Anti-terror measures ‘cannot be rushed’, say human rights group

NEW anti-terror laws have been published amid criticism by human rights groups and concerns raised by the terrorism legislation watchdog.

Fusilier Lee Rigby, 25, was murdered in Woolwich

The Counter-terrorism and Security Bill, containing a range of powers including new orders that can block suspected British fighters from returning to the UK, was introduced to Parliament.

The reforms were published on the day the family of Lee Rigby said they hold website Facebook partly responsible for his murder following a report which found it failed to take action over an online chat in which one of the killers vowed to slay a soldier.

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The plans in the bill to block suspected jihadists from returning to Britain were described as “nothing like as dramatic” as David Cameron indicated they would be earlier this year by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson.

Mr Anderson described the original proposals unveiled by the Prime Minister in September to counter the threat from British extremists travelling abroad to fight for Islamic State (IS) as an “announcement waiting for a policy”.

He told MPs and peers he believed that it had soon become clear that such a move would “neither legally nor practically” work and the plan was now for a system of “managed return”.

The new counter-terror legislation will ban insurance companies from footing the bill for terrorist ransoms and powers will be re-introduced to relocate terror suspects across the country.

A statutory duty will be placed on named organisations, such as colleges, universities, the police and probation providers, to help deter radicalisation and, where organisations fail, ministers will be able to issue court-enforced directions to them.

Police are to be handed powers in the new bill to force internet firms to hand over details that could help identify suspected terrorists and paedophiles, while police and border staff will be given the power to seize the passports of terror suspects.

Its second reading in Parliament, the first opportunity for MPs to debate the principles of the bill, will take place today.

Amnesty International UK legal adviser, Rachel Logan, raised concerns over some of the powers in the legislation. She said: “It’s dangerous to rush through this grab-bag of measures without proper scrutiny or challenge.

“While the Government needs to ensure that anyone suspected of criminal activity is investigated, measures like invalidating passports and excluding British nationals from their home country push the boundaries of international law.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “This bill includes a considered, targeted set of proposals that will help to keep us safe at a time of very significant danger by ensuring we have the powers we need to defend ourselves.”

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), in its report on the murder of Lee Rigby, said the Government’s Prevent programme, designed to divert individuals from radicalisation, has not been given sufficient priority.

Its long-awaited report also labelled an unnamed internet company, widely reported to be Facebook, a “safe haven for terrorists”.

This is because it did not flag up the online exchange between Michael Adebowale and a foreign jihadist, which took place five months before Fusilier Rigby’s murder.

Fusilier Rigby’s sister Sara told The Sun newspaper: “Facebook have my brother’s blood on their hands. I hold them partly responsible for Lee’s murder.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government had been in discussions with internet companies on a range of terror-related issues “for some time” and was expecting them to come back with their responses “early in the New Year”.

• A couple from Walsall have been arrested on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offences at Heathrow Airport.

The man, 20, and woman,19, were detained at around 10.30 on Tuesday night as they disembarked a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, police said.

They were held by officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.

A spokesman for the unit said there was no risk to the safety of the flight and described the arrests as “planned and intelligence led”.

Two addresses in Walsall are being searched and the suspects are in custody in the West Midlands.

The arrests come less than a week after a 19-year-old man from Coventry was held by counter-terrorism officers at the same airport after arriving on a flight from Jordan.