Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stop-and-search powers ruled illegal by European court

Police powers to use terror laws to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion are illegal, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The Strasbourg court has been hearing a case involving two people stopped near an arms fair in London in 2003.

It said that Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton's right to respect for a private and family life was violated.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he was disappointed with the ruling and would appeal against it.

Chief Constable Craig Mackey of the Association of Chief Police Officers said officers would continue to use stop and search powers while the appeal was pending.

'Discriminatory use'

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the home secretary to authorise police to make random searches in certain circumstances.

But the European Court of Human Rights said the pair's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

The court said the stop and search powers were "not sufficiently circumscribed" and there were not "adequate legal safeguards against abuse".

It also concluded that "the risks of the discriminatory use of the powers" were "a very real consideration".

The pair were awarded 33,850 euros (£30,400) to cover legal costs.

They were both stopped outside the Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition at the Excel Centre in London Docklands in 2003, where there had already been protests and demonstrations.

Mr Gillan, 32, from London, was detained by police for about 20 minutes as he was cycling to join the demonstration.

Ms Quinton, 39, a journalist from London, was in the area to film the protests. She said she felt she was detained for about 30 minutes, although police records said it was five minutes.

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From
Stop and Search "illegal", says Euro court by John Hill, The Wharf

...The Home Office has pledged to appeal the ruling, but anger over the broad use of terror laws has been building in the UK for several years. The court noted that the number of searches recorded by the Ministry of Justice leaped from 33,177 to 117,278 between 2004 and 2008.

The powers have been employed to marshal protests outside Docklands events such as the DSEi arms fair and last year's G20 summit, but the court observed that an "individual can be stopped anywhere and at any time, without notice and without any choice as to whether or not to submit to a search".


[ ... ]

The complaint went to the European court after it was unanimously dismissed by the House of Lords in 2006, having previously been rejected by the High Court in 2003.

The pair claimed the use of the Section 44 power breached the Human Rights Act on four counts, namely their right to liberty and security (article five), their right to respect for private and family life (article eight), their right to freedom of expression (article 10) and their right to freedom of assembly and association (article 11). The court agreed that article eight had been violated.

The ruling said that "in the court's view, the wide discretion conferred on the police under the 2000 Act, both in terms of the authorisation of the power to stop and search and its application in practice, had not been curbed by adequate legal safeguards so as to offer the individual adequate protection against arbitrary interference".

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Obama sets up council of governors

President Barack Obama Monday established a panel of state governors to collaborate with Washington on a variety of potential emergencies, the White House said.

Obama signed an executive order establishing a panel to be known as the Council of Governors, which will be made up of 10 state governors, to be selected by the president to serve two-year terms. Members will review matters involving the National Guard; homeland defense; civil support; and synchronization and integration of state and federal military activities in the United States, the White House said in a statement.

The statement said the White House would seek input from governors and governors' association in deciding which governors to appoint to the council, which will have no more than five governors from the same party.

The secretaries of defense and homeland security will also sit on the council, as will presidential assistants for homeland security and counterterrorism, intergovernmental affairs, the U.S. Northern Command commander, the commandant of the Coast Guard, and the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

The panel was set up under a provision of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, the White House said.

~ Source: UPI ~

Death and taxes...

...Syd Barrett style

Iraq invasion violated international law, Dutch inquiry finds

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a violation of international law, an independent inquiry in the Netherlands has found.

In a damning series of findings on the decision of the Dutch government to support Tony Blair and George Bush in the strategy of regime change in Iraq, the inquiry found the action had "no basis in international law".

The 551-page report, published today and chaired by former Dutch supreme court judge Willibrord Davids, said UN resolutions in the 1990s prior to the outbreak of war gave no authority to the invasion. "The Dutch government lent its political support to a war whose purpose was not consistent with Dutch government policy. The military action had no sound mandate in international law," it said.

The report came as the Chilcot inquiry in the UK heard evidence from Tony Blair's former press secretary, Alastair Campbell, about Britain's decision to enter the war.

Comparisons between the Davids report, which looked at the decision-making process surrounding the Dutch decision to back the war, and Chilcot's have led to criticism that the UK was not conducting a similar analysis of the legal implications in the run-up to the war.

The findings of the Davids report has serious implications for the UK, experts say, as it raises questions about the use of intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), an issue addressed by Campbell in his evidence before the Chilcot panel this morning.

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