9 November 2006

Session 2005-06, 9 November

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONVENTION ON THE PREVENTION OF TERRORISM: CALL FOR EVIDENCE

The Joint Committee on Human Rights reports to Parliament on treaties which raise significant human rights issues to enable Parliament to debate the treaty, if it wishes, before it is ratified by the Government. The Committee has decided to report to Parliament on the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which was signed by the UK on 16 May 2005 and laid before Parliament, prior to ratification, on 24 July 2006.

The purpose of the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism is to enhance the efforts of States in preventing terrorism and its negative effects on the full enjoyment of human rights, in particular the right to life, with due regard to existing treaty obligations. It requires States to establish certain criminal offences, including public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, and to ensure that in doing so they respect human rights obligation, in particular the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion, and should be proportionate and exclude any form of arbitrariness or discriminatory or racist treatment. The treaty also imposes a duty to investigate where it receives information that a person who has committed or is alleged to have committed a terrorist offence is present in their territory, and to either extradite terrorist suspects or submit their case without undue delay to the prosecution authorities. It further requires States to adopt such measures as may be necessary to protect and support the victims of terrorism committed in the State's territory.

In its Third Report of 2005-06, on the Terrorism Bill and related matters, the Committee considered that the proposed offence of encouraging terrorism in clause 1 of that Bill lacked legal certainty and did not contain the necessary restrictions on the scope of the offence to make it compatible with freedom of expression. It therefore considered that the enactment of the offence in that form would be an obstacle to the UK's ratification of the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

The Committee would welcome submissions from outside organisations and individuals on the following matters in particular:

€ Whether the new criminal offences in Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 (encouragement of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist publications) have inhibited legitimate freedom of expression, association and religion, and if so, how

€ Whether the new grounds on which organisations can be proscribed in s. 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006 have inhibited legitimate freedom of association

€ Whether the UK complies with the duty to investigate and either extradite or prosecute terrorist suspects

€ Whether the measures adopted by the UK to protect and support the victims of terrorism are adequate

Procedure for submitting evidence:

Submissions should be addressed to Nick Walker, Commons Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA. Electronic submission is acceptable, but a signed hard copy should also be sent. In any event, witnesses are asked wherever possible to accompany hard copy by an electronic version, preferably in Word format, and e-mailed to [email protected] Submissions should arrive by Friday 24 November 2006; evidence submitted later may not be able to be taken into account in the Committee's deliberations.

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed or circulated by the Committee at any stage. You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.

Further calls for evidence in the context of this inquiry may be issued in the light of future developments.

Further information on the Joint Committee is available on its website at the address shown below.

THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ARE:

Mr Andrew Dismore MP (Labour, Hendon) (Chairman)
Lord Bowness (Conservative)
Mr Douglas Carswell MP (Conservative, Harwich)
Lord Campbell of Alloway (Conservative)
Mary Creagh MP (Labour, Wakefield)
Lord Judd (Labour)
Nia Griffith MP (Labour, Llanelli)
Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)
Dr Evan Harris MP (Liberal Democrat, Oxford West & Abingdon)
Lord Plant of Highfield (Labour)
Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills)
Baroness Stern (Cross-Bencher)

Clerks of the Committee: Mr Nick Walker (House of Commons) 020 7219 2797 and Mr Bill Sinton (House of Lords) 020 7219 5358

ENQUIRIES: 020 7219 2797/2467 FAX: 020 7219 8393 E-MAIL: [email protected]

HOMEPAGE: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights.cfm

MEDIA INQUIRIES: Ms Jessica Bridges-Palmer: 020 7219 0724