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Volume 12 Number 1
New Delhi, Spring 2005

Control Orders to Combat Terror: Replacing One Kind of Detention For Another in the United Kingdom

- Stephanie Aiyagari
London Liaison Officer

The notorious Guantánamo Bay Naval Base is in the news yet again. After admitting lack of evidence to prosecute, U.S. authorities released four people to the British authorities on 25 January 2005 who had been held at the base in Cuba for up to three years. After arresting the men under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for suspicion of involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, the authorities released them to their families the following night.

According to his lawyer, Gitanjali Gutierrez, detainee Feroz Abbasi claimed to have experienced harsh interrogation techniques while in Cuba. He said he was held in long-term isolation, denied access outdoors, and injected with a substance inducing psychosis. Abbasi suffered mental breakdowns and hallucinations while in custody. The questioning in Britain added to further stress and panic. Abbasi’s statements to his lawyer is similar to the accounts of the other three released British detainees.

The British Government’s proposed Control Orders announced on 27 January 2005, if passed will lead to terror suspects being forced into a kind of detention, which will in effect curtail individual liberty and repress human rights. Suspects such as Abassi and the more than a dozen other being held in the United Kingdom (UK), mainly in Belmarsh prison and Broadmoor high security hospital may be subjected to heightened surveillance including electronic tagging, curfews, and barred from usage of mobile phones or the internet. The house arrest clause has raised political opposition, particularly in upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, and at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Guantanamo Bay

The Control Orders in the face of it might appear to be a preferable alternative to the indefinite detention without trial used against terror suspects under the Terrorism Act of 2000 (TACT) and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001 (ATCSA). One reason why human rights supporters have argued against indefinite detention is that the grounds for detention under TACT or ATCSA need only be reasonable for suspecting involvement in terrorist activity. This low threshold has historically been the basis for initial arrest, not for incarceration that potentially lasts a lifetime.

Indefinite detention is also seen as problematic because it is almost always fundamentally unfair,1 and it tends to condone if not promote torture. For these reasons, several United Nations (UN) human rights rapporteurs expressed their continuing concern about the treatment of detainees in Guantánamo Bay on 4 February 2005.


CHRI Newsletter, Spring 2005

Editors: Vaishali Mishra & Clare Doube, CHRI;
Print: Anshu Tejpal, Electronic:
Jyoti Bhargava, CHRI; Web Developer: Swayam Mohanty, CHRI.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to all contributors

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The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent international NGO mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth.