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UN Expert concerned over UK counter-terrorism bill



10 June 2008


GENEVA: - - The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin is concerned that the adoption of the Counter-Terrorism Bill in the United Kingdom could set a negative precedent for upholding human rights in the context of countering terrorism.

The House of Commons is scheduled to vote on the Bill on 11 June 2008 which, despite recent amendments, contains a key provision to extend pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects to 42 days.

“The United Kingdom has a long standing history of effective human rights protection, however I am concerned that this Counter-Terrorism Bill, if adopted, could prompt other states to copy the provision into their own counter-terrorism legislation, without reflecting on the importance of effective judicial review" Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Scheinin said on Tuesday.

The Bill lowers key standards regarding detention in the context of countering terrorism. In particular, the Special Rapporteur believes the scope of judicial review needs to be broadened so as to secure the right of the accused to contest the substantive grounds of detention, and a real possibility of release.

“I welcome the ongoing dialogue between the Government and my mandate regarding the potential impact of these measures on human rights, but I appeal to the Government to withdraw the Bill or to postpone taking a definitive decision on it", the UN expert said.

Mr. Scheinin was appointed Special Rapporteur by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in August 2005. The Special Rapporteur is mandated to develop a regular dialogue and to cooperate with all relevant actors, including Governments, to exchange information, make recommendations and to identify and promote best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

For further information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit the website: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/terrorism/rapporteur/srchr.htm