The House of Lords in the UK is expected to vote on Monday on proposals that would allow the period of pre-charge detention in terrorism cases to be extended.
The proposals, contained in the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008, would allow a government minister to extend the maximum period of pre-charge detention from 28 days up to 42 days. As a result, people suspected of involvement in terrorism could be detained for six weeks without being charged with any criminal offence.
Amnesty International has unreservedly opposed any further extension of the period for which people can be detained without charge in the UK.
“28 days is already too long,” said David Edwards, Amnesty International’s researcher on the UK.
The House of Commons, the lower house of the UK parliament, narrowly approved the proposals, by 315 votes to 306, in June 2008.
Amnesty International has called on the members of the House of Lords to take this opportunity to reject this dangerous proposal, which would, if enacted, take the law in the UK even further away from the basic principle that people who are detained have a right to be charged promptly, or to be released.
If the proposals are rejected by the House of Lords, they will return to the House of Commons, and – unless the government agrees to withdraw them – could be put to the vote again there. If the government chooses, and if it can muster sufficient support in the House of Commons, it could eventually invoke exceptional powers (known as the Parliament Act) to force the proposals through against the will of the House of Lords; this process would take at least another year.