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Banning return of British militant suspects ‘may breach human rights’

A British politician branded proposed measure to bar suspected militants from returning to UK as potential breach of rights

Published: Updated:

A leading Liberal Democrat warned that banning British citizens suspected of terrorism from returning to the United Kingdom could be illegal, The Times newspaper reported.

Plans to ban those suspected of being involved in terrorism are “rather difficult and it might well constitute illegality,” Sir Menzies Campbell, a former Liberal Democrats leader, also a member of the intelligence and security committee, said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 said “any fresh legislation would have to be subject to the scrutiny of parliament. There will be people on all sides of the House, including some of the prime minister’s own backbenchers, who will want to examine in very careful detail any question of extension.”

“To render a citizen stateless is regarded as illegal in international law. To render them stateless temporarily, which seems to be the purpose of what’s been proposed, can also, I think, be described as illegal,” he explained commenting on a proposed “temporary bar” barring those suspected of terrorist activity from entering the UK.

“At the very least it’s the kind of question which will be tested here in our own courts and perhaps also in the European Court of Human Rights,” Campbell said.

Lord Jeremy Ashdown, also a former Liberal Democrat leader, mirrored Campbell’s view as he criticized ministers raising the terrorism threat from “substantial” to “severe”, branding it a plot to frighten people to rally support for the proposed measures.

In an article in The Observer, Ashdown warned that politicians should not act like “cheerleaders” for demands from intelligence and security services, adding that Cameron’s attitude risked alienating moderate Muslims.

“He told us that this fight was about defending ‘western values’. I cannot think of any phrase, short of those used by George Bush during the Iraq war, which more damages our ability to win this battle,” he wrote.

Defense secretary Michael Fallon said on Monday that measures to protect against militants from Britain and western Europe should be strengthened.

The proposed measures

Fallon also defended the policy of preventing suspected militants from travelling to Iraq and Syria while keeping out those returning, denying that it was a “kneejerk response.”

One of the measures believed to be under consideration is to make it easier to temporarily remove a citizen’s passport using temporary seizure power at border checks.

Fallon identified the courts as the biggest challenge to such measures.

The measures may also include heightened powers justified under the terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) apparatus.

David Anders, an independent reviewer of terrorism legistlation, is amongst those who have called for the ability to implement “internal exile” on suspects.

With the proposed measures, security services will also have swifter access to information on airline passenger in addition to increased cooperation with Germany and Turkey, through which militants are believed to have returned to Britain.