Methodists voice concern over anti-terror laws

The Methodist Church expressed anxiety today over the proposals to introduce 'control orders' for terrorist suspects. Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, voiced deep concern on behalf of the Church, saying, "there is a very real danger that undue fear could persuade us to adopt measures that will damage the good record of this country on justice and human rights."

The new proposals now being considered by Parliament would introduce control orders ranging from surveillance measures through to house arrest. The Home Secretary would impose the control orders, although amendments proposed in the House of Commons would require the application to a judge for the lesser control orders, such as tagging.

Opponents argue that it should not be left to government ministers to impose severe restrictions on individuals. There is also concern over the low threshold of 'reasonable suspicion' that would allow an order to be imposed.

Steve Hucklesby commented: "Laws such as these have major implications for our constitutional rights and warrant a wide discussion and debate beyond the confines of Parliament. Such a debate was suggested by Charles Clarke in January and it is regrettable therefore that temporary legislation is being rushed through the Commons and Lords in such a perfunctory way.

"The balance between civil liberties and effective protection from terrorism is tricky and calls for sober judgement. The Prime Minister stated on BBC radio that there are several hundred people in this country believed to be plotting terrorist acts Ð a statement not apparently supported by intelligence services. Such statements touch a raw nerve in the our post 9/11 world and there is a very real danger that undue fear could persuade us to adopt measures that will damage the good record of this country on justice and human rights. Terrorism must be tackled on several fronts and rigorous respect for international human rights standards are essential in this endeavour."

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