Joint Committee publishes report on Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc Bill
12 November 2010
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) today publishes its Second Report on the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Bill.
The JCHR published a Preliminary Report on the Bill on 22 October and following correspondence with the Government, remains concerned about use of secret evidence.
The committee recommends a number of amendments to the legislation currently passing through the House of Commons.
Dr Hywel Francis, Chair of the Committee said:
"The power to freeze terrorist assets is an important counter-terrorism measure. However, the Bill needs tougher safeguards built in: a higher standard of proof, and a more robust structure for independent oversight.
The person designated in asset-freezing proceedings may not be given enough information to enable them to counter the allegations effectively.
Finally, a mandatory statement of reasons in the written notice of designation would help to ensure that the new right of appeal is an effective remedy. The Report proposes amendments to address all of these issues."
Building on concerns raised with the Government in its earlier Report, the committee believes that the Bill will lead to assets being frozen unfairly because it provides for secret evidence to be used when freezing assets in the same way as secret evidence is currently used when making control orders.
The committee finds the Government’s argument "unconvincing" and proposes two amendments to make the legal framework on the use of secret evidence fair.
To ensure that hearings are fair, the Bill must require the Government to provide sufficient information about the allegations against an individual to enable them to give effective instructions to the special advocate who represents their interests.
The committee is also concerned about the adequacy of other safeguards in the Bill. It
- suggests raising the standard of proof. At present a person's assets can be frozen on the basis of 'reasonable belief' even if the Treasury is not satisfied of that person's involvement in terrorism on the balance of probabilities. The Committee suggests an amendment to remedy this
- recommends that a summary of the reasons for imposing an asset-freeze be included in the written notice which is given to the individual concerned. Such a mandatory statement of reasons in the written notice would help to ensure that the new right of appeal is an effective remedy
- proposes greater independence and accountability for the independent reviewer of the asset-freezing regime and access to independent expertise and support. Am amendment proposes: parliamentary confirmation of the appointment by the Treasury; reporting by the reviewer directly to Parliament, not the Treasury; and a single, non-renewable term of appointment of five years.
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