Statement on the release of terror suspects

The Methodist Church welcomes the announcement on Wednesday of the intention to release of the twelve detainees held in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons under the anti terrorist legislation.

Whilst welcoming the announcement the Methodist Church also expresses concern at the proposals to replace detention without trial with the introduction of new 'control orders,' in which those suspected of terrorism will be subject to measures ranging from curfews to house arrest. Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for International Affairs, says, "We are concerned at the lack of recourse to due process to challenge such orders given the severity of the measures proposed. The use of house arrest is likely to require a fresh derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights."

The powers will extend to British citizens and those allegedly involved in domestic terrorism. Restrictions on access to evidence will still apply, so people who are accused and their lawyers will be unable to examine all the evidence held against them. The Home Secretary, acting under new executive powers, would approve the orders.

Ian MacDonald QC has criticised the "reasonable grounds to suspect" threshold, pointing out that those detained under house arrest would have no right to know what information is held against them or the grounds on which they have been detained.

"The ability to scrutinise and challenge the evidence is vital if we are to have confidence in the justice of applying such orders," says Steve Hucklesby, "the result of which is still a serious restriction on individual liberty. The Methodist Church urges the government to grant the right to appeal against control orders through the judicial process. It asks the Government to consider ways of safeguarding the liberties of its citizens that do not require a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights."

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