'Police state' fears over new UK anti-terror powers

Rights groups attack proposals unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron aimed at preventing U.K. fighters in Syria returning to Britain

'Police state' fears over new UK anti-terror powers

World Bulletin/News Desk

Human rights organizations have attacked proposals by the British government to extend "anti-terror" powers in the U.K., with the head of one saying they risked turning the country into a "police state".

The criticism came on Friday after Prime Minister David Cameron disclosed that British fighters travelling abroad to take part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq could be prevented from returning to the U.K. under a new Counter Terrorism Bill.

Under new "exclusion orders" announced by Cameron, suspected fighters would be barred from returning to Britain unless they agreed to be placed under strict controls and any breaches of the orders, which could last up to two years and be renewed, could result in the suspect going to prison. 

Rights groups criticized the new proposals as being unjust and warned they were pushing Britain into becoming a "police state".

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of UK-based human rights organisation Liberty, said: "Dumping suspect citizens like toxic waste and abdicating your responsibilities to the international community is a very strange way of promoting the Rule of Law." 

"Summary powers to 'stop and seize' passports at airports will prove just as divisive and counterproductive as the infamous stop-and-search powers that preceded them," he said.

'Speeches and soundbites'

She added, “When will our governments learn that there are no short cuts to our security? It needs to be built on intelligence, evidence and justice not speeches, soundbites and ever-more new laws."

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, or IHRC, said that, if passed, the new laws would “further discriminate” against Muslims.

IHRC Chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “The helter-skelter descent into a police state governed by political will framed as law continues unabated under this administration. The new proposals further push Muslims out of the protection of the legal safeguards that supposedly apply equally to all."

The commission said that such plans, along with placing suspects on a "no-fly list", would render individuals “stateless".

The IHRC said in a statement it "strongly opposed the extensive and unprecedented use of denaturalization by the current U.K. government to punish citizens whose presence in the U.K. it deems undesirable".

Historic powers

The organisation also called for the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness to be tightened so that deprivation of citizenship is made illegal and that "no derogations from this duty be allowed".

The coalition government is also seeking to give the police and some border officers new powers to seize passports for up to 30 days from anyone at the border who they have reasonable suspicion is travelling to engage in terrorist-related activity.

Since April 2013, 25 British people have had their passoports confiscated under the royal prerogative - a set of historic powers which are officially held by Queen Elizabeth but in reality have passed to politicians - enabling them to take decisions without the backing of parliament. 

The British government says up to 500 Britons have traveled abroad to take part in fighting in Syria, and that at least 218 have returned to the U.K.

Last Mod: 14 Kasım 2014, 23:50
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