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Archive for November 19th, 2009

Reprieve:

British government uses ‘Alice in Wonderland’ argument to cover up torture of Binyam Mohamed

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This secret isle……

The secrecy thing is getting out of hand. Recently, we had the Trafigura super injunction fiasco which, thankfully produced such outrage on twitter, in the blogs, The Guardian and other mainstream press, that the lawyers had to back down. We have secret evidence, we have SIAC, we have a growing culture of secrecy in this country, despite freedom of information legislation, and The Guardian reported today Mr Justice Silber’s judgement which I covered in my last post.

Good grief… we even have Baroness Deech wanting to keep information about plans for the Bar secret from barristers…. not a terribly clever move I would have thought. Do read the Times article for this latest bit of secrecy nonsense.  Baroness Deech wants to keep information secret so that members of the committee could get on with their proposals without being lobbied by third parties.  Have you ever tried to lobby a barrister?  Barristers are not exactly known for caving in to pressure, any more than a judge  would cave into public opinion in deliberating sentence. Ridiculous.  I’m with the barristers who complained about Baroness Deech’s position.

See: Times –  Barristers claim unfair secrecy as board debates ban on partnerships

In the meantime… here is a song wot I rote….. (with apologies to the geezer wot rote the original)

Jerusalem Redux

And did those writs in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s civil rights?
And was the Holy rule of law
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Government Benign,
Spy forth upon our shrouded sills?
And was Jerusalem butchered here
Among those dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!

I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have rebuilt Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

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The Guardian reports this morning:

Judge allows secret services to hide evidence in civil lawsuits

• Ruling prompted by UK Guantánamo torture cases
• Lawyers decry attack on basic principle of law

MI5, MI6 and the police will be able to withhold evidence from defendants and their lawyers in civil cases for the first time, the high court ruled today.

In a move that has widespread implications for open justice, Mr Justice Silber agreed with the security and intelligence agencies that “secret government information” could remain hidden from individuals who are suing them.

Mr Justice Silber’s ruling came in the case of Binyam Mohamed and others who claim that they were ill-treated, and in some cases tortured, in Guantánamo Bay with the knowledge of Britain’s intelligence agencies. The Guardian report may be read in full here.

The ruling is worrying for it’s potential scope. The Guardian notes: “The only occasions when evidence and allegations have been withheld from defendants and their lawyers have been in cases directly linked to “national security” – for example those involving deportations. But if today’s ruling stands, MI5, MI6, the police and other state institutions will be able to withhold relevant information from any civil action, for example for claiming compensation for wrongdoing……Silber was not asked to consider the particular facts of the Mubanga case but to set down a principle. He argued that it would be better for “special advocates” to decide, in secret, what information in the hands of the government and its agents should be disclosed. However, he agreed that the issue raised what he called a “stark question of law”.

I have not had a chance yet to read the judgment in full… but it is worth extracting another quote from the Guardian report pro tem

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “When the history books are written, the darkest chapter of our current times will not be torture, but the seeping evil of secrecy, where the ‘national interest’ is conflated with ‘national embarrassment’, and ultimately anything of which the government is ashamed, from parliamentary expenses and working up to torture, becomes secret.”

Surely, no government would wish to abuse the spirit and intendment of this ruling? Would they?


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