Civil liberties groups rejected claims today by the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation that control orders could prevent a major terrorist atrocity.
Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile said at the weekend that the coalition government would not be forgiven if it scrapped the controversial orders and a further atrocity on the scale of the 2005 London bombings occurred.
The peer, who is due to step down as the government’s terrorism watchdog this year, has long been a supporter of the measure, leading some to question his independent status.
He claimed that he did not like the idea of the controversial orders, which include electronic tagging and home curfews, but he insisted they were essential for security.
“Security and police chiefs have made clear the necessity for the orders. We ignore their advice literally at our peril,” he said.
“The courage to protect public safety surely will be recognised. The failure to do so will not be forgiven if some terrible terrorism event happens.”
Although his latest recommendations on the issue have yet to be published, it is believed he is to concede that the existing orders need reform but insists that they must retain their key elements.
The orders, which were introduced by the former Labour government, have been condemned as a form of detention without trial and a grave breach of civil liberties.
Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said today: “Control orders combine the injustice of punishment without trial with the insecurity of allowing terror suspects to roam around communities or disappear.
“There can be no slicing, dicing and rebranding of these shameful orders.
“This policy and the coalition promise to restore civil liberties and the rule of law cannot both survive 2011.”
A group of international human rights bodies has also condemned the use of the draconian orders.
The group, comprising the American Civil Liberties Union, Canadian Civil Liberties Union, Kenyan Human Rights Commission and others, condemned Britain for “presiding over one of the most serious violations of justice in any developed democracy.”
Lord Carlile’s review of counter-terrorism legislation had been due to report before Christmas but was delayed until early 2011 because of ongoing negotiations between coalition ministers.
The Lib Dems fought the general election on a manifesto commitment of abolishing control orders, while the Tories and Labour both support their retention.