Held without charge? Some context.

The House of Commons is set to vote today on the extension of two provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The ATA was brought in under the Liberals after 9/11 and two specific provisions of the act are being challenged today in the House of Commons by that same party.

They are:

  • investigative hearings of material witnesses
  • the ability to hold terror suspects without charge for 72 hours

I wanted to know how other countries handle the second issue in particular so I did a bit of research. Here’s how other countries deal with the detention of terror suspects:

France can hold terror suspects for 72 hours without access to a lawyer. Terror suspects can be held for up to four years (!) before being tried by a court.

Germany can hold terror suspects for 48 hours without seeing a judge.

In Greece, terror suspects can be held without charge for up to 12-18 months.

Italy can legally hold suspects for 24 hours without access to a lawyer.

Norway can hold terror suspects for 48 hours.

Spain can hold a terror suspect and prevent access to a lawyer for 72 hours in standard cases and up to 13 days for non-standard ones.

In the UK, terror suspects can be held without charge for up to twenty eight days but judicial knowledge of detention must occur within 48 hours.

North America
In Canada, terror suspects can be held without charge for 72 hours. Judicial knowledge of detention must also occur within 72 hours.

In the US, terror suspects can be held without charge for 6 months.

In Australia, the secret service can detain terror suspects for one week without charge.

I called Amnesty International to get their take on the situation. They told me:

“It’s important to see this within the context of our own procedures. The measures aren’t needed. There must be a balance between security and human rights. Existing criminal code provisions are already in place, so the ATA provisions are unnecessary. The government hasn’t demonstrated a need for these provisions.” — John Tackaberry, Amnesty International

Despite this, Canada is, comparatively, on the softer end of the spectrum when it comes to the detention of terror suspects without charge. Suspects are held without charge in order to further investigations in progress; once a suspect is charged, investigators lose access to the suspect as a resource.

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