ONE OF the UK’s most senior judges has launched an attack on British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s human rights record.
Having resigned from the House of Lords last month, Lord Steyn, who was one of the country’s most senior judicial figures until his recent retirement, has accused Blair of using anti-terrorism measures that will break human rights laws, The Independent newspaper reported.
In an interview with The Independent, Lord Steyn described the Blair Government’s extended detention proposals as “exorbitant and unnecessary”, arguing that it may breach the European Convention on Human Rights. This is the first time he has been able to express his views of government policy.
It is reported that Lord Steyn’s comments follow reservations made by Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith, who reportedly told the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, that he was not certain it would be right to detain terror suspects for 90 days.
The clash over human rights and national security is an ongoing issue in the UK, and senior judges have been asked to approve the deportation of terror suspects in coming months. Four judges have warned they “won’t buckle”, newspaper reports said.
Lord Chief Justice Phillips, in a media briefing last week, said he would support senior judges who argue it is their job to interpret the law, and that ministers should essentially leave them to it. “Occasionally one feels that an individual politician is trying to browbeat the judiciary, and that is wholly inappropriate. We are all trying to do our job to the best of our abilities,” he said at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Commenting on a written ministerial statement from the Home Office on terrorism last week, Guy Mansfield QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said “I’m not satisfied that the case is made for this draconian extension of the power to detain without trial. Even temporary loss of liberty has long been regarded in this country as requiring the highest justification.”