UK's Hague: Al-Qaida is biggest threat to Britain

Britain's foreign secretary will say that the U.K. plans to focus on bolstering human rights and the rule of law in foreign countries as part of an effort to improve intelligence-sharing and enhance security relationships in the face of the evolving threat from the al-Qaida terror network.

William Hague is to address the need to be "resolute, decisive and principled" in countering overseas terrorism in a speech Thursday at the Royal United Services Institute in London. His remarks come as recent terror attacks in Algeria and militant activity in the Sahel have drawn attention to changes in how al-Qaida members operate.

Calling al-Qaida "the greatest threat to the United Kingdom," Hague will note that the nature of the terror group's threat has changed in three ways: it is more geographically diverse, more fragmented and based "even more closely on the exploitation of local and regional issues."

"A long term, coordinated international approach is the only way we can defeat terrorism," Hague will say, according to excerpts of his speech released in advance by the Foreign Office. "The bulk of our effort to counter terrorism is now overseas where terrorists train and plan for attacks in the West. We cannot do it without working with other countries."

To make that cooperation possible, Hague will say that more must be done to improve respect for human rights and international norms in some countries where intelligence could be shared. He also will detail how Britain must work to ensure that information is gleaned and shared in ways that are consistent with the U.K.'s laws and values.

"When we detect a terrorist plot originating in a third country, we want to be in a position to share information to stop that planning, and do it in a way that leads to the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the individuals concerned in accordance with our own legal obligations, and with their human rights respected at every stage," Hague is expected to say. "We need to have a coherent approach that is sustainable for the long term, that upholds our laws and has safeguards, and that works to strengthen the ability of other countries to observe human rights and meet their own obligations.

Hague will argue that choosing to disengage with countries lacking the safeguards to share information in such a way could put British citizens at greater risk of a terror attack. Instead, he will propose sharing intelligence "in a carefully controlled way" while developing a more comprehensive approach to respecting human rights.

"This is a framework... to ensure that our counter-terrorism work support justice and the rule of law as well as our security, with the goal of creating the long term conditions for better observance of human rights in countries that have a poor record and where the threat from terrorism is strong," Hague will tell the audience at RUSI.

The approach for "justice and human rights partnerships" will differ country by country, but focus on states where a threat to U.K. security exists alongside weaknesses in law enforcement, human rights and criminal justice infrastructure.

They will include helping overseas security services improve compliance with the law and human rights, working with local authorities to better build cases on evidence rather than confession, supporting prosecutors and judges to ensure they can process terrorism cases through their courts, and working to improve and monitor conditions in detention facilities so that convicted terrorists can be held securely and treated in line with human rights standards.

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Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd