Ellen Loudon

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Help Amnesty stop UK government attempts to lock people up for six weeks without charge!

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Amnesty International needs your support for a new campaign called – Not a Day Longer – to stop the government extending pre-charge detention limits yet further and undermining basic human rights.

We’re asking people to sign an e-petition on the Number 10 website stating their opposition, which 600 have signed up to already (and it only went up on Friday).

Sunny Hundal’s leading the bloggers’ charge over at Liberal Conspiracy – the campaign page is here – while Frank Dobson is reportedly doing the same in parliament.

The UK government seems determined to give the Home Secretary the draconian power to lock people up for 42 days – that’s six weeks – without even charging them. Given that the current limit of 28 days pre-charge detention for terrorism suspects is already longer than in any other common law country and is an unacceptable ‘special measure’ that has to be renewed by parliament every year, this new attempt is outrageous.

1. UNDERMINES one of our most basic rights, enshrined in UK law as far back as Magna Carta and now at the heart of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which UK is a signatory: the right for anyone who is detained by the state to be told promptly why they are being held and what they are charged with.

2. COMMUNITY relations will suffer if the Muslim community appears to be particularly targeted for prolonged pre-charge detention. This could have an impact on intelligence gathering and policing, and could undermine positive efforts to engage with Muslims in the UK.

3. IMPACT on any individuals detained for such a long time – in terms of their job, family, house, friendships and relationships within their community – would be devastating.

4. QUESTIONED widely by experts – Lord Goldsmith (former Attorney General), Stella Rimington (former MI5 Chief), Sir Ken Macdonald (Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service) and parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.

5. UNDERMINES presumption of innocence –Two months in prison is roughly equivalent to the length of time someone might serve in prison for assault. Lengthy pre-charge detention would impose what is in effect a ‘sentence’ of two months on somebody who may never be charged with any crime.

6. UK ALREADY has by far the longest pre-charge detention period for offences related to terrorism of any common law state.

7. INTERNATIONAL STANDING – it is much harder for the UK to criticise the human rights records of other countries that lock people up without charge when we are doing so at home. This measure would give other countries a ‘green light’ to curtail civil liberties.

8. HISTORY – from Northern Ireland and Amnesty’s experience all over the world – shows that locking people up without charge doesn’t work.

9. STATEMENTS obtained from suspects could be deemed inadmissible at trial if detention conditions are considered to be unduly harsh.

10. SAFEGUARDS discussed are insufficient – the kind of judicial oversight proposed is in no way the same as charging someone and giving them the chance to defend themselves in a fair trial.

This is a pressing issue – the Home Affairs Select Committe were quizzing Jacqui Smith about it today, politicians are discussing it now and the vote will be early next year. I hope you can help us ensure that this measure doesn’t get through.

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Written by ellenloudon

December 11, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Posted in social action

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