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24th Jan 2022

Britain calls for change to European Convention on Human Rights

In the aftermath of the July bomb attacks in London, senior politicians are now warning that EU citizens will have to accept curbs on their civil liberties in the fight against terrorism.

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday (7 September), UK home secretary Charles Clarke said the 50-year old European Convention on Human Rights had to be reviewed.

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"European Union states may have to accept an erosion of some civil liberties if their citizens are to be protected from organised crime and terrorism", said Mr Clarke.

"The reality of the convention's founding fathers is different from that of today", he stated in his opening address.

Mr Clarke said citizens' right to privacy had to balanced with their right to be protected from terrorism, and that the convention was imbalanced - in favour of the terrorist.

The British politician said that the results of the French and the Dutch referendums on the EU constitution before the summer were proof that the citizens of Europe feel that the EU is doing far to little to tackle problems to do with terrorism, organised crime and asylum.

His comments received a mixed response from MEPs.

UK liberal MEP Graham Watson said that he welcomed the commitment to fight terrorism, but added the fight could never be at the cost of human rights.

"We do not agree ... that the human rights of the victims are more important than the human rights of the terrorists." "Human Rights are indivisible. Freedom and security are not alternatives, they go hand in hand", he stated.

Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, on the other hand, said that the EU must use new technologies available to track down terrorists "otherwise the terrorists will be ahead of us like they have in the past, in crime and violence", he said.

Controversial data retention law

One of the central planks of the UK’s anti-terror measures will be discussed by justice ministers on Thursday (8 September) involves a data retention law, which calls for increased surveillance of electronic data, such as phone calls and emails.

This particular proposal has caused huge friction between member states and several MEPs, who fear an erosion of individuals’ privacy.

But yesterday, Mr Clarke again called for more "effective and intelligent" use of intelligence in deep collaboration between member states urging pan-EU harmonisation on data retention rules.

The home secretary said he hoped to see the new legislation and anti-terror measures in place by early 2007.

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