UK violates rights of terror suspects with ‘unfair’ control orders

Amnesty International has accused the UK government of developing a “shadow justice system” that imposes severe restrictions on the rights of individuals suspected of terrorism-related activity.

In a new report, Five years on: time to end the control orders regime, the organization repeats its call on the UK government to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (PTA) and abandon the use of control orders that violate the individual’s rights to liberty, freedom of movement, expression, association and privacy.

“The measures used under the PTA have created a parallel, unfair and secretive shadow justice system for individuals who are suspected of terrorism-related activity,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“The effect of the control order regime has been to bypass the ordinary criminal justice system in order to impose severe restrictions on the rights of individuals. Five years on, it is time for an end to the control orders regime.”

Control orders, which are imposed by a UK government minister, have been used as an alternative to prosecution or deportation of terror suspects who have not been charged with any criminal offence.

Restrictions can include house arrest, wearing an electronic tag, bans on contacting others and attending public events, limits on using bank accounts and restrictions on employment, academic study, travel, telephone and internet use. 

Amnesty International has opposed the control orders regime under the PTA since the legislation was drafted.

“Control orders, which are imposed by the executive with only limited judicial scrutiny in unfair procedures, can exert a profound negative effect on the lives of individuals subject to them and their families,” said Nicola Duckworth.

“The secret court procedures in control order hearings undermine the individual’s right to a fair hearing and the restrictions the control order imposes on a person can amount to a deprivation of liberty.”

The Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office has recently embarked on a “rapid review” of six key counter-terrorism powers, including the use of control orders.

Amnesty International has urged the UK government to fully consider human rights implications in the “rapid review” of counter-terrorism legislation.

“The UK has an obligation to prevent and protect against attacks on civilians but counter-terrorism laws must uphold and respect human rights and the rule of law, rather than compromising or eroding them, including by resorting to secrecy and using unfair alternatives to the ordinary criminal justice system.”

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