Mr. Rabbani was arrested at Heathrow in November and will report to police on Wednesday to face a possible charge. Mr. Rabbani has never been accused or suspected of any crime but police are pursuing charges against him despite him citing client confidentiality as the reason for him not handing over his passwords.
Muhammad Rabbani, International Director for CAGE, said:
“This entire episode boils down to one thing: a password. I’m facing prison due to the existence of a power that has been operating at the UK borders for 17 years now. Using this power, officers can compel a person to surrender their passwords without cause and there’s also no right to remain silent. There is nothing like this anywhere in the Western world.”
“It was a split second decision for me. Lawyers, journalists, teachers and others who are employed to serve members of the public can all be stopped and demanded to do the same. They can be coerced into passing over private information on their clients and beneficiaries without being suspected of wrongdoing. I really do think that any professional faced with the same dilemma would do all that they could to protect their clients’ private and personal information.”
Gareth Peirce, senior partner at Birnberg Peirce and Partners, said:
“Schedule 7 is an enormous blunderbuss that is over-used and the consequence of its overuse is that it is abusive. It affects almost every Muslim in ever-increasing numbers who contemplates travelling. It is not just the sheer number of Muslims stopped but that the same people are stopped repeatedly. Once on the system, you are flagged up for life.”
Ibrahim Mohamoud, spokesperson for CAGE, said:
“Statistics show that Schedule 7 stops amount to racial profiling, with 88.4% detained coming from an ethnic minority background. Only 5 people were arrested out of roughly 20,000 that were stopped last year. Clearly, huge numbers of innocent people are being interrogated and their data confiscated from them. Where is all this data being stored? With whom is it being shared? How does one remove themselves from these databases? These are some of the wider questions that Mr Rabbani wishes to raise.”
“Governments should not interfere in the work of human rights defenders, especially those investigating international law violations such as torture. The arrest of Mr Rabbani in this instance and the confiscation of his devices have significantly affected the course of an ongoing and live investigation into torture complicity by a UK ally. We are unable to make any further comment on this currently.”
NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.