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MPs criticise government's climate of fear

'All terror all the time' presumption prodded

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The "permanent state of emergency" over terrorism since 9/11 has blocked debate over whether the dozens of new laws introduced to combat the threat are justified, according to a cross-party group of peers and MPs.

The Joint Committeee on Human Rights today questioned ministers' claim that there has been a "public emergency threatening the life of the nation" ever since the attacks on New York and Washington.

"In our view it devalues the idea of a 'public emergency' to declare it in 2001, and then to continue to assert it more than eight years later," they said.

The Committee called for every piece of terrorism legislation introduced since the attacks - including 28-day detention without charge and the expanded use of secret evidence - to be urgently reviewed by Parliament to determine if they are necessary.

Tha Committee also put further pressure on the intelligence agencies over their alleged complicity in torture. Its report criticised Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, for refusing to give evidence in public.

"We are disappointed that the Director General of the Security Service is prepared to give public lectures but is not prepared to give public evidence to us," it said.

The Committee also took aim at the government's "narrow definition" of torture, designed, its report said, "to enable it to say that, although it knew or should have known that some intelligence it received was or might have been obtained through torture, this did not amount to complicity in torture because it did not know or believe that such receipt would encourage the use of torture by other states".

The need for an independent inquiry is now "irresistible", the report added.

The full document is here (pdf). ®

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