Statement on the release of terror suspects

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

Whilst welcoming the announcement the Methodist Church alsoexpresses concern at the proposals to replace detention withouttrial with the introduction of new 'control orders,' in which thosesuspected of terrorism will be subject to measures ranging fromcurfews to house arrest. Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary forInternational Affairs, says, "We are concerned at the lack ofrecourse to due process to challenge such orders given the severityof the measures proposed. The use of house arrest is likely torequire a fresh derogation from the European Convention on HumanRights."

The powers will extend to British citizens and those allegedlyinvolved in domestic terrorism. Restrictions on access to evidencewill still apply, so people who are accused and their lawyers willbe unable to examine all the evidence held against them. The HomeSecretary, acting under new executive powers, would approve theorders.

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

"The ability to scrutinise and challenge the evidence is vitalif we are to have confidence in the justice of applying suchorders," says Steve Hucklesby, "the result of which is still aserious restriction on individual liberty. The Methodist Churchurges the government to grant the right to appeal against controlorders through the judicial process. It asks the Government toconsider ways of safeguarding the liberties of its citizens that donot require a derogation from the European Convention on HumanRights."