So the Law Lords have declared that the government’s policy of control orders breaches the Human Rights Act. This should surprise noone. By their very nature control orders are inhuman (and will be the subject of an imminent blog post from me, via Amnesty International), but the Lords found they breached the European Convention on Human Rights because they deprive those subject to them from the due process of law. Astonishingly new Home Secretary Alan Johnson argued that due process could justifiably be avoided:
The Home Office argued that it was sometimes possible to have a fair hearing without any disclosure depending on the circumstances of the case. Security-vetted special advocates are supposed to represent the interests of those placed on control orders in each case.
The terms of the control orders imposed on individual suspects by the home secretary include curfews at their home address of up to 16 hours, a ban on travelling abroad, all visitors to be approved by the Home Office, monitoring of all phone calls and a ban on internet and mobile phone use.
Johnson himself said:
“All control orders will remain in force for the time being and we will continue to seek to uphold them in the courts. In the meantime we will consider this judgment and our options carefully.”
He said control orders were introduced to limit the risk posed by suspected terrorists who could neither be prosecuted nor deported. “The government relies on sensitive intelligence material to support the imposition of a control order, which the courts have accepted would damage the public interest to disclose in open court.
“We take our obligations to human rights seriously and as such we have put strong measures in place to try to ensure that our reliance on sensitive material does not prejudice the right of individuals subject to control orders to a fair trial.”
So no change from the reshuffled government then. They actually believe it’s possible to have a fair trial with evidence against the plaintiff kept secret from them?
In the ruling, Lord Philips said: “A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him.”
This, New Labour, is why we hate you. Control orders have to go. House arrest – actual Big Brother levels of control – is condemned in Burma; it’s unthinkable for it to be continuing here against anyone, and it’s monstrous for Johnson to say the government takes its obligations to human rights seriously.