Is this the end of control orders?
For the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Letting go of control orders” is an article I wrote examining whether the government’s much-criticized system of house arrest for terror suspects held without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence is on the verge of collapse after a judge quashed the control order that had kept a joint British-Libyan national (identified only as AF) tagged, monitored and held on a 14-hour curfew for over three years.
The judge’s decision followed a crucial ruling in June, when the Law Lords demonstrated that they had had enough of the government’s approach to dealing with terror suspects who cannot be deported (in some cases because they are British nationals) and who, ministers maintain, cannot be put forward for a trial, because it would compromise intelligence sources and methods, by ruling that the imposition of control orders breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, because a suspect held under a control order is not given “sufficient information about the allegations against him to enable him to give effective instructions to the special advocate assigned to him.”
With strong hints from the Home Office that the remaining control orders (thought to number around 19) will be allowed to lapse, now is a good time not only for the government to finally accept that it should join the rest of the world in finding a way to use intercept evidence in court (involving a number of perfectly valid techniques to protect its sources and methods — see PDF), but also for campaigners to press the government to drop the cases of a number of other men held on deportation bail, who are also being detained on the basis of secret evidence.
As this latest case concerned a joint British-Libyan national, writing this article also gave me an opportunity to demonstrate how, with regard to the Libyans held as terror suspects in the UK, the British government appears to be less concerned with preventing terrorism, and more concerned with bowing to the wishes of the pariah-turned-ally Colonel Gaddafi, and the lucrative oil contracts that await British companies in the Libyan desert. As I note in the conclusion to my article, “As the control order regime crumbles, it is time that this hypocrisy regarding the Libyans also comes to an end.”
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the USand the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.
For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008)