The British government Wednesday published its standards for excluding or deporting extremists who foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence, and it promised to act against some people within days.
Amnesty International condemned the measure — part of the government’s response to the July 7 suicide bombings that killed 52 people in London — as a violation of human rights. Another human rights group said it feared deportees might be tortured in their native countries.
“We have a number of names that we are considering at the moment,” said Home Secretary Charles Clarke, adding that action would be taken “very quickly” in some cases.
Clarke said the criteria included those who foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence; seek to provoke terrorist acts or crimes; or promote hatred between communities. He said the action was taken to meet a “real and significant threat” of terrorism.
Clarke said the measures would be applied in “a measured and targeted way,” and were not intended to stifle free speech.
Rules assailed for ‘vagueness’
But Halya Gowan, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program, said “the vagueness and breadth of the definition of ’unacceptable behavior’ and ’terrorism’ can lead to further injustice and risk further undermining human rights protection in the U.K.”
The prohibited activities include writing, producing or publishing provocative material, preaching and other public speech, running a Web site or exerting influence in positions such as a teacher or community leader.
“Individuals who seek to create fear, distrust and division in order to stir up terrorist activity will not be tolerated by the government or by our communities,” Clarke said.
The Muslim Council of Great Britain, representing some 400 Islamic organizations, called the government criteria too broad and unclear, and warned they could backfire.
“It would be more prudent to bring persons who threaten the peace and security of the realm, whether resident or visiting, to trial under our own laws,” the council said. “Sending them out may turn them into unwanted heroes who may then be free to export their vile thoughts, if such be the case, from exile. We do not want this.”
Opposition political parties, however, welcomed the move.
Opposition politicians welcome move
“We have been calling for the home secretary to use these powers for some time,” Conservative legislator David Davis said, adding he hoped the measures would be implemented “robustly and effectively.”
“We broadly welcome the use of powers to deport people, as long as the individuals involved have a right to appeal and the case for deportation is reasonable,” Liberal Democrat lawmaker Mark Oaten said.
Britain is seeking agreements with several countries in North Africa and the Middle East to provide assurances that deportees do not face torture or abuse. Britain has refused to deport anyone who is liable to such mistreatment.
“Today’s announcement fails to answer the fundamental question; will the government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture?” said James Welch, legal director of civil rights organization Liberty.
“We believe it is better for terrorist suspects to be tried than shuffled around the world,” he said. “If they have to be deported, then at the very least there must be corroboration and robust involvement from international human rights monitors.”