Britain urged the European Union on Wednesday to toughen up its fight against terrorism, and reassess its human rights laws that prevent the deportation of suspected terrorists.
Will civil liberties have to suffer in the fight against terrorism?
British Home Secretary Charles Clarke urged EU officials on Wednesday to reevaluate the balance between human rights and security in the age of global terrorism.
It is now necessary "to balance these very important rights for individuals against the collective right for security against those who attack us through terrorist violence," Clarke told members of the European Parliament. "I have concluded that the balance now is not right and that it needs to be closely examined in the heightened threat that we now face."
The appeal by the EU's current British presidency came ahead of a two-day meeting of EU justice and interior ministers which starts Thursday in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, northern England.
Clarke (right) says tougher measures critical
"It is our duty to promote the view that democracy and not violence is the means of making change," he said. "We have to defend our values of respect, tolerance, freedom and democracy against any who wish to destroy or replace them with some other doctrine, particularly if they seek to use violence to promote their ambition."
Human rights lobby concerned
Prime Minister Tony Blair's government launched a crackdown on Islamic fundamentalism in the wake of the July 7 attacks on London transportation system that left 56 people dead, including four apparent suicide bombers.
But some of the proposed measures, such as deporting so-called preachers of hate -- even to countries with a reputation for torture -- have raised serious concerns from the human rights lobby and civil liberties campaigners.
In addition, Clarke encouraged EU nations to share intelligence on terrorism and organized crime, noting that countries should agree common standards on using technology such as biometric data.
Clarke's comments will fuel a debate on the content of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which prevents the deportation of a foreign terrorist suspect if the person could be put at risk of torture.
A decisive battle
EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini also underlined the need to give no quarter to terrorists.
Human rights need to be balanced with security concerns, Frattini says
"Failure to meet the challenges facing us is simply unthinkable," he said. "After NY, after Madrid, after London we must respond to expectations that the (EU) act with authority and determination on the world stage. We are engaged in a battle which will be long and decisive."
He cautioned, nonetheless, that a balance needs to be reached.
"We should never be tired to repeat that when working on security we have to keep a balance between law enforcement activities and the protection of other fundamental rights," he said.