Human Rights Watch expressed deep concern today over proposed measures included in the United Kingdom's Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill that would violate human rights and undermine protections provided by the 1951 Refugee Convention.
In a 10-page critique, Human Rights Watch said that the bill would permit the unlawful detention of persons without access to effective appeal and deprive some asylum seekers of individual determinations of their asylum claims without recourse.
"We are dismayed at the measures in the bill because they breach core human rights guarantees," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "There are few rights so fundamental as the right not to be detained without adequate safeguards and the right to seek asylum."
Human Rights Watch also called on the U.K. government to justify its departure from the European Convention on Human Rights and international treaties. Andersen pointed to Home Secretary David Blunkett's recent statements assuring parliament and the public that there is not imminent threat against the U.K or its citizens.
"The Home Secretary himself said that the declaration of a 'state of emergency' was a legal technicality necessary to ensure that anti-terrorism measures that contravene the European Convention on Human Rights could be implemented," said Andersen. "Adoption of this bill would set a dangerous precedent by providing the justification for other signatories to 'opt out' of their human rights obligations regardless of the actual security situation."
The bill, introduced by the Home Office on November 13, relies on a vague and overly inclusive definition of a suspected international terrorist, extending to those with links to terrorist groups or their members. Human Rights Watch cautioned that the use of such broad, undefined terms may lead to the targeting of individuals merely on the basis of their political, national, ethnic, or religious affiliation and that refugees could be excluded from refugee protection for crimes and activities that are not excludable offenses under the Refugee Convention.
"The U.K. is proposing to lock people up without adequate safeguards in violation of basic human rights principles," said Andersen. "The bill simply goes too far."