Last month, as I reported in an article, Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Diane Abbott MP chaired a meeting in a packed committee room in the House of Commons, in which politicians, lawyers and human rights campaigners came together to discuss how to both confront and publicize the British government’s increasing reliance on the use of secret evidence, and evidence obtained through torture.
As I explained at the time, “The meeting focused in particular on the cases of five men held under strict bail conditions or in prison, on the basis of secret evidence, who are facing deportation, even though they face the risk of torture, as a result of ‘diplomatic assurances’ agreed between the British government and the governments of their home countries. However, the use of secret evidence also affects other men, held under control orders, who cannot be deported either because they are British nationals, because the British government has failed to secure ‘diplomatic assurances’ that it regards as credible, or because, on occasion, the courts have intervened to prevent their deportation.”
As I also discussed in the article, the meeting had a number of aims, some of which are ongoing, but was, in the first instance, committed to securing the support of MPs for an Early Day Motion that has just been put forward by Diane. The text of the EDM, available here (with the names of those MPs who have signed up in support of the motion), is reproduced below:
Diane Abbott’s Early Day Motion on Secret Evidence
That this House believes the use of secret evidence in UK courts is fundamentally wrong;
notes that secret evidence is evidence held by the Home Office against an individual that neither the individual, nor their legal representation, may see;
further notes that in recent cases secret evidence has been used to detain individuals in prison for up to three years without charge or trial;
further notes that these individuals may also be put under a control order or severe bail conditions, greatly limiting their movements and ability to lead a healthy life;
believes that the use of secret evidence by the state against individuals runs entirely contrary to Habeas Corpus;
recognises the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that detaining individuals on the basis of secret evidence is unlawful because detainees had not been able to effectively challenge the allegations against them;
and calls on the Government to begin an immediate independent review into the use of evidence that is not ever heard by the defendant or their lawyer but which is used to justify indefinite detention, severe bail conditions or control orders.
PLEASE, if you care about the rule of law, Britain’s crucial role in crafting habeas corpus and providing it to the rest of the world, the inviolable principles of the UN Convention Against Torture, and the fundamental right of anyone — whether a British citizen or a foreign national resident in the UK — to receive a fair and open hearing, and not to be imprisoned or subjected to draconian control orders or bail conditions based on secret evidence, ask your MP to sign the EDM.
If you don’t know the name of your MP, or would like an easy way of sending them a brief message asking them to sign the EDM, please visit They Work For You, an invaluable website dedicated to facilitating access to your MP and monitoring their activities. All you need is your postcode.
And after that, of course, please send the information to your friends, to mailing lists and to other websites. It’s time to bring this injustice to an end.
For further information, or to request a briefing document for your MP, please contact Caitlin Farrow, Media Officer and Researcher to Diane Abbott MP.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.
For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009), Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z and Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? (all April 2009).
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: