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Joint Committee publishes report on Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published its Third Report of Session 2010-11, in which it expresses concern over some of the significant human rights issues raised by the Government's Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Bill.
The Committee welcomes the Government amendments made at Lords Committee stage but also makes several recommendations for further improvements to the Bill from a human rights perspective. These include:
making the legal framework on the use of secret evidence fair by making clear that the Government must provide sufficient information about the allegations against an individual to enable them to give effective instructions to the special advocate who represents their interests (paragraphs 37-39)
clarification that asset-freezes can only be imposed where the relevant facts about involvement in terrorism have been proved "on the balance of probabilities"
more detailed justification for enabling the Government, rather than the courts, to impose final asset-freezes
providing for the independent reviewer of the terrorist asset-freezing regime to be appointed by and report directly to Parliament, not to the Government
Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"The power to freeze terrorist assets is an important counter-terrorism measure. However, as it stands, this Bill is a missed opportunity to make sure that it is always used proportionately and fairly.
In particular, there is a chance in this Bill to make sure that the use of secret evidence is never allowed to cause unfairness to people who are made the subject of these draconian measures.
However, we welcome the changes that the Government has made so far to this Bill, and the Committee is currently in correspondence with Ministers about the issues we have flagged up in this preliminary Report.
We may need to consider a further Report when the Bill is before the House of Commons, but this will depend on the extent to which our concerns have been addressed"