Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guantánamo torture: UK wants claims of complicity to be heard in secret.

I read stuff like this and find myself shaking my head that this is taking place whilst a Labour government is in power:

The government wants allegations that it was complicit in the torture by the US of Britons held as terrorism suspects to be heard in secret.

In documents seen by the Guardian, lawyers for the government argue it must be allowed to present evidence to the high court with the public excluded, otherwise Britain's relations with other countries and its national security could be damaged. The government also wants its evidence kept secret from defence lawyers.

Lawyers for seven men who are now all back in the UK after the US released them without charge will tomorrow go to the high court in London to fight the government's attempt, which they say is designed to cover the embarrassment of ministers and the security services.

Surely we have the right to know whether or not our own government were engaged in any way in the torture of British citizens? On what George Orwell inspired planet is it possible for a British government to put forward the notion that it is not in our interests to know this?

The claims that the US would cease to share intelligence with us - should this information be made public - was recently dismissed by two senior judges and Miliband, our foreign secretary, is now contesting that ruling.

In the high court, lawyers acting for the seven will urge Mr Justice Silber to reject MI5 and MI6 arguments that they should be able to rely on secret "closed evidence" to make their case.

The government filed a witness statement from the Treasury solicitor David Mackie outlining its defence. In it he explains the damage ministers and their lawyers believe could be caused if information held by the security services is publicly released. Mackie says in his witness statement that informants and the agencies methods would be jeopardised: "Disclosure of the information … would be likely to assist those whose purpose is to injure the security of the UK and whose actions in the past have shown that they are willing to kill innocent civilians."

Mackie then details the damage the government believes could be caused if material held by the Foreign Office is disclosed: "The disclosure of some of the information held by the FCO could prejudice the United Kingdom's bilateral relationships. The effective conduct of international relations depends on maintaining trust and confidence between governments."

So, we are back to the "America won't share info with us if we give their secrets away" argument. The only problem with that argument is that the two senior judges have already told us that the information we are talking about is neither "secret" nor can it be considered "intelligence". This information is simply embarrassing, and it is for that reason that both the US and UK governments are seeking to keep it quiet.

National security is not at risk here. But Tony Blair's image might be severely dented were it to be known that the UK had assisted the US when it came to the torture of some of our own subjects.

Louise Christian, a lawyer who represents Mubanga, said: "We believe the government is not trying to protect national security but trying to protect itself from embarrassment and from being sued for complicity in torture."

Sapna Malik, a solicitor acting for Mohamed said: "That the government is seeking to introduce such unconstitutional and unfair measures by the back door only serves to further raise suspicions about what they are trying to hide."

As always, national security is the blanket cover the government claim to avoid anything becoming public which might make them look bad.

I have every faith that the judges will dismiss this blatant attempt by the government to cover their own tracks.

It really is Orwellian in the extreme that the government can even be making the case which it is making. We are now being told that it is not in our national interest to know if our own government engaged in or assisted in torturing it's own citizens. It simply couldn't get more Big Brother than that.

Click here for full article.

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