LONDON (AP) Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government will seek emergency powers next week to detain terrorist suspects without trial as part of its response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the government said.
Home Secretary David Blunkett will seek parliamentary approval today to claim a “derogation,” or exception, from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to liberty and prohibits detention without trial.
Under Article 15 of the convention, governments are allowed to opt out of Article 5 in times of war or other public emergency.
Mr. Blunkett will seek the right to detain without trial under what the Home Office called “very limited circumstances” in which a foreign national is suspected of involvement in international terrorism and is believed to pose a threat to national security, if there is no immediate prospect of the suspect being returned to his or her country of origin.
The definition would cover, for example, asylum seekers suspected of terrorist involvement who cannot be sent back to their homelands because they have a well-founded fear their lives would be in danger there.
A Home Office spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, made clear that the suspect would still have recourse to the courts and could appeal the detention.
“Such detention will be subject to proceedings under a High Court judge with the right of appeal,” the spokesman said.
Internment without trial has been used before, against Northern Ireland terrorist suspects, and German citizens during World War II.
On Oct. 15, the government announced its plans for emergency anti-terrorism legislation that would extend the powers of police and customs, tighten immigration regulations and halt the flow of terror funding.
Mr. Blunkett pledged to strike a balance between civil liberties and the need to meet the threat of terrorism.
And at the time, he said the government would require a limited suspension of a provision of European human rights legislation.
John Wadham, director of the civil rights group Liberty, complained Saturday that “this is a fundamental violation of the rule of law, our rights and traditional British values.”
“The situation in the [United Kingdom] does not warrant such an extreme attack on a historic core principle of British justice,” he added.
“Liberty’s human rights litigation unit will seek to challenge this in the European courts as soon as possible,” he said.