The announcement that stop and search powers under Section 44 of the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’ are to be suspended will not mean any decrease in the use of draconian legislation by the PSNI, it has been claimed.
The eirigi general secretary, Breandan Mac Cionnaith, has warned that the British government has maintained a varied range of repressive legislation on the statute books “which it can use at will” against the nationalist and republican people of the Six Counties.
He said Section 44 would merely be replaced by Sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act 2007.
“In the first three months of this year, the PSNI made use of powers under Sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act 2007 to stop, question and search individuals on over 2,000 occasions.
“The Justice and Security Act applies solely and exclusively to the Six Counties.
“Indeed, the powers available to the PSNI under the Justice and Security Act are undeniably far more wide-ranging than those available under the discredited Section 44 which the European Court ruled in January to be “unlawful”.
He pointed to a statement by the then Acting Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI, who said that Section 21 of the 2007 Act is “extremely useful, in particular because no reasonable grounds are required for it to be exercised”.
“That such an outrageous statement could be placed on the public record should be a matter of apprehension and great unease to any individual or organisation with an interest in defending and protecting human and civil rights,” said Mac Cionnaith.
“There can be doubt that the coming months will see a tremendous upsurge in the use of Sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act.”
He said eirigi would be urging domestic and international human rights organisations to closely examine the use and validity of this legislation with a view to initiating test cases challenging the compatibility of these powers with established European human rights case-law.
“eirigi was one of the very few organisations prepared to consistently challenge the use of Section 44 powers in the Six Counties.
“We have also previously highlighted the draconian nature of the equally objectionable Justice and Security Act and, as a party, we will continue to mount strenuous opposition to its use.”