Tuesday, October 14, 2008

42 days is dead

The British government has abandoned its plans to detain suspected terrorists without trial for 42 days, after a masssive defeat in the House of Lords. The bill had barely scraped through the Commons after Gordon Brown had bought the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party; today the Lords finally killed it, voting 309 to 118 to keep the existing 28 day limit. While the government could theoretically use the Parliament Act to eventually force the bill through, that would require a prolonged period of "ping-pong" with the Lords. It would also require them to win multiple votes on the issue in the Commons - and they can't keep bribing Northern Irish MPs forever.

But while this is a victory for justice and human rights (not to mention sanity), its only a small one. The UK still has the longest period of detention without trial of any democracy, allowing random Muslims suspected terrorists to be detained for 42 28 days before being charged. And the government is keeping a version of the bill on the table so they can ram it through in the event of another bombing. Which speaks for itself about the cynical authoritarianism of the UK's leaders in the "war on terror".

Correction: Fixed obvious braino.