Ask your MPs what they think about secret evidence, control orders, British complicity in torture, and the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer


As a follow-up to my recent article, “98 MPs Who Supported Human Rights While Countering Terrorism,” in which I presented a list of current MPs who had supported the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, had opposed the use of secret evidence in UK courts, and/or had voted against the renewal of control orders on March 1 this year, I have put together a template for a letter that those concerned with these issues — and with British complicity in torture — can cut and paste and send to their MPs, through very useful interactive lists on the party websites (Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative) or through TheyWorkForYou.

In addition, I would recommend sending it to as many Liberal Democrat MPs as possible, given that almost all their MPs (including Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Danny Alexander) voted against the renewal of control orders on March 1, and that many of them also supported the return of Shaker Aamer and a ban on the use of secret evidence. This was in marked contrast to their Tory allies in the new coalition government, who have a dismal record on these issues, with just two MPs prepared to support any of these causes, compared to 43 current Labour MPs and 44 Lib Dems (although on British complicity in torture, current foreign secretary William Hague has a decent track record).

The letter below is my own adaptation of a letter put together by the London Guantánamo Campaign, which dealt with the return of Shaker Aamer and with British complicity in torture, and I have added questions about secret evidence and control orders (and a question about accepting other cleared prisoners from Guantánamo) to ensure that it addresses the main issues of relevance to those who care about the maintenance of human rights while countering terrorism.

Please note that, although the majority of MPs (551 of them) have no track record on these issues, the 98 mentioned in my previous article do, to at least some extent, and if any of these are your local MPs it may be worth tailoring the letter to reflect their previous concerns. Please also feel free to let myself and the London Guantánamo Campaign know when you have sent a letter (and when/if you receive a reply), and we will monitor the responses.

I will shortly be drafting a letter to send to foreign secretary William Hague, which I’ll be posting here, and will also make sure that copies of both letters are available at future screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which is currently on a UK tour. And as ever, please feel free to cross-post this letter and the accompanying article, and to print off copies for your own use. As with every new government, the first few months are crucial for getting our message across, so let’s make our voices heard!

A draft letter to your MP


I am writing to you to ask what measures you will take in this new parliamentary session with respect to four specific matters relating to terrorism:

  • The closure of Guantánamo and the return to the UK of British resident Shaker Aamer;
  • The use of secret evidence in UK courts;
  • The continued existence of control orders for British and foreign terror suspects;
  • The involvement of the British government in extraordinary rendition and torture abroad.

With respect to Guantánamo, I would like to know if you support the release of Shaker Aamer, a British resident from Battersea, who has a British wife and four British children. Mr. Aamer was cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2007, and the Labour government sought his return to the UK for nearly three years, but with no success. According to his lawyers, the government did not advocate strongly enough for his return. Will you take steps to ensure Mr. Aamer’s safe return to the UK, and will you also ask the government to follow the example of other countries (including Belgium, France, Portugal and Spain) in offering new homes to cleared prisoners from Guantánamo who cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will face torture on their return?

On the use of secret evidence in UK courts, the Law Lords ruled last year that the current system of testing allegations in cases related to terrorism — involving special advocates who represent detainees in closed sessions, but are not allowed to discuss anything that takes place in these sessions with their clients — breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. Nevertheless, secret evidence continues to be used. Do you believe that the use of secret evidence is incompatible with the fundamental principles of open justice that underpin British society, and that alternative methods of protecting sensitive information in open court can, and should be used instead, as proposed by JUSTICE, the all-party law reform and human rights organisation?

Related to this issue are control orders, under which terror suspects — both British and foreign nationals — are held under a form of house arrest, and often subjected to a form of “internal exile” on the basis of secret evidence. The legislation supporting control orders is renewed annually, and on March 1 this year was passed by 206 votes to 85 in the House of Commons, opposed by the Liberal Democrats, but overwhelmingly supported by Conservatives, even though the party recognizes that control orders are “inherently objectionable” and have stated that they want a review. Will you support calls for the control order system to be scrapped?

Prior to the election, calls were made for an independent judicial investigation into Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition and torture abroad, following damning revelations in the Court of Appeal in the case of Binyam Mohamed. Since then, new allegations have emerged of collusion in the torture and abuse of a British citizen in Bangladesh. The Liberal Democrats have pledged an inquiry, the Conservatives did not rule one out, and in March the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights strongly urged that an inquiry take place. With court cases pending against the intelligence services for involvement in torture abroad and various parliamentary statements revealing ministerial knowledge of involvement in rendition and torture, do you believe there should be an inquiry, and if so, what measures do you think should be taken against public servants, of all levels, who knowingly colluded in breaches of international and domestic law?

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,

Note: I have not included links in the template letter above, but for further information please see this archive of articles about prisoners released from Guantánamo in other European countries, this article on the Law Lords’ ruling on control orders last June, the JUSTICE report on secret evidence (PDF), and the latest Joint Committee on Human Rights report on Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights (PDF). For the story of Gulam Mustafa, the British citizen allegedly tortured in Bangladesh, see this article in the Guardian.

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 I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and currently on tour in the UK), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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