Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Campbell criticises rights chief

Monica McWilliams
Monica McWilliams has raised concerns at the suspects' detention

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has criticised the human rights commissioner for questioning the continued detention of terrorist suspects.

Eight people are still being held over the murders of a policeman in Craigavon and two soldiers in Antrim.

Under current legislation they can be held for up to 28 days without charge.

The commissioner, Monica McWilliams, says conditions in the Serious Crime unit at Antrim are completely inappropriate for lengthy detentions.

Mr Campbell dismissed her concerns and said the commissioner and commission appeared to be "inordinately concerned about the rights of those who are under suspicion of very serious crime".

"We need to remember that they have those entitlements, they are getting them, but for the most part I think most people will be content at the length of time these people are being held," he said.

"It is well within the legal limit, we should allow the police to get on with doing their job."

A 17-year-old youth was remanded in custody on Tuesday charged with the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon on 9 March.

Earlier on Monday, two men, aged 27 and 31, who were arrested last week in connection with the murder were released without charge.

The human rights commissioner has visited Antrim police station where the eight people are still being questioned over the dissident republican murders.

The commission has said it is concerned at the length of time the detainees have been held without charge.

28 days detention
28 days detention without charge was introduced in the Terrorism Act 2006
After 48 hours police must make an application to a judge to detain a suspect for a further five days
Further seven day extensions must be approved by a judge, up to the maximum 28 days.

Commissioner Monica McWilliams said she wanted to inspect conditions at the station.

She said the "whole point about human rights is that you are tested when you are defending the human rights of people you may not agree with".

The commissioner said this particularly related to those in detention as "that is often when you have to protect human rights at the highest level".

"We have always been against these lengthy detention periods so the issue would be to charge people or to release them now after this length of time," she said.

"Some of them have not even been interviewed for a number of days now."

She added that she had no concerns about how those detained are being treated by police, but said that the cells were "completely inappropriate" for a long detention.

"Their issue is the lack of stimuli, the lack of exercise," she said.

"The exercise is on the first floor in a caged area, no daylight in any of the cells and indeed the lack of daylight is beginning to affect their concentration."

Six of those being held have launched a High Court challenge to the extension of their detention period.

Under the Terrorism Act 2006, police are allowed to detain terror suspects for up to 28 days without charge.



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