Thursday, October 11, 2012

Secret courts: what they don't want the British people to know

Yvonne Ridley on the 'secret courts bill' heading through the Lords, just as former ministers and MI6 officials face the prospect of public court appearances over torture allegations.

Liberties and freedoms enshrined in Magna Carta more than 800 years ago are under threat from the British government’s plans to deliver a bill that undermines the principle of open justice. This piece will look at the context in which theJustice and Security Bill, or 'secret courts bill’ as it is nicknamed, is being pushed through and the powerful resistance to the legislation.

The bill is passing through the House of Lords while the country still reels from the most recent Hillsborough inquiry, which exposed a wide-scale cover up involving the police, politicians, and members of the emergency services. It took more than two decades for the truth to surface after the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans at the stadium in Sheffield, and during that period ordinary people and their communities were demonised by those placed in a position of trust. The toxic legacy of Hillsborough should be followed by more transparency, not more secrecy. Yet the Justice and Security Bill has the potential to make it far easier for such cover-ups to take place.

Furthermore, the bill is being proposed at a time when former ministers from the Blair government including Jack Straw as well as senior establishment figures in the Secret Intelligence Services and Whitehall face the unprecedented prospect of being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives investigating claims of British collusion in the US rendition and torture programme. Crucial evidence of the UK's role in at least two US-led renditions is detailed in a number of documents held by the Libyan security services, which came to light subsequent to the fall of the Gaddafi regime. Read More