The Impact of UK domestic counter-terrorism policies on those detained in the War on Terror
Asim Qureshi has assembled a dossier of 71 individuals subject to judicial processes in the UK that are inconsistent with respect for civil liberties. It is an achievement that should not be underestimated, because information is not forthcoming from official sources. The recourse is then to media reports, which can often be incomplete and contradictory, or to face-to-face interviews with those concerned.
Sir Nigel Rodley, the distinguished human rights lawyer and professor, notes in his foreword to this report: “this disturbing publication reminds us of three things, what a wide array of techniques have been developed to detain or otherwise restrict people’s freedom in the United Kingdom, without their having been charged or convicted in this country of any offence; two, how susceptible the techniques may be to error or even abuse; and, three, how destructive of the well-being of the affected individuals and their families, getting caught up in the maze of legal procedure can be…this publication will suggest to thoughtful readers that review of the system is called for”.
Among the tragic cases documented by Asim Qureshi is that of Faraj Hassan: “Faraj Hassan (aka Detainee AS) was not unlike many asylum seekers – fleeing the prosecution of a tyrannical regime (in his case, Libya) for the perceived safety and justice of the UK. Yet in May 2002, with scarcely a month having passed since his arrival in Britain, Hassan found his movements being shadowed. Not long after, officers from Scotland Yard’s Special Unit and their immigration official colleagues paid Hassan an unexpected dawn visit at his brother’s home. Despite Hassan displaying the Home Office papers as proof that he was not an illegal immigrant as alleged, he was given the optoin of going to the police station freely or in chains. He chose the former, and his journey through the injustices of false accusations of terrorism began.
After the discovery of the Italian passport that had at the time been Hassan’s only hope of survival, immigration officials decided to transfer Hassan to a correctional facility in Leicester some 115 miles away, while they looked at his asylum claims. After repeated protestations of innocence to the anti-terrorism officers who interrogated him, Hassan was tempted with the promise of residency for himself, his wife and daughter, if he would comply with demands to supply the names of those he knew – something which he refused to do.
After two months, Hassan was returned to London and sentenced to two months (of which he had already served one) on account of the passport he had used to save his life. Being shuttled between prisons and having repeat bail demands refused, Hassan faced racism and prejudice. After 15 months of detention, he was charged under the Terrorism Act in June 2003 and faced extradition to Italy. Despite being found not guilty of terrorism-related crimes by the Court of Milan, Hassan’s solicitor informed him that the Home Office were to extradite him to Italy by force. At the very last minute, the extradition order was suspended and he was faced with the new drama of SIAC (Special Immigration Appeals Commission). Following a period of incarceration in HMP Long Lartin, after more than four years of humiliation, Hassan was reunited with his wife and daughter in 2007”.
The policy of ‘Control Orders’ was instituted in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. It provides for a wide range of limitations to be imposed – on a person’s movement through curfew, monitoring and vetting of those they may associate, police powers to allow unannounced searching and removal of items from their premises – with breach punishable by up to five years in prison, and/or an unlimited fine. Examples of the kinds of restrictions documented by Qureshi in over 30 individuals range from the wearing of a tag, twenty-two hour curfew, restriction on visitors above the age of ten, no mobile or internet use, signing at a police station several times a day and being subjected to random police searches.
One of the cases best documented by Asim Qureshi is Cerie Bullivant’s, a British citizen who converted to Islam in 2004 and lived with his mother and studied for a nursing degree in Southbank University. He was placed under a control order in July 2006 – “authorities alleged he was on his way to Iraq to fight Coalition troops, and therefore was a threat to national security. Bullivant was banned from travelling, was obliged to sign in at a local police station daily and made to live in a prescribed address. However after eight months conditions deteriorated further, with a prohibition against education and employment. Worse was to come, as Bullivant’s mother was subject to house searches, and his recently married wife and her family were subject to regular police raids on their home.” When Bullivant absconded the government lifted the anonymity order and he notes that he became “the most wanted man in Britain. I was the lead item …of every national newspaper” with TV crews outside his home. The pressures affected his mother’s health and he gave himself in. His control order was eventually overturned in the High Court, but he notes, “I just feel that the government has no basis for high moral ground anymore”.
Qureshi’s report calls the current state of affairs with detention without charge, the use of control orders and other measures as ‘legislative immorality’. It calls for the use of control orders in particular to be removed from the statute book. The report is a sad account of official callousness and bullying of the vulnerable.