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Are Human Rights At Stake In The Counter-Terrorism And Border Security Bill?

Andy McHugh

30th October 2018

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which is about to go through the Committee Stage in the House of Lords, has received substantial criticism from human rights advocates.

A major reason for this is that the Bill proposes a new offence of “hostile state activity”. The bill, according to the Home Secretary Sajid David, is not designed to curtail freedoms of law-abiding citizens of the UK. Instead, it is a response to the terror attacks such as the ones in Manchester, Westminster Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green in 2017.

However, legal campaigners have taken issue with the new offence. Under the new bill, journalists and media organisations who criticise and perhaps mobilise readers to vote against the government of the day, could arguably be found to be in breach of the new law. Not only that, but journalists could be detained by border guards without charge and it would become an offence not to hand over materials, despite the obvious risk this would pose to journalists’ sources.

This article in the Guardian outlines some of the main concerns about the Counter-Terrorism And Border Security Bill, put forward by prominent human rights organisations such as Liberty and Big Brother Watch.

It’s good practice to use examples such as this bill, when writing essays about the balancing of conflicting interests in your exam.

  • What are the pros and cons of creating an offence such as “Hostile State Activity”? (You could begin by balancing the right to freedom of expression against the need for protection from terrorism.)
  • Where might the creation of such an offence potentially lead, under the rule of a hypothetical despotic government?
  • Apart from freedom of expression, which other human rights might be under threat from the proposed bill?

Remember, there are nuanced arguments to be made on both sides, so evaluate each point you make before coming to your conclusion.

For much more detailed arguments given during the Second Reading in the House of Lords, you can read the Hansard extract here.

You can also take a look at some tweets related to the bill here:

Andy McHugh

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