Responding to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s defence yesterday of the Government’s proposals for secret courts, in which he stated that “We’ll make it the judge that makes the decision,” and claimed, “When I announced what I was proposing last October there was no fuss, everybody agreed,” Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said:
“The fact is that the Government still intends to bring forward closed courts from which the citizen and his lawyer will be excluded. This will weight the justice system in the state’s favour. Ministers will be allowed to use evidence against the individual which the individual cannot even see, let alone challenge. As Supreme Court judge Lord Kerr has warned, ‘evidence which has been insulated from challenge may positively mislead.’
“It seems that Thursday’s Bill is set to maintain these very dangerous proposals, which will help to cover up Government wrongdoing.
“That is why – contrary to Ken Clarke’s claims – there was indeed a ‘fuss’ when these plans came forward last October. They have been opposed from the start, not only by Reprieve and other NGOs, but also by the specialist lawyers who would work within these courts.”
Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “Anyone who thinks closed courts are a good idea should talk to Khadidja al-Saadi, who Britain helped render to Gaddafi in 2004 when she was only twelve. This is a clear effort to cover up her case, the Belhadj case, and those like them – to stop the airing of the dirty laundry of the ‘War on Terror.’”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: 0207 427 1082 / firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://reprieve.org.uk/investigations/secret_justice
2. Ken Clarke’s comments regarding the Justice and Security Bill, which is expected to be published this Thursday, were made yesterday. He told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that: “The original green paper did have room for judicial review proposals. We’ll make it the judge that makes the decision.” And according to the Press Association, he told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme that “When I announced what I was proposing last October there was no fuss, everybody agreed.”
3. The very lawyers who would work within the proposed Closed Material Procedure system – known as ‘Special Advocates’ – have been strongly critical of the Government’s proposals, and the claims made to support them. In their consultation response, they state:
“Contrary to the premise underlying the Green Paper, the contexts in which CMPs are already used have not proved that they are “capable of delivering procedural fairness”. The use of SAs may attenuate the procedural unfairness entailed by CMPs to a limited extent, but even with the involvement of SAs, CMPs remain fundamentally unfair.”
4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’