LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Tony Blair blamed judges on Tuesday for watering down security laws after media reports two terrorism suspects had gone on the run.
One of the two escapees, accused of wanting to go to Iraq to fight, went missing two weeks ago after escaping through a window at a London mental health unit. The other disappeared some months earlier.
The revelations threw the spotlight on Blair’s controversial anti-terrorism laws introduced after the September 11, 2001, attacks, many of which have fallen foul of the courts where they have been ruled illegal for infringing human rights.
At his monthly press conference on Tuesday, Blair re-opened a simmering feud with the judiciary which he accuses of putting the rights of terrorism suspects above the concerns of fellow Britons.
“We, of course, wanted far tougher laws against terrorism. We were prevented by opposition in parliament and then by the courts in ensuring that was done,” he told reporters when questioned about the missing suspects….
So-called control orders were rushed through parliament under last year’s Prevention of Terrorism Act after judges threw out emergency post-September 11 powers which allowed the police to jail foreign terrorism suspects indefinitely.
The measures allow the government to limit suspects’ movements which often amounts to virtual house arrest.
They are applied to terrorism suspects that Britain is unable to deport due to concerns about possible mistreatment in their homeland or cannot put on trial because there is not enough admissible evidence to use in British courts.
However, in June the High Court ruled these powers broke the European Convention of Human Rights because suspects were deprived of their liberty without a trial.
The two escapees, now being hunted by the police, were thus being held under less stringent control orders.
“I wanted to make sure that the original anti-terrorist legislation was maintained in full,” Blair said. “Control orders were never going to be as effective as detention.”…