Undercover informants working for the police and MI5 will be authorised to commit crimes under new legislation.
A set of bills advancing through Parliament this week could give police, soldiers, government agencies and their agents a licence to brazenly abuse both domestic and international law.
The news may particularly alarm Muslims as government spy agencies say “Islamist-inspired” terrorism is a threat to the UK and they will seek to disrupt any activity which supports it.
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill would allow undercover agents to engage in criminal activity and break the law as long as such activities were authorised by government handlers.
Agents recruited by government agencies, also known as informants, are recruited for intelligence gathering within organised crime rings, child abuse networks, terrorist cells and communities under surveillance.
This new law comes in part due to a court ruling which found that while MI5 had an “implied power” to authorise crimes, those involved were not protected from prosecution.
Government agencies who would wield authority for their agents to commit crimes include MI5, the National Crime Agency, immigration and border officers, the Ministry of Justice, the Environmental Agency, the Food Standards Agency, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulation Authority and HM Revenue and Customs.
Human rights organisations say the new law directs the UK closer towards becoming a police state.
“We are seriously concerned that the bill fails to expressly prohibit MI5 and other agencies from authorising crimes like torture, murder and sexual violence,” said Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve.
Other unprecedented legislation advancing through Parliament is which effectively protects the Ministry of Defence and its soldiers from prosecution for alleged war crimes, torture and abuse carried out by British troops abroad. The laws also seek to minimise victims’ route to justice.
“It would stop victims – whose trauma has no time limit – from getting justice. It’s also a distraction to hide long running MoD failures to properly investigate allegations of wrong-doing,” said Nadia O’Mara, Liberty policy and campaigns officer.
Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE, said: “Impunity has long been in the norm with regards to British operations overseas and the operations of its intelligence services; now these Bills seek to embed that into law.”
Amnesty International UK’s Director, Kate Allen added: “It is in no one’s interests for members of the Armed Forces to be given a free pass over alleged war crimes.”