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UK Court Rules 'Illegal' to Freeze Terror Suspect Assets

The British government does not have the right to freeze the assets of terrorist suspects, according to the country's Supreme Court.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 1/28/2010, 4:36 PM / Last Update: 1/28/2010, 4:54 PM

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The British government does not have the right to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists, according to a ruling issued by the United Kingdom's Supreme Court.

The decision was handed down in response to a challenge submitted by five men whose assets were frozen by the government. The ruling also stated that the government should have first sought the approval of Parliament for the protocol to freeze assets, rather than simply create it.

The BBC reported that the government has been given one month in which to change the law so that it will fall into compliance with the loopholes identified by the court. Until then, the judgment has been suspended.

The law under which the assets were frozen was created under Section 1 of the 1946 UN Act, a law established as a means of implementing resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Terrorism Order 2006 and the 2006 al-Qaeda and Taliban Order were both issued under then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, now the country's Prime Minister, without parliamentary debate. This, the Court ruled, meant the government had established crimes without ever having defined them.

The five suspects who were left with only ten English pounds sterling a week in cash, and who were required to obtain permission for other expenses due to the allegations against them, all had Islamic names, including one who had apparently changed his original, British birth name.

A total of 150 suspected terrorists are currently affected by the ruling, and have had their assets frozen by the UK government due to allegations against them.

Nevertheless, the justices ruled that “even in the face of the threat of international terrorism, the safety of the people is not the supreme law. We must be just as careful to guard against unrestrained encroachments on personal liberty.”