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UK counter-terrorism bill needs to be re-examined, says UN rights expert

UK counter-terrorism bill needs to be re-examined, says UN rights expert

An independent United Nations human rights expert has asked the United Kingdom to withdraw or postpone action on a bill that would lower key standards regarding detention in the context of fighting terrorism.

Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, has expressed his concern that the bill, scheduled to be voted on tomorrow in the House of Commons, could set a negative precedent for upholding human rights as it 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,” Mr. Scheinin said in a news release.

He stressed in particular that the scope of judicial review needs to be broadened 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,” said Mr. Scheinin, who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Appointed in 2005, the Special Rapporteur is tasked with, among other things, identifying and promoting best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.