The UK House of Commons narrowly passed (315 to 306) Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s proposal to extend the period terrorism suspects could be held without charges to 42 days, according to various news outlets. The International Herald Tribune reports that this legislation is the latest of several expansions of the detention power:
From a limit of 48 hours in the 2000, the limit was extended to 14 days in 2003 and 28 days in 2006, after the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair was defeated in 2005 in a bid to push the limit to 90 days. After taking office last year, Brown proposed that the limit be set at 56 days, but settled for 42 days in the face of widespread opposition.
The law next goes to the House of Lords, where one member has already said the legislation faces a “very rough ride.”
I agree with David Cameron, head of the Conservative Party (Leader of the Opposition), who rejects the contention that the expanded no-charge detention time is necessary for terrorism prevention. On Wednesday, he spoke up against the legislation and ended with:
I have no sympathy for terrorists whatsoever, but I want the House to imagine for a moment what if feels like if you are innocent under this regime.
You are taken from your bed in the early hours of the morning.
You are locked in a cell for 6 weeks – 1000 hours – and you do not know why – not what you are accused of, not what the suspicions are, not what the evidence is.
You do not know what is happening to your job.
You do not know what is happening to your reputation.
You do not know what is happening to your wife and the neighbours.
You do not know what is happening to your children, facing sometimes the harsh cruelty of other children.
You do not know this for six weeks – 1000 hours.
So what we have is the worst of all worlds.
A symbolic assault on liberty which is unnecessary.
A change in the law which is counter-productive.
And a procedure which is unworkable.
Isn’t the only way to describe what the government is proposing today is that it is ineffective authoritarianism?