Home Secretary criticised by judges over civil liberties

Charles Clarke has been criticised by a panel of eminent international judges over the Government's policies on civil liberties.

The judges were particularly unhappy about the use of control orders and restrictions on the movement of terrorist suspects, branding them a form of house arrest that seriously damaged the lives of those affected.

The Home Secretary came under fire as he gave evidence to an "eminent jurists panel" set up to examine the effect of anti-terrorist policies around the world.

He clashed with the panel's chairman, Arthur Chaskalson, a former president of the South African constitutional court and a lawyer in the 1963 court case in which Nelson Mandela was jailed for life.

Mr Chaskalson criticised control orders, likening them to house arrest in South Africa. He said: 'They have a most devastating impact on the lives of the persons concerned. They can do very little. "If they are not married, the chances of developing a proper relationship in such circumstances and leading a fulfilling life is excluded. If they are married it impacts on their life and their family. It impacts on their work. They are a very, very severe impact on civil liberty and dignity."

But Mr Clarke hit back after the judge said he understood the need to protect against attacks.

He said: "To be quite frank I don't think you do understand. I don't think you have put yourself in the position of how to deal with this threat.

"It is an obligation on everybody, every commentator, every member of Parliament, every lawyer, every journalist to think how do you deal with this. Do we pretend it's not there or do we find there is an alternative way of dealing with it?"

Mr Clarke was also criticised by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, who described Labour's attempts to tackle crime and deal with the terror threat as "ineffective authoritarianism".

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