LONDON — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday condemned comments by British Prime Minister Theresa May vowing a hardline approach to terrorism, after the deadly London attacks and on the eve of a national election.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based group, took aim in particular at remarks May made to supporters on Tuesday questioning limits imposed by human rights laws on tackling violent extremism.
“As if George W Bush never happened, UK promotes the canard of rights abuse protecting from terrorism,” Roth wrote on Twitter.
He was referring to tough measures passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001, including controversial data collection powers given to the US National Security Agency and the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
In her speech, May promised longer prison sentences and restrictions on the freedom and movements of terrorist suspects.
“And if our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it,” she told supporters, in a message she later repeated on Twitter.
I'm clear: if human rights laws get in the way of tackling extremism and terrorism, we will change those laws to keep British people safe. pic.twitter.com/8EfUJYUDMK
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) June 6, 2017
Her comments came ahead of Thursday’s general election, with security issues dominating the campaigns.
May has faced criticism for her record in the six years she served as Britain’s interior minister before becoming prime minister last year.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn took aim at May’s response, saying: “We will always keep the law under review, but don’t believe would-be terrorists and suicide bombers will be deterred by longer sentences or restricting our rights at home.”
He has also pledged to hire more police officers following a drop in 20,000 officers between 2009 and 2016, or around 14 percent, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank.