law lords who can see what is happening to this country. I praise their decision. Government terrorism scaremongering is being used to erode the rights of citizens on an almost daily basis. Perhaps they think we can't see the hypocrisy in arming a group of activists one day, then calling them terrorists the next! Who the heck are we to stand on our high horses and demand the world follows our culture of greed, corruption and immoral squandering of world resources?
Lauk, Dorset, UK
There is a major disconnect between an inadequate law and the pernicious and real threat that these men pose. No doubt, by the standards of the law, these mean probably had to be released, but does that mean that the law is adequate to protect us. I am deeply disturbed by those who support these men, and the Guantanamo detainees. None of them seem to ask what they were doing in places like Afghanistan fighting against British and allied forces, or associating themselves with the al-Qaeda movement. For that reason, I would rather be safe than sorry and have these people detained, even if that means the diminution of their civil rights.
John, Shrewsbury, England
At last! There is absolutely no excuse for treating human beings in this way. Whatever crime a person has been accused of, he or she is entitled to a fair trial within a reasonable timeframe and with competent representation. No country that claims to be civilised can go around locking people up indefinitely, without charge or trial.
Bill, Leicester, UK
There is no smoke without fire so as they are foreign nationals send them straight back to their respective home lands and rid this country of them. The tax payer will thank you for it!
Chris Weston, England
I wonder how much compensation they'll end up winning for unlawful imprisonment...
What about my human rights, my right to be protected from a potential terror attack? I am afraid Sept 11th moved the world into different territory and the necessity for a strong response to avert potential danger. If these people are released, they will probably be monitored full time by the secret service how much is that going to cost the tax payer? How would these liberal lawyers feel if their family was blow up on a train going in to London by one of these people when released? This is a big mistake. We have already heard about an individual released from Guantanamo involved in terrorism soon after leaving Cuba. The world has changed and our laws are too soft.
Gaynor Harrison, England
My parents are foreign nationals. They came to this country got jobs and my father had his own business. They did not cause trouble and, as far as I know, never broke the law. If you come to this country and accept the hospitality and then cause trouble you should be deported immediately. Why are we keeping these people in jail at taxpayers expense?
Michael, Darlington UK
If British citizens were locked up in another country without trail for three years - we would have invaded the country on the banner of justice and democracy.
Mohamed, Leicester, UK
It's good to see the UK rejoin Western Civilisation.
Bernhard Rohrer, Dublin, Ireland
I hope they are released on bail. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say.
Gerry Noble, Salisbury, UK
No they are not against human rights laws. We are at a high risk of a terror attack, and if someone is suspected of terrorism then they must be imprisoned as an emergency to protect everyone in this country
Al, Norwich, UK
Of course the Law Lords were right to make this decision. The right to a fair trial and 'innocent until proven guilty' are the very foundations of our legal system. I'm not sure what sort of idiot sees locking someone up with no charge, no trial, no evidence then releasing them a couple of years later because they are 'no longer a threat' as a rational, logical or even coherent thing?
Marc Whiteley, London, England
Some of the responses so far are extremely depressing. If we cannot see the fundamental injustice in indefinite incarceration without trial then we may as well just give up now. This is a desperate and truly saddening state of affairs.
Lee Folkard, London
Might as well tell the terrorists come and plant your bombs, we don't want to stop you killing our citizens
The government has used the so-called terror threat to impose whatever laws it wants to, including this one. We the people said this was wrong all along. But that obviously cut no ice with the government. Will they listen now that High Court Judges also say it was wrong? I doubt it somehow.
Rich, Hants, UK
If they are guilty then convict them if they are not, let them go. This is not bleeding heart liberalism but old fashioned justice. If any of the right-wingers on this page were locked up indefinitely without trial, I doubt they would still be complaining, or should this law not apply to white, Daily Mail reading, Anglo Saxons.
Darren, Glasgow, UK
This means that a terrorist has more rights than the people he intends to terrorise. Thank you the eight Law Lords who just tied another knot in the ability of the security forces to protect us. No wonder the terrorists are winning. They have the 'Law' on their side making it easier to strike with impunity and at will.
It's about time this was set right otherwise it is a terrifying precedent. How long before we are being jailed without trial for saying the current government are incapable and should be replaced. Isn't that fascism?
A real victory for freedom! This law was xenophobic to its core.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK
Removing the right to trial is a lot scarier than any terrorists. They should be deported instead. This government wants to remove all our rights and have started a war to give them an excuse.
The civil liberties do-gooders have won again and in doing so have, in my opinion, lowered the security of this country. When will these people realise that our homeland security has to, at times, come before some civil liberties? I suspect they would have a different opinion if something happened in their town! I am most annoyed at this.
Matt, Norwich, Norfolk
These people were not been held for nothing, now we are going to be lumbered with them because of the human rights laws that favour individuals over the majority, we can't throw them out of the country and will have them in our midst for years to come.
Why is this government so slow to see the difference between right and wrong? The British people have been objecting to this policy since its inception but, once again, it takes a high court ruling to get any attention in Downing Street.
Mark Fulford, Southampton, UK
Thank goodness for the law lords! If these men are guilty then they should be brought to trial rather than be left to rot in jail. Justice dictates that if you cannot prove someone has committed a wrong then they have a right to freedom. I'm concerned that British justice is being sold down the river under the guise of the perceived or real terrorist threat. Shame it is under the labour party whose founders fought so hard for people's rights should be responsible for repealing laws which have existed for years. The founders must be turning in their graves....
Neil Stewart, Bolsover, Derbyshire
Hardly a shining example of the 'democracy' that we are always lecturing others about, is it? Detainment in this manner is an abuse of power of the worst kind, and I am grateful for their lordships for spelling this out to our political masters.
It restores a little pride and the moral high ground and reduces the risk of innocents being used to foster public reactions of fear, like a "strategy of tension".
Howard Davies, Reading UK
Why not deport them regardless? As it is we have too many undesirables here. We must not been seen as a safe haven for criminals and terrorist sympathisers. Our pathetically soft stance on crime here is embarrassing and a lure to the wrong kinds of immigrants.
J Harriat, England
On the day that Parliament voted for the detention of suspected foreign terrorists without trial, I tore up my Labour Party membership card. My act was vindicated by the Law Lords in their judgement today.
Nigel Baldwin, Portsmouth UK
The UK government shouldn't have signed up to the Human Rights Convention in the first place. All the judges are doing is applying the law as it stands. The government should pass a new law to suspend the application of these International Treaties, we may then regain control of our asylum system.
Ian, Bradford UK
To be honest, I am getting bored of the left doing everything it can to stop us protecting our country. If you really dislike our country, which gives you a platform for your moronic views, then emigrate!
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK
On an assumption that there was some intelligence on these detainees that could not be openly used in court, David Blunkett used his power to detain them with good reason. Now they are likely going to be released, it will cost a fortune of taxpayer's money to continue surveillance with the Security Service. My suspicion is that the release of these people will inevitably lead to a major terrorist attack.
SMT, London, UK
The whole point about these detainees is that they might not be terrorists. The only way to find out whether they are is to take them to trial. To think that people accused of something should have the right to a free and fair trial isn't some left-wing, lily-livered, bleeding heart liberal affectation; it's the basis of all our liberty. And that is something that all people, whether right-wing or left-wing, should believe in.
Hazel Johnson, London, UK
The right to a fair trial is not "tradable" liberty and I am amazed that so many contributors seem to think it is, given the UK's admirable history of progressive restraint in the face of at time considerable provocation. What's more, if you fight a war in the name of certain rights and liberties, it is advisable not to be selective in your own application of them. The more narrow-minded of those out there may wish to consider how they as "innocents" would feel if they were stuck in Belmarsh - there is sometimes smoke without fire.
I firmly believe that it is not in our best interest as civilized nations to be supporting the rights of the terror suspects. What is wrong with people? These terrorists do not have a care in the world for the civilized nations, so why are we worried about their rights? They will only be unleashed to kill more of us with their terrible abhorrent beheadings and kidnappings and outright murders of our troops! How foolish can we people get? We either have to fully support the war on terror and take an absolute stand or give in and live with the threat while giving them their "rights"!
Judith Keene, North Norwich NY USA
This is a fantastic day for democracy and the British justice system. Locking people up without trial is the first step down a long dark road, and fortunately for ourselves and future generations this has been averted. You cannot lock people up because they may at some point in the future pose a treat to the country - this could apply to anyone speaking or acting out against the government, from terrorist to people involved in the miners' strike.
Matt , Leeds, UK
A common sense ruling for once. If these people are supposedly so much of a risk to the security of Britain, then why aren't they tried, and if found guilty sentenced appropriately as a matter of urgency. By all means let life mean life if they are terrorists, but if they are not guilty then they must go free. Justice cannot be sidetracked just because of a particularly emotive issue.
Paul, Coventry, UK
Benjamin Franklin said it best: "hose that are willing to give up there freedoms for security deserve neither."
A Taylor, UK
To Trevor: These people were held on the basis of next to nothing. If there had been any genuine evidence against them, they would have been prosecuted before a court. It's a disgrace that people have been locked up without any proof that they've done something wrong, with no possibility of appeal, just because the government wanted to - the Law Lords have done the right thing and upheld one of the basic principles of justice that this country is rightly famous for.
Some common sense at last. The right to a fair trial and to be considered innocent until proven guilty have been upheld by the Law Lords as an absolutely fundamental right. It is far better to let the occasional guilty man go free than the imprison even one innocent man. Luckily we live in a country where the legal system is free from political interference and can assert these rights on behalf of the people and take the long term view, rather than a government that takes short-term knee-jerk actions without properly considering the full implications.
Matt Cunningham, London, UK
Detention without trial is not to be tolerated. If these people are not British nationals and with no permanent right to stay then they should be deported back to their home country.
Chris Davison, Middlesbrough UK
The detention of anyone without trial, cannot in principle be right. However, enemies of the western way of life would deprive us of the very liberty that we grant to them. The problem in bringing these people to trial is that they by their nature live deep within the shadowy limits of our society. Gathering intelligence and rock solid evidence that will stand up in a court of law must be very difficult. I think that we need to start being a little more creative with our justice system. Maybe bringing such people to trial before special courts, where the anonymity of our undercover service may be maintained, and where the weight of evidence to convict is not so great.
Jeremy, Kettering. England
This type of naive ruling is dangerous to the ability of free democratic societies to defend themselves against people who are infected with an ideology and want to use our freedom against us. The problem with many western law enforcement agencies and courts is that they are reactive, often not proactive, when dealing with terrorism - which means that the crime has to be done first before any action can be taken. But nowadays waiting can be too late. The big challenge now for us is to be able to update our laws to deal with this specific threat without denying due process to those citizens whose crimes are not specifically trying to overthrow the state.
Holding a terror suspect for an indefinite time is often valuable for intelligence reasons since the new face of international terrorism is just that - its international and is made up of a network that does not respect national boundaries. If a foreign national lives in your country and is actively plotting against your government and your citizens, then he should be either exploited for intelligence reasons as long as the government thinks necessary (with proper judicial oversight) or should be deported regardless of the potential for persecution in their native land. Al Qaeda is laughing all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Chris, Austin Texas USA
Another wonderful victory for terrorists around the globe, well done to the naive campaigners.
Robert Sutton, Halifax, England
So the usual cabal of do-gooders and lefties aid and abet the release of individuals who are a risk to our society. Great work people, keep it up and you'll be the 'useful idiots' referred to by Stalin who'll give our enemies enough rope to hang us with.
Paul, Kent UK
What exactly are these people supposed to have done? If they've broken laws, then charge them. If not, why the need to trample their rights into the ground? Nobody seemed to need these sorts of "Anti- terrorism" laws prior to the attacks on America ... and yet the Irish had been blowing us up for decades! These laws relate to Dubbya's definition of terrorism, and have no foundation in reality whatsoever.
I'm hugely disappointed that our government saw fit to jump on the Americans' paranoid anti-terrorism bandwagon. It's the sort of thing which gives them a (poor) excuse to push through things like compulsory ID cards. Thankfully, Blunkett is now gone, but somehow I fear that his legacy will live on: an arrogant government with scant regard for other peoples' opinions - and indeed rights.
Duncan Edwards, Abingdon, UK
Their own countries might execute them, so we can't send them back. Any other country that they might wish to go to doesn't want them. So now, despite our intelligence services believing them to be a danger, the law lords are forcing us to take them! This is barmy logic.
This ruling only demonstrates once again that Human Rights Legislation works against the best interests of the majority. There are certain situations which require a wisdom and justice beyond the comprehension of mere unaccountable hired-gun lawyers. It is wise policy for democratically accountable governments to have the power to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely. It is grossly unwise to curtail this power. I trust that the human rights lawyers will be ready to pay compensation to inevitable victims of global terrorism in years to come, should the involvement of any of the to be released people is proven.
Mat, London UK
Haven't we been here before? Where the notion of perceived threat was treated as real and then found not to be real.
I think it's wrong to detain people indefinitely without trial but if they are foreign nationals then send them back where they came from and never allow them back into the UK.
Susan August, Bedford England
In respect of the detainees: Deport them on day one and save the taxpayers' money and the Law Lords' time. In view of future internal security : don't allow them in the first place without a valid and corroborated reason (rather like so many countries demand of UK citizens when we travel!).
Andy D, Oxford UK
So the law lords have ruled that imprisonment without trial is wrong? This was obvious 3, 30 and 300 years ago. Its a tragedy that this is still taking place today and even more shocking when it takes place in Britain.
Craig, Darmstadt, Germany
These people broke the laws of their own countries to the extent they had to flee to the UK to avoid retribution for their crimes. On arrival the crimes they committed were considered great enough for our security services to recommend for them to be quarantined from the general public. These individuals broke the law and should be sent back to face the justice of their own country. We should concentrate on making provisions for genuinely persecuted individuals and follow the advice of our security services.
James, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
Finally, someone to put some sense into these ridiculous anti-terror laws. What a great day for justice and human rights. first David Blunkett goes and now his anti terror legislation is crumbling. I couldn't be happier if tried.
Tsatsu Dawson, Edinburgh
I am extremely pleased that the law lords have done the right thing. I wish that the US Supreme Court would do the same thing. Violating human rights only encourages more terrorism.
Robert Martinez, New Haven, CT, USA
Why can a civilised country detain people of another country without even giving them a trial? If the same thing happens in China, what will you call it?
Beck, Hong Kong
Will the Law Lords who made this decision take responsibility for their actions and resign in the event that one of these individuals takes part in a terror act? If such a scenario comes to pass, that will do far greater damage to the reputation of the law and 'the life of the nation' (to quote Lord Hoffmann) than any law created to deal with extreme circumstances. I am not interested in any European oligarchy having any say in the framing of UK law. I'm pretty sure the Spanish authorities ignored such issues when they revamped their laws on illegal immigration recently.
Matt from Norwich: if that's really your view, you'll deserve everything you get when we no longer have trial by jury, and live in an effective surveillance state, devoid of privacy. No to ID! And no to locking people away without trial because they might have been involved in something (but probably weren't).
Craig, United Kingdom