Counter-terrorism legislation could be challenged under ECHR says Law Society

Counter-terrorism legislation could be challenged under ECHR says Law Society

The UK government’s proposed anti-terrorism measures could be successfully challenged under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Law Society of Scotland has warned.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill introduces a number of measures to restrict the movement of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism related activities.

The House of Lords and House of Commons joint committee on human rights has also published its report on the bill.

The bill establishes a system of temporary exclusion orders, which is an order preventing and individual with the right of abode not to return to the UK.

Alan McCreadie, deputy director of law reform said: “There have not been such restrictions on the movement of British citizens during peacetime, the last comparable piece of legislation being enacted during the Second World War.

“The right of abode is an attribute of citizenship, and being a citizen is a basis for holding certain rights enforceable under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Providing the home secretary with the power to deprive a UK citizen of their right to live in the country of which they are a citizen is an unprecedented power in UK legislation.

“It is important that consideration is given as to how the provisions of the bill ensure the rights conferred under ECHR are upheld.

“We are pleased to see that the joint committee on human rights agrees with our views.

“We believe that the temporary exclusion order should be subject to court procedure prior to imposition, and that the imposition of such an order by the secretary of state without recourse to the courts could be successfully challenged under ECHR.”

The bill also allows for the seizure and temporary retention of passports by the police, where an individual is suspected of intending to leave the UK, or has arrived in the UK with the intention of leaving soon after for the purposes of terrorist activity.

Mr McCreadie said: “There are existing travel restriction powers which were introduced in 2011, which are designed to protect the public from persons believed to be engaged in terrorism-related activity.

“We question whether the provision to seize and retain a person’s passport is a justified interference with the individual’s rights of respect to a private and family life under Article 8 ECHR.”

The bill is going through its parliamentary passage under the “fast track” procedure, which means that the House of Lords will be asked to waive the recommended minimum intervals between the stages of the bill.

Mr McCreadie added: “We support any measure which addresses recognised terrorism threats, and which would prevent people from engaging in terrorism related activity.

“However, the provisions of this bill have significant restriction implications on the fundamental rights of British citizens and we are concerned at the speed at which it is passing through parliament.

“It is important that measures as significant as these have the opportunity for detailed scrutiny and debate, and we fear this is not the case.”

Share icon
Share this article: