London: A British court on Monday cancelled curfews imposed on two men considered potential security threats, dealing a blow to the government which says such measures are a tool to combat extremists.
The ruling was a new challenge to so-called "control orders", introduced by the government in 2005, after the highest court in the country said last June the authorities should not use secret evidence to justify restricting people`s freedom.
"I`m very disappointed by this judgment and will be appealing in the strongest possible terms," said Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Alan Johnson, in a statement responding to the ruling by the London High Court.
The two men, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had argued that the control orders imposed on them in 2006 violated their human rights because they were not told what was the evidence against them and could not defend themselves in court.
The High Court ruled in their favour, cancelling the orders and opening the way for the pair to file claims for compensation from the government. This would be a first.
"The government argued strongly that these control orders were properly made for the purpose of protecting the public and that they should not be retrospectively quashed," Johnson said in his statement.
"We will resist strongly paying damages to former subjects of control orders wherever possible, and to minimise the level of compensation where we have no choice but to pay," he said.
Control orders, part of a series of security measures brought in by the Labor government since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, allow terrorism suspects to be kept under curfew for up to 16 hours a day.
The aim is to keep tabs on suspects deemed to pose a security threat but who cannot be prosecuted because of lack of evidence, or because making the evidence public would compromise intelligence sources.
Human rights and justice organizations argue that control orders violate fundamental rights, and in June last year the House of Lords, the upper house of parliament that was formerly Britain`s highest court, said in a landmark ruling the procedure was not fair.
The two men whose control orders were cancelled on Monday were also involved in the earlier House of Lords case.
Despite the court setbacks, the government has resisted calls to scrap control orders altogether.