Terrorist threat 'exploited to curb civil liberties'

Security measures brought in after September 11 attacks 'undermined the rule of law'

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused the Government of exploiting public fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties.

Her comments came on the same day as a report published by international jurists suggested that Britain and America have led other countries in "actively undermining" the rule of law and "threatening civil liberties" in the guise of fighting terrorism.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, Dame Stella said that a series of increasingly draconian policies have led British citizens to "live in fear and under a police state".

The 73-year-old said: "Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people's privacy.

"It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state."

Dame Stella, who became the first female head of MI5 in 1992 and held the position until 1996, has long been a vocal critic of the Government's plans to introduce ID cards and lengthen the amount of time terror suspects are held without charge to 42 days. In the interview yesterday, she also criticised the United States.

She said: "The US has gone too far with Guantanamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification."

The former MI5 chief chose to air her views on the same day as a three-year study called for urgent measures to stop the erosion of individual freedom by states and the abandoning of draconian measures brought on with the "War on Terror".

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the legal framework which broadly existed in democratic countries before 9/11 was "sufficiently robust to meet current threats".

Instead, a series of security measures were brought in, many of which were illegal and counter-productive, instilling anger and resentment expressed through violent protests.

One worrying development, says the report, was that liberal democracies such as the UK and US have been at the forefront of advocating the new aggressive policies and that has given totalitarian regimes the excuse to bring in their own repressive laws.

The ICJ panel, which included Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and Arthur Chaskelson, the former president of the South African constitutional court, gathered their evidence from 40 countries.

They took testimony from government officials, ministers, and people in prison for alleged terrorist offences.

The actions of the US has immense influence on the behaviour of other countries, the study maintained, and the jurists called on President Barack Obama to repeal policies which came with the "war on terror paradigm" and were inconsistent with international human rights law. "In particular, it should renounce the use of torture and other proscribed interrogation techniques, extraordinary renditions, and secret and prolonged detention without charge or trial".

The report stated: "The framework of international law is being undermined... the US and UK have led that undermining."

The jurists examined cases which included "individuals abducted and held in secret prisons, where they have been tortured and ill-treated; terrorist suspects held incommunicado for extended periods before being charged and before they have access to lawyers; a culture of secrecy (in which) suspects are being placed beyond the basic protections afforded by... international humanitarian laws".

The ICJ "received evidence that intelligence services... effectively enjoy impunity for human rights violations. In addition... state secrecy or public interest immunity have been used to foreclose civil suits and hence remedies to the victims of such abuses."

Mr Chaskelson, chairman of the panel, said: "... we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive... counter-terrorism measures..."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We recognise clearly our obligations to protect the public from terrorist atrocities while upholding our firm commitment to human rights and civil liberties. Our policies strike that balance."

'War on terror' The mistakes repeated

*Giving evidence to the panel, Sir Ken Macdonald, Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions said: "There is no such thing as a 'war on terror'... The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, enforcement of our laws ..."

The report also says the "war on terror" is repeating the mistakes made by the British in Northern Ireland. It states: "Sometimes the parallels are almost surreal. Witnesses talked of the failed detention policies in Northern Ireland as having led to 'hundreds of young men in working-class nationalist communities joining the IRA and creating one of the most efficient insurgency forces in the world ...' One must wonder, 30 years later, what impact the sight of the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib is having on young Muslims in Britain and elsewhere."

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin