'Scrap unfair terror laws' parliamentarians tell Blunkett

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Emergency counter-terrorism laws passed in the wake of September 11 should be urgently replaced because they are discriminatory, a committee of parliamentarians warned today.

Emergency counter-terrorism laws passed in the wake of September 11 should be urgently replaced because they are discriminatory, a committee of parliamentarians warned today.

The all-party Joint Committee on Human Rights said laws drawn up by Home Secretary David Blunkett risked the courts admitting evidence obtained from the torture of suspected terrorists.

The parliamentarians also said they were "not persuaded" of the need to create a new terrorism offence - currently being considered by Mr Blunkett - which would make it illegal to be involved in "acts preparatory to terrorism".

There was "discrimination inherent" in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, which became law within weeks of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, they said.

The report went on: "There is mounting evidence that the powers under the Terrorism Act are being used disproportionately against members of the Muslim community in the UK."

The laws passed in 2001 allow foreign nationals who are suspected international terrorists to be interned indefinitely.

Britain had to derogate - or opt out - from part of the European Convention on Human Rights to allow this imprisonment without trial to take place.

Today's report said: "The committee considers that long term derogation from human rights obligations have a corrosive effect on the culture of respect for human rights.

"If the threat from international terrorism is to continue for the foreseeable future, the committee considers that an alternative way must be found to deal with that threat without derogating indefinitely from important human rights considerations."

The report, published a day after 13 more suspects were arrested in England using anti-terrorism powers, raised concerns that there were inadequate safeguards on the internment process, after one detainee was released after 15 months in jail.

But the members backed the idea that information obtained from telephone taps and other intercepted information such as e-mail should be allowed as evidence in court.

They also said Mr Blunkett's proposals for civil orders to restrict the activities of people linked to terrorism should be considered, "including access to an independent judicial determination and a test of strict necessity".

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