Monday, 17 September 2012

Justice and Security Bill

The timing could not have been better. Coming after the Hillsborough revelations reminded us of the extent to which ‘the authorities’ will cover up serious wrongdoing, we are told to take on trust plans to make our security services and our government ‘above the law.’ The Justice and Security Bill is about to head to the Commons. It is a bad Bill.

Announced in the wake of high-profile and embarrassing litigation and media investigations which revealed the UK Government’s shameful involvement in extraordinary rendition, torture and indefinite detention without trial, the Bill seeks to limit public scrutiny of the Government and our security services and public bodies and avoid further embarrassment by sweeping aside a centuries-old justice system in favour of one that is deeply flawed and unfair.

The two key proposals in the Bill are:
  • To introduce the controversial and highly flawed system of Closed Material Procedures and Special Advocates into the ordinary civil law. Secret evidence – never disclosed to the claimant, let alone public or press – would be used to defend serious allegations in cases where the Government felt there was material which if disclosed,  would be damaging to national security. The only people allowed to be present would be the judge, the Government itself and the Government appointed Special Advocate.
  • To put the Security Services – and potentially other public bodies – above the law in civil actions involving the wrongdoing of the UK Government and third parties.Liberty website

Underpinning all of this is the issue of trust. Recent grim experience has given us much evidence to doubt our leader’s motives. 
Do we trust our politicians? Do we trust our security services? Do we trust our police?  Do we hell as like. 

If in doubt, read the following from The Guardian (12/9/12)
The justice and security bill is the direct result of evidence that emerged in court supporting allegations that MI5 and MI6 knew about the torture or inhuman and degrading treatment meted out by the CIA to terror suspects, including British citizens and residents, notably Binyam Mohamed.
The high court, later backed by senior judges in the court of appeal, ruled that information the CIA had passed to MI5 and MI6 should be disclosed. Washington was furious. The British government, and in particular David Miliband, the foreign secretary at the time, was deeply embarrassed.
There was a danger of further incriminating evidence emerging in court as UK citizens and residents who were held at Guantánamo Bay demanded compensation. To avoid disclosing what MI5 and MI6 may have known about the secret transfer of the detainees to the US military prison on Cuba and about their treatment, the government offered them expensive out-of-court settlements.
Under pressure from the security and intelligence agencies – and the US – the coalition government decided to introduce a statute designed to prevent any intelligence information from being disclosed in civil court hearings ever again.”

Nice to know we live in a democracy where our leaders are in control of the security services and not the other way round....

If you are not happy at these proposals there is still time to have your say. At the very least contact your MP and let them know what you think. The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords and is due to go to the Commons next month.

Five reasons why Liberty oppose these proposals:

The Government is attempting to set itself above ordinary people and the law
They will fundamentally damage our centuries-old system of fair trials
They are not only dangerous, but unnecessary
They represent a serious threat to freedom of speech and the media’s ability to report on Government actions 
They pose a significant threat to public scrutiny and accountability 

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