London – Yesterday (July 10th) the House of Commons’ Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) published their report on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, currently making its way through Parliament.
In the report, the JCHR expresses concerns about the broad scope of provisions in the Bill, the extent to which they ‘extend the reach of the criminal law into private spaces’ and how they may disproportionately criminalise expressions and behaviour.
Of particular concern for them are clauses in the Bill about the criminalising of the publication of images connected to proscribed organisations, and a three-strike policy on viewing ‘terrorist’ content online. Also of concern is the enforcement of Schedule 7-style stop and search powers for the purporese of investigating ‘Hostile Acts’.
They also convey anxiety about the possible impact on journalists and academics who may find themselves caught up in the cast net of counter-terror policing and the ‘chilling effect’ this could have on them.
The JCHR is rightly alarmed by the proposals in the Bill, and CAGE share many concerns about the scope of the powers in the Bill.
Rather than heeding calls from across society to fundamentally rethink those approaches to security and counter-terrorism, this Bill sees the government further cement provisions that have seen norms of due process abandoned, and individuals criminalised unjustly.
The dangers presented in this Bill include:
- Strengthening the hard arm of policing by introducing new and broader terror-related offences and longer prison sentences;
- Widening the scope of surveillance and intelligence-gathering outside the sphere of crime, with new powers to stop, search and detain individuals without suspicion; and
- Securitising the public sector further, by co-opting local authorities further into the counter-terror apparatus.
Drawing from our breadth of first-hand experience supporting individuals affected by counter-terror legislation, the threat of overpolicing and criminalisation is a clear and present reality, not just an abstract concern.
And while journalists and academics may indeed be at risk, in our experience it is ordinary people, particularly Muslims, who find themselves at the sharp end of overpolicing under counter-terrorism powers.
However, we differ from the JCHR’s suggestions of amendments and tweaks to the Bill, which still appear to justify its provisions.
CAGE believes that the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (CTBS) 2018, will increase an already unreasonable security environment in the UK, beyond all measure of necessity, and must be opposed in its entirety.
You can read our briefing in full here.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)