Methodists voice concern over anti-terror laws

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

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

Opponents argue that it should not be left to governmentministers to impose severe restrictions on individuals. There isalso concern over the low threshold of 'reasonable suspicion' thatwould allow an order to be imposed.

Steve Hucklesby commented: "Laws such as these have majorimplications for our constitutional rights and warrant a widediscussion and debate beyond the confines of Parliament. Such adebate was suggested by Charles Clarke in January and it isregrettable therefore that temporary legislation is being rushedthrough the Commons and Lords in such a perfunctory way.

"The balance between civil liberties and effective protectionfrom terrorism is tricky and calls for sober judgement. The PrimeMinister stated on BBC radio that there are several hundred peoplein this country believed to be plotting terrorist acts Ð astatement not apparently supported by intelligence services. Suchstatements touch a raw nerve in the our post 9/11 world and thereis a very real danger that undue fear could persuade us to adoptmeasures that will damage the good record of this country onjustice and human rights. Terrorism must be tackled on severalfronts and rigorous respect for international human rightsstandards are essential in this endeavour."