In an extraordinary mea culpa, the British Government on Monday admitted that it overreacted to the London bombings of July 7, 2005 by resorting to “draconian” security measures such as extending the period for which alleged terror suspects could be detained without charge.
Until now, the government had rejected criticism of its anti-terror measures and defended them claiming they were needed to fight terror.
But, in a candid U-turn, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has now acknowledged that some of these measures, described at the time by rights campaigners as an attack on civil liberties and seen by Muslim groups as being targeted against them, were an over-reaction to the July 7 bombings.
The bombings, carried out by home-grown Muslims of Pakistani origin, claimed more than 50 lives and left many injured sparking a raft of anti-terror and anti-immigration measures with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair declaring that rules of the games had changed.
Looking back, Mr. Johnson admitted the reaction was disproportionate though he argued that at the time there was an “understandable feeling that we should be more draconian”.
“But perhaps that wasn’t the right way to go,” he said.
Critics, while welcoming his remarks, said the admission was a bit late in the day.
“After the 7/7 attacks, we drove a wedge between the Muslim community and the rest of us, instead of drawing a divide between the terrorists and the wider community including Muslims. We got the divide right,” said senior Labour MP Frank Field.
Liberal Democrat spokesman on Home Affairs Chris Huhne said that by over-reacting to the 7/7 attacks, the government ended up “alienating the Muslim community when we needed their support”.