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05/8 [Jan. 29th, 2005|12:44 pm]
Private-Intellectual Debating Society

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Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
50 Queen Anne's Gate
LONDON
SW1H 9AT

Monday, 31 January 2005
Pr.Int.D.Soc/05/8

Dear Mr Clarke,

On Wednesday, 26 January 2005 you made a statement to the House of Commons on the future of the powers of Part 4 to the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in light of the quashing, by the House of Lords Judiciary Committee, of the Human Rights 1998 (Designated Derogation) Order 2001.

You pointed out that seventeen foreign nationals living in the United Kingdom had been certified and it was pointed out by Mr Douglas Hogg that twelve foreign nationals had been or are detained at Belmarsh under these powers and that their cases came up for review at regular intervals both by the Security Services and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

You also pointed out that the evidence raised against these seventeen people had been partially adduced through intercepts which are not admissible in a court of law as evidence, and that these seventeen people, with their legal representatives, were not given access to the information used to justify their internment at any stage during the three years of their incarceration.

Quite aside from the points raised by many over the legality of holding foreign nationals or British citizens under this Act there are many areas which raise cause for concern over its continued use. The main ones being, as I am sure you appreciate, the fact that none of these detainees had - or have - the opportunity to defend themselves against any charges which might have been raised and were being held without any charges being possible, for the reasons you highlighted.

It must also be pointed out that, during the three years of their detention, none of the police or security services were capable of bringing a case against these suspects which would have held water in a court of law.

Is it not time, therefore, to completely revamp the entire Act with a view to the Human Rights of all persons who might fall under this legislation? As it stands, even with the removal of the sections named by the House of Lords Judicial Committee, the threat of incarceration without the prospect of a fair trial and without the prospect of an opportunity to defend themselves remains. After three years of detention without any possibility of a charge being raised towards a conviction of these people, their cases should have been reviewed with a view to releasing them. During the three years of incarceration in Belmarsh, they would have had no access to terrorist organisations and no opportunity to plan, or carry out a terrorist action against the United Kingdom. During the three years of incarceration, seeing that nothing could be substantiated against these seventeen foreign nationals, it must also have become clear to all involved in the individual cases, that a likely link to terrorist organisations or to groups or individuals planning terrorist actions against the United Kingdom existed.

Perhaps a better way forward for the future would be to carefully check the backgrounds of foreign nationals prior to their entry to the United Kingdom and to limit their rights to remain in the country to a specific period of time. A time-limited visa would allow their deportation at the end of this specified time, or an earlier revocation of the visa should their presence in the United Kingdom be deemed contrary to the - rewritten - Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act or the safety of the country and its institutions or people.

Further, in your reply to various Members, you avoided completely the question of how many British citizens these Orders apply to, and how many are being investigated for possible terrorist connections. I would be grateful if you, or your office, might confirm that more than adequate considerations are being made into the possibility that British citizens may have connections to external terrorist organisations or be planing terrorist atrocities similar to, for example, the bombing of the FBI building in Oklahoma. One needs only to look back over the activities of the various IRA organisations, the INLA and similar within Northern Ireland and on the British mainland in the Seventies to appreciate how important such considerations remain.

Yours sincerely,

Chmn. Pr.-Int. D. Soc.

Text of the Debate published in Hansard

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