Order, Order - Lords kick out secret evidence

Blog 10.6.09

I was at the House of Lords this morning to hear the Law Lords’ verdict on the use of secret evidence in the trials of several terrorism suspects who are subjected to Control Orders. The result was a resounding victory for justice: a unanimous verdict from all nine Law Lords against the government. They stated that a trial in which the accused can’t see or challenge the evidence against him is not a fair trial and is an abuse of basic human rights.

I was stood outside the Lords next to Mahmoud Abu Rideh, whom I blogged about earlier this week and Kate Allen wrote about on Comment is Free today. He told me a bit more about the restrictions placed on him: he is not allowed to meet or talk to a whole list of people, many of whom he has never met nor heard of. He was once interviewed by Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who now works for the campaigning organisation Caged Prisoners, for their website – he was subsequently barred from talking to him again. “Why am I stopped from talking to him? I don’t know him, I don’t even know how to contact him again. What is the point if this?” It did strike me as a little strange that someone whom the government has labelled (on the basis of secret evidence) as ‘suspected of having links to terrorism’ is allowed to turn up at Parliament unchaperoned, but he can’t make an arrangement to be interviewed by The Guardian or he’ll be breaking the conditions of his Control Order and could face 5 years in prison.

What will happen next with Control Orders is hard to say. Alan Johnson the Home Secretary has said that Control Orders will stay in place for the time being. But this ruling will mean that the government will probably have to make some changes.

What we’d really like to see is for the Home Office to stop tinkering round the edges and abandon this unwanted offspring of Tony Blair’s ‘the rules of the game have changed’ philosophy. We need a system that works to safeguard the public from terrorism but also safeguards our rights. Control Orders should be scrapped.

 

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