éirígí’s rúnaí ginearálta Breandán Mac Cionnaith has welcomed the decision by the EU Court of Human Rights to reject the British government’s final appeal over the continued use of Section 44 stop and search powers and called for their use to be ended immediately.
Mac Cionnaith said: “In January of this year, the European Court ruled that Section 44 of the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act 2000’ – the power to stop and search without suspicion – violated the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights. Although the British government requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court, this has now been refused, making the January judgment final.
“The draconian power to stop and search without suspicion is clearly wrong in terms of European rights’ law. That Section 44 powers have been used in the Six Counties on over 28,000 occasions in the 12 months between April 1 2009 and March 31 this year should be a matter of serious alarm and major disquiet to all those concerned with the protection of human and civil rights.
“This is particularly true when one considers that, between January 1 and March 31 this year, the PSNI made use of powers under Section 44 on at least 8,200 occasions. The majority of that usage occurred during the three month period after the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] had issued their landmark judgment in early January. That fact alone demonstrates the contempt which both the PSNI and Six County Policing Board have for human rights in the Six Counties.
Mac Cionnaith added: “At the time of the original judgment, éirígí was one of the very few organisations prepared to publicly call for the ECtHR ruling to be made immediately applicable to the Six Counties. We also said that the ECtHR ruling was extremely pertinent for the Six Counties where there already had been a dramatic rise in the use of repressive stop and search powers under Section 44.
“One wonders what fig-leaf will now be used by the British government, the establishment parties at Stormont, or from David Ford as so-called justice minister, when faced yet again with the harsh fact that the PSNI are using repressive legislation which the ECtHR has consistently ruled to be illegal.
“This latest European Court decision exposes the illegal and arbitrary reality of British policing in the Six Counties. It is a reality far removed from that promised by those nationalist parties who continue to endorse the PSNI.
“We would urge all persons subjected to stop and search by the PSNI under Section 44 to immediately contact a solicitor with a view to challenging the legality of their detention and search.”
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