Having spent years in Belmarsh prison, the detainees now live under partial house arrest on Britain’s streets. Officially known by letters of the alphabet; Detainee ‘A’, Detainee ‘AR’ etc, little is known of their day-to-day existence. Dispatches has gained exclusive access to some of these detainees and, for the first time, exposes the paradoxes at the heart of this security policy which restricts the activities of people who have never been convicted of terrorist offences.
The investigation questions the effectiveness of the orders in protecting the public from terrorist attacks. The detainees live under stringent rules that prohibit the possession of mobile phones or accessing the internet. But the regulations allow them to mix freely with other worshipers at their mosques or talk to anyone they meet without prior arrangement. Despite a dossier of restrictions one detainee is allowed to between three tube stations, a bus garage and a shopping center. “If I wanted to, it would be easy for me to bomb or commit an act of terrorism”, he says.
Dispatches reveals the impact the control orders have on these individuals whose restrictions bypass the fundamental rights of due process enshrined in British law – that no-one should be deprived of liberty without a fair and adequate trial. In the film the detainees describe how they suffer from psychological problems and insomnia, with one detainee at the point of considering returning to his mother country, despite the torture that likely awaits him.
Dispatches also investigates the sourcing of evidence used to place the detainees under control orders. Reporter Phil Rees uncovers grave concerns about the methods used and the accuracy and validity of such evidence.