UK plans for secret courts 'dangerous'

News
May 9, 2012

UK plans for secret courts 'dangerous'

UK government plans to end centuries of open justice by allowing some court evidence to be heard behind closed doors are "dangerous", Amnesty International said.

The proposed legal changes, part of the Justice and Security Bill, could result in information and evidence of human rights violations by UK state representatives, being kept secret.

Plans by the government to introduce new legislation were confirmed in the Queen’s speech during Wednesday’s state opening of the UK Parliament.

“These proposals are dangerous and should be dropped," said Tara Lyle, Policy Adviser at Amnesty International UK.

“They will allow the government to throw a cloak of secrecy over wrongdoing, including matters as serious as the alleged involvement by UK officials in rendition, secret detention, enforced disappearances and torture."

The Bill would allow for the use of “closed material procedures” in future civil claims cases. This would allow the courts to consider secret material presented by UK authorities in closed sessions.

Claimants and their lawyers of choice would not have access to the material or the closed sessions and would, instead, have a court appointed Special Advocate to represent their interests.

The Special Advocate would be prohibited from discussing any part of the secret material with the claimant or taking instructions from them after seeing the material, seriously impeding their ability to serve the interests of the claimant.

Amnesty International considers that the use of Special Advocates fails to sufficiently mitigate the unfairness of “closed material procedures”.
 
Amnesty International believes the right to redress and a fair trial for victims of alleged human rights violations could be critically undermined by the proposals.

The proposals for the Bill come amid allegations that the UK has been involved in rendition, unlawful detention and mistreatment.

“After David Cameron promised to get to the bottom of allegations of complicity in human rights violations by UK officials, this Bill is a sell-out to the security services," said Tara Lyle.

“The victims of human rights violations as well as the general public have a right to learn the truth about whether and how government officials have been involved in rendition, secret detention, enforced disappearances and torture.”

“If members of the intelligence and security services are suspected of involvement in human right violations, the government should not be able to invoke ‘national security’ to avoid real accountability.”