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All-Party Committee Attacks Anti-Terror Laws

Much of Tony Blair\'s anti-terror legislation breaches fundamental human rights, an All-Party Committee of MPs and Peers has warned. The Joint Com mittee on Human Rights condemned the plan to outlaw the \"glorification\" of terrorism, attacked the proposed offence of disseminating terrorist publications and said incarcerating terror suspects for up to 28 days without charge was disproportionate. The Committee even called on ministers to tighten their basic definition of terrorism to stop the legislation being challenged in the courts. It stated: \"Even in the immediate aftermath of a serious terrorist attack, it remains the case that all measures taken by states to counter terrorism must respect human rights and the principle of the rule of law. \"They must exclude any form of arbitariness, as well as any discriminatory or racist treatment. They must be subject to appropriate supervision and they must respect the absolute prohibition of torture.\" Critics had complained they could unwittingly be committing an offence, with a maximum penalty of 10 years\' jail, if they lent books or gave tuition that could be useful to terrorists. The Home Office said the legislation was being tightened so an instructor must know, and not merely suspect, that a student has malign intentions. A spokesman said: \"We want to set the minds of librarians and academics at rest. Clearly we have no desire to prosecute such people when they are simply doing their worthwhile jobs.\" In its Report, the Joint Committee acknowledged there was a case for a new offence of indirectly inciting terrorist acts. But it said to make the offence compatible with human rights legislation the Government needed to \"delete the references to glorification, insert a more tightly drawn definition of terrorism\" and require terrorist intention to be demonstrated. The Committee also called for legal safeguards for defendants to be strengthened to bring the Bill in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. It said the proposed offence of disseminating terrorist publications was incompatible with the Convention because of the \"lack of connection to incitement to violence\". Criminalising mere attendance at a place used for terrorist training was described as \"disproportionate\", as was the Government\'s unsuccessful demand for police to be able to hold terror suspects for 90 days. The latter provided \"insufficient guarantees against arbitrariness\". It added: \"Similar, if less substantial risks remain ... even in relation to the 28-day maximum period now allowed for in the Bill.\"