Islamic Human Rights Commission
PRESS RELEASE 15 October 2001
Concerns that New Anti-Terror Laws Violate Human Rights
The Islamic Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about aspects of the new anti-terrorism measures outlined by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett in Parliament in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Incitement to religious hatred
As part of the measures he announced plans to make incitement to religious hatred a criminal offence. This decision to widen the law to encompass religious as well as racial hatred comes in response to requests from the Muslim community in the UK to provide them with adequate protection against the backlash of physical and verbal abuse generated by the atrocities in the USA.
However, the IHRC remain skeptical of the motives behind this new measure and regards it as a token gesture, lacking in practical effect. The Commission has written to David Blunkett voicing its concerns, pointing out that under incitement to racial hatred, only 35 convictions have been secured since 1988. Extending current legislation to include incitement to religious hatred would not be effective in deterring and punishing perpetrators in the absence of further measures. For example, discrimination in the police and criminal justice system needs to be addressed if the new measures are to be effective.
The IHRC has further pointed out to the Home Secretary that the Government, if it is serious in providing protection to Muslims, should also extend religious discrimination into other fields such as employment and education. These are also areas in which Muslims need protection from discrimination, and failure to address these issues, again, brings the Government’s motive into question.
Tightening asylum claims and faster extradition process
As part of the anti-terrorist measures, the Government also proposes to tighten asylum claims of ‘terrorist suspects’. IHRC has urged David Blunkett to continue to base the determination of asylum claims on whether that person has a well-founded fear of persecution and should not be deported back to countries where they are likely to face such treatment. Asylum seekers should be treated fairly and in accordance with human rights standards.
With regards to proposals to speed up the extradition process, it is necessary that the Government maintains essential human rights norms and standards and that British courts are able to assess the evidence against the person before extradition takes places. In both cases an appeals process should available to review the decisions of asylum claims determination and extradition. The IHRC has expressed concern of using anti-terrorism measures as an excuse to act unjustly and arbitrarily towards asylum seekers in an already oppressive asylum and immigration system.
The failure to define who is a terrorist suspect creates serious problems. Indeed, those branded as terrorists may be legitimate organizations trying to overthrow oppressive regimes.
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