Thursday, October 22, 2009

Outrage at government plan for secret inquests.

Last night, despite a defeat in the House of Lords for the proposal that the government can hold secret inquiries into controversial deaths from which the public and bereaved families could be banned, the government vowed to continue to push for these controversial proposals through the House of Commons.

The government are insisting that they are "clear" that "harmful material" must not be made public.

Harmful to who? To what?

What we have often witnessed over the past few years, especially when it comes to government involvement in illegal activity such as torture, is that national security and avoiding governmental embarrassment often become one and the same.

That's certainly the case when it comes to the release of evidence which may prove that Binyam Mohamed was tortured; and that's not simply my opinion, that was what was actually said by two High Court judges:

"It cannot be suggested," the judges wrote, "that information as to how officials of the US government admitted treating [Mohamed] during his interrogation is information that can in any democratic society governed by the rule of law be characterised as 'secret' or as 'intelligence'."
And yet, that is exactly what the British government are insisting on in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

And now we find that they are attempting to do the same with Britain's inquest system. They will determine what we should and should not know.

I am not against the government protecting state secrets but, as we saw in the case of Binyam Mohamed, this is a claim they will make even when High Court judges are insisting that what they are actually protecting are neither secret nor intelligence.

Baroness Miller, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokeswoman in the Lords, whose party tabled an amendment which succeeded in removing the secret inquiry clause, said that the Government had suffered a "self-inflicted" defeat.

She said: "Inquiries are a thing of the state and inquests are the thing of citizens. The Government could have come up with the correct conditions to guard against secrecy without setting up a parallel inquest system. It's not a good argument to say, 'But if you knew what we knew you wouldn't object.'"


Liberty, the human rights group, said the illiberal powers would prevent bereaved families from discovering the truth about the death of a loved one.

Liberty's director of policy, Isabella Sankey, said: "It beggars belief that this rotten policy has been resurrected. It is thoroughly perverse for a Government that has spent over a decade lecturing the public about victims' rights to attempt to exclude bereaved families from open justice. When will New Labour's obsession with secret courts and parallel legal systems end? There is no accountability without transparency."

Deborah Coles, of the charity Inquest, said she was dismayed that the Government wanted to end the right to public inquests for all deaths: "This is yet another attempt to shroud in secrecy the details and actions of the most serious conduct of state agents."

New Labour, since the earliest days of Tony Blair, have been obsessed with this shit. Constantly arguing that they have secret information which, if we only knew, we would willingly hand them all the power they wanted.

Indeed, prior to the Iraq war, Blair's wife Cherie was dispatched to tell anyone who would listen that, if they could see the stuff crossing Tony's desk, it would turn their hair white and remove any doubt they had about the decision to invade Iraq. It turned out that there were no weapons at all and that the war had been started on a totally false premise.

Now, with that track record, we are being asked to trust the government and their reasoning for barring certain inquests from public gaze.

They surely cannot be remotely surprised by our cynicism?

Traditionally, it is supposed to be Labour governments who argue on the side of openness and transparency. With New Labour the very opposite is true.

Under these new rules, the inquiry into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes could have been held in utter secrecy. I wonder which the government would have preferred?

Click here for full article.

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