Terrorism


UK would have been obliged to use torture evidence to find Bin Laden

3 May 2011 by

The New York Times reports that after years of promising leads gone cold, the final piece of evidence which led to Osama Bin Laden was found by interrogating detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Given the rough interrogation techniques which were in use at the prison camp, the killing has reopened the debate over torture, and whether it is ever justified. 

Blogger David Allen Green, amongst others, asks whether the Bin Laden scenario may amount to an exception to the “otherwise absolute rule” that torture is wrong. I would like to pose a slightly different question: on the basis of current UK law, would it have been lawful for UK authorities to use information obtained under torture to capture or kill a known terrorist?

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Does death of Bin Laden mark end of age of terrorism?

2 May 2011 by

I argued last summer that rights campaigners were approaching the end of the age of terrorism, with economic concerns taking centre stage. The death of Bin Laden, just under a decade since the September 11 terrorist attacks, may ultimately be a historical marker of that shift in focus. 

It is coincidental that Bin Laden’s death was announced on the British May Day bank holiday, traditionally a period of economic protests and celebration of the labour movement. But that coincidence does serve to highlight two different aspects of universal rights protections: to put it crudely, the protection of people we do and people we don’t like.

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Radical cleric European human rights claim rejected

8 February 2011 by

Mustafa Kamal MUSTAFA (ABU HAMZA) (No. 1) v the United Kingdom – 31411/07 [2011] ECHR 211 (18 January 2011) – Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected radical preacher Abu Hamza’s claim that his 2005-6 trial, at which he was convicted of soliciting to murder, inciting racial hatred and terrorism charges, was unfair. He claimed that a virulent media campaign against him and the events of 9/11 made it impossible for the jury to be impartial.

Abu Hamza has lived in the UK since 1979. from 1997-2003 was Imam at the Finsbury Park Mosque, London. Between 1996 and 2000 he delivered a number of sermons and speeches which later formed the basis for charges of soliciting to murder, using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to stir up racial hatred, possessing a document or recording with the same intent.

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Counter-terrorism review published

26 January 2011 by

The Home Office has published its long-awaited review of counter-terrorism and security powers. The review findings and recommendations are here.

Other key documents can be found via the following links:

The Home Office’s summary of the key recommendations is reproduced below:

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Radical cleric Abu Hamza keeps British citizenship

17 November 2010 by

As we reported recently, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has ruled that Abu Hamza, the extremist Muslim cleric, cannot be stripped of his British citizenship since this would have the effect of making him stateless.

This is the latest in a string of decisions by various courts in a long-running legal saga surrounding the British government’s attempts to remove Abu Hamza from the UK. Hamza is also facing extradition to the United States, but this has been stayed pending the substantive decision of the European Court of Human Rights as to whether the prospect of serving a life sentence in a ‘supermax’ US prison would breach his Article 3 rights (our analysis of the admissibility decision can be found here).

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Law to change on terrorist asset freezing after critical Supreme Court judgment

3 November 2010 by

On 1 November 2010 the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Bill received its third reading in the House of Lords. The bill, which started in the Lords, must now be passed by the Commons before receiving Royal Assent.

The Bill represents the coalition government’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision in HM Treasury v Ahmed (incidentally, the first appeal to have been heard in the Supreme Court) concerning the lawfulness of measures enabling the Treasury to freeze the assets of, amongst others, a person whom it has reasonable grounds for suspecting is or may be a person who facilitates the commission of acts of terrorism.

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9/11 and the human rights ripple effects

10 September 2010 by

9/11 attack man accused gets compensationTomorrow is the 9th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, and it is worth considering some of the after effects which are still being felt in the UK courts.

Our posts on the human rights law relating to terrorism  can be found here. The fact that it is the blog’s largest legal category  is a reflection on the difficulties which the court have found in approaching anti-terrorism law. This relates to the previous government’s often controversial anti-terrorism policies, many of which have been successfully challenged in the courts, as well as the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Particular posts of interest are:

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Supporting terrorism and the criminal law [updated]

13 July 2010 by

The criminalisation of support for terrorist organisations has arisen in various domestic and international contexts recently, and it is likely that the issue will continue to attract controversy as states attempt to trace the boundaries of what can fairly be considered “support” for terrorism, and risk criminal legislation unjustifiably infringing on human rights.

The Human Rights in Ireland blog has posted the first in a series addressing the issue (update – the second post in the series is now available, see below). In the post, Dr. Cian Murphy suggests that “One of the most corrosive effects on political freedom during the “war on terrorism” has been that caused by material support legislation.” He goes on to refer to three recent decisions, including the 2008 Kadi case on EU implementation of UN sanctions against individuals linked to the Taleban, al-Qaeda and bin Laden (see ASIL case comment).

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Worries over US justice system as Abu Hamza extradition delayed

9 July 2010 by

Babar Ahmad, Haroon Rashid Aswat, Syed Tahla Ahsan and Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza) v United Kingdom – 24027/07 [2010] ECHR 1067 (6 July 2010) – Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has delayed the extradition of four men, including the notorious Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza), from the United Kingdom to the United States due to concerns that long prison sentences and harsh conditions in a “supermax” prison could violate their human rights.

In this admissibility application, the four men mounted a wide-ranging attack on the US Justice system to the Strasbourg court, in terms usually reserved for lawless rogue states. The men claimed their extradition would put them at risk of harsh treatment, extraordinary rendition and the death penalty, amongst other draconian penalties. They said that the trial of non-US citizens on terrorism charges would lead to a “flagrant denial of justice”.

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Torture inquiry details announced

6 July 2010 by

Binyam Mohamed

The details of the forthcoming wide-ranging public inquiry into British complicity with “rendition” and torture abroad have been announced by the Prime Minister.

He also announced the public release of guidance, formerly secret, on the questioning of suspects overseas, and that a new committee is to review the use of secret evidence in court proceedings.

The statement can be read in full here. Contrary to some reports, the new inquiry is to be judge-led. It will be headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired Court of Appeal Judge, who amongst other things headed up the Omagh bombing intelligence review in  2008, and currently is serving as the Intelligence Services Commissioner, a post which involves reviewing actions taken by the Secretary of State under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the activities of British intelligence.

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Terror advice decision causes uproar in United States, but could it happen here?

22 June 2010 by

Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, United States Supreme Court – Read judgment

The US Supreme Court has ruled that it does not violate the US Constitution for the government to block speech and other forms of advocacy supporting a foreign organization that has been officially labeled as terrorist, even if the aim is to support such a group’s peaceful or humanitarian actions.

The judgment does not, of course, have any direct effect on the UK. But UK anti-terrorism legislation already provides the police with broad powers to prosecute those who support terrorist groups. The UK Government is likely to be keeping a close eye on the United States in order to guide future policy, in terms of what is and what is not beyond the pale in restriction freedom of expression.

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Muslim area CCTV cameras to be covered by plastic bags [updated]

17 June 2010 by

The BBC report that plastic bags are to be put over “scores” of surveillance cameras in Birmingham following allegations that they deliberately targeted Muslim areas.

Update 19/06/10: Campaigners and the Guardian say police are now facing an investigation for failing to disclose the true purpose of the cameras

The decision marks a victory for campaigners who threatened to bring a judicial review challenging a surveillance project that uses 150 automatic number plate recognition  cameras to monitor the roads in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham. We posted earlier this week on the issue, sparked by a Guardian investigation:

The newspaper’s investigation has led to considerable public criticism of the scheme and the threat of legal action. The criticisms have concerned three main areas.First, it has been alleged that the scheme constitutes an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties. Local MPs Roger Godsiff (Labour) and John Hemming (Lib Dem) have attacked it on these grounds, with the latter said to be seeking the support of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Second, there have been complaints about a lack of consultation despite the fact that Project Champion is reported to be undergoing tests with the intention of going live in August.

The cameras will not be used “until a consultation has been carried out“.

Human Rights Act helps fight terrorism says head of Supreme Court

9 June 2010 by

Lord Phillips comes out in support of the Human Rights Act

Lord Phillips

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the head of the UK Supreme Court, has responded to accusations that the Human Rights Act is hampering the fight against terrorism, and that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”.

With reports this morning that the Government has written to High Court judges encouraging then not to delay a deportation flight to Bagdad, the speech presents a well timed defence of judicial independence.

The Gresham Special Lecture: The Challenges of the new Supreme Court is available in text and audio format. Lord Phillips used the opportunity to defend the judiciary in light of their regular use of the Human Rights Act to limit the effects of the anti-terrorism laws enacted by the government in the past decade, including controversial measures such as control orders and the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC). He said:

After 9/11 the British Government decided that the threat of terrorism in Britain was such as to amount to a public emergency threatening the life of the nation and purported, on that ground, to derogate from the Convention.

He continued:

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Detention of man suspected of insurgency and terrorism was unlawful

27 May 2010 by

HXA v Home Office (King J) [2010] EWHC 1177 (QB) – Read judgment or our full case comment

The authorities’ statutory power to detain pending deportation had to be motivated purely by the need to remove a subject from the United Kingdom, not to ensure his surrender into custody of the authorities operating in the receiving country. A subject detained not only for the purpose of effecting his removal from the UK, but also for the purpose of investigating whether acceptable arrangements could be made to return him into detention in the receiving country, was being detained unlawfully.

The claimant sought damages and declaratory relief against the defendant both at common law for the tort of false imprisonment and pursuant to s. 6(1) and s.7(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, by reason of a claimed breach of Article 5(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights.


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Terror case reopens debate on repeal of Human Rights Act [updated]

19 May 2010 by

Debate reopened

We posted this morning on the case of the “Pathway students”, in which two suspected terrorists used human rights law to avoid deportation due to fear of torture. Almost immediately after the decision was announced, the BBC reported that a “commission” is to be set up to address the future of the Human Rights Act. Has the case prompted a swift reconsideration of the Coalition’s position on human rights?

Probably not. It would appear that a commission to review the 1998 Act will be set up, as part of a wide raft of civil liberties reforms to be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg later today. However, the timing of the announcement alongside the terror decision is probably coincidental and the commission is likely to have been planned since last week’s Coalition agreement.

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