Ministers are warned to respect rights of Muslims

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The Independent Online

The most senior judge in England and Wales has warned ministers that failure to protect the human rights of Muslim communities will fuel support for terrorism in Britain.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, said a respect for human rights was the "key weapon" in the battle of ideologies. He told lawyers and students at the University of Hertfordshire: "Since the Second World War, we have welcomed to the United Kingdom millions of immigrants from all corners of the globe, many of them refugees from countries where human rights were not respected. It is essential that they, and their children and grandchildren, should be confident their adopted country treats them without discrimination and with due respect for their human rights.

"If they feel they are not being fairly treated, their consequent resentment will inevitably result in the growth of those who, actively or passively, are prepared to support the terrorists who are bent on destroying the fabric of our society. The Human Rights Act is not merely their safeguard, it is a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism."

The judge said terrorism was not easily defined. "As an ex-colonial power, the United Kingdom has been responsible for detaining without trial as terrorist suspects in India, in Kenya, in Cyprus, men who have gone on to be their country's leaders. There are still minorities, striving for independence, who resort to measures that are condemned by the regimes in power as terrorism."

But we face a new kind of terrorism, he said. "The suicide bomber is a new phenomenon and one against whom the theory that punishment deters crime is inapplicable." He said the Government's response had been to bring in measures which courts had ruled were incompatible with the Human Rights Act.