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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 18:12 GMT
Terror detention move under way
Armed British police
Police will have new powers under the proposals
Powers to allow the detention of terror suspects without trial are set to come into force on Tuesday.

An order laid before Parliament on Monday provides for the UK to opt out of certain sections of the European Convention of Human Rights.


The minute you start detaining people without trial then you are taking a very big leap away from some of the most precious civil liberties and freedoms that we hold dear in this country

Mark Littlewood
Liberty
The move - part of a raft of anti-terrorism measures - must be approved by MPs within 40 days.

But the government came under fire from both the Labour and Conservative benches for apparently leaking details of anti-terror proposals to the press.

Former Tory cabinet minister Peter Lilley asked Speaker Michael Martin to "unequivocally condemn" the leaks.

The full bill outlining the government's legislative response to the 11 September attacks in the United States will be published on Tuesday.

The power of detention without trial, subject to renewal by Parliament every year, will be targeted at foreign nationals suspected of terrorism who cannot currently be deported under existing immigration laws.

Legal challenge

But civil rights campaigners have said they will challenge the move in the European courts and warn the measures could anger British Muslims.

Britain needs to temporarily opt out of article five of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to liberty and prohibits detention without trial.

But article 15 allows governments to revoke article five in times of war or other "public emergency".

Home Secretary David Blunkett
David Blunkett wants measures adopted swiftly
Under Home Office plans, detention without trial would be invoked in "very limited circumstances" and, it is thought, would remain on the statute book for the duration of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Mr Blunkett said it would probably apply to "dozens" of people.

But while it has Conservative Party support, civil rights group Liberty has described the move as "a fundamental violation of the rule of law".

The group plans to challenge the proposed new legislation in the courts via its human rights litigation unit.

Mark Littlewood, director of campaigns at Liberty, told BBC News: "The minute you start detaining people without trial then you are taking a very big leap away from some of the most precious civil liberties and freedoms that we hold dear in this country."

'Muslim disillusionment'

Human rights lawyer Sadiq Khan, who has written expressing his concerns to the home secretary, was worried the new powers could be used disproportionately against "visible Muslims".

Pointing to recent riots in some northern English cities, Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Giving the police and CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) more powers could lead to an even greater disillusionment in the Muslim community."

Mr Blunkett said the legislation would enable suspects who refused deportation to a third country to be detained for up to six months, subject to appeal.

But it would require annual ratification by Parliament.

Wreckage of World Trade Center
The move is in response to the US terror attacks
Sources say the measure will not mean that all foreigners suspected of terrorism can be detained without trial.

Rather it will be targeted at those who cannot be deported back to their country of origin because they come from repressive regimes.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the Tories backed the measures as a "reluctant addition" so that people judged to threaten national security could be deported or prevented from entering the UK.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy also said there should be frequent reviews of whether the measures were needed and argued the government should move "cautiously and carefully".

While Labour had a huge Commons majority, Mr Kennedy predicted the plans could meet resistance in the House of Lords from Tory and Lib Dem peers, as well as retired senior judges.

The government hopes its anti-terror bill will be on the statute book by the end of the year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Devitt
"The Government's rhetoric has been tough"
Labour MP Tam Dalyell
"We have got to stick to the law"
Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin
argues that the measures would not go far enough
The Council of Europe's Walter Schwimmer
"I am concerned"

Key stories

Background

War view

TALKING POINT

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORTS
 VOTE RESULTS
Are new terror laws justified?

Yes
 55.21% 

No
 44.79% 

5671 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

12 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Law boosts terror cash crackdown
12 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Spending the war chest
15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
UK anti-terror measures unveiled
28 Sep 01 | Business
Net closes on terror cash
26 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK to review extradition measures
20 Sep 01 | UK Politics
EU must act fast on terror - Blunkett
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