Secret Justice: Nips and tucks just won't cut it

Posted by Bella Sankey on 06 March 2012

Today Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Government’s Justice and Security Green Paper. These dangerous and unnecessary proposals would allow the Executive’s dirty secrets to be hidden from victims, the press and public and make a mockery of the fundamental constitutional principle that no-one – including the State – is above the law.

Last month Liberty launched the For Their Eyes Only campaign against the Green Paper proposals. Given subsequent media, political and legal controversy over the plans the Lord Chancellor adopted a somewhat conciliatory tone today; suggesting that the proposals could have been more clearly defined. It’s hardly surprising that, having started with such sweeping proposals, the Government is now edging towards concessions. But minor nips and tucks here and there won’t make this chilling policy any more palatable.

The invoking of secret courts for a narrower definition of so-called “national security” cases would have left CIA kidnap and torture victims locked out of their own civil claims and would have excluded bereaved relatives from the inquest into the July 7 bombings in London. The Lord Chancellor was keen to assure us all that such new laws would never be misused, and only resorted to in a small number of cases. Where have we heard that before? No doubt that’s what Gary McKinnon, and all those others facing instant extradition, thought was the case back in 2003.

The fact is that UK courts have never disclosed genuinely sensitive material that compromised national security. Pressure from our intelligence-sharing partners to place their Government and ours beyond the Rule of Law must be resisted.

So the fight goes on, and it’s one in which we’re not alone. Today, Liberty’s Director signed a joint letter to The Guardian – along with David Davis MP; Helena Kennedy QC; Lord Ken Macdonald QC; Liberty's Human Rights Lawyer of the Year, the Rev Nicholas Mercer and Dinah Rose QC - voicing opposition to the proposals. And the issue was again highlighted by the Daily Mail, as part of their No to Secret Courts campaign against this misguided Green Paper.

The Government presents this policy as its reaction to claims brought by those rendered, tortured and then detained at Guantanamo Bay. When will they realise that the response to the exposure of British complicity in such abhorrent practices should be ensuring such events never happen again - not that they could never have been revealed in the first place.

Help us by adding your voice to the growing opposition to the Justice and Security Green Paper - join Liberty today and get involved in our For Their Eyes Only campaign.