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UK: Secret inquest proposals abandoned but fears that government may use secret inquiries instead

Reacting to Jack Straw’s announcement today that the government would abandon plans to hold coroners’ inquests in secret without juries, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“This is a welcome victory for those who believe that coroners’ inquests should not be conducted in secret on the say-so of the government.

“When someone loses their life at the hands of the state, it’s essential – and required by international law – that an independent and impartial inquiry finds out how and why it happened.

“However it’s worrying that the government may still try to keep families and the public in the dark by using the Inquiries Act 2005.

“Under the Inquiries Act the government can control who sits on an inquiry, it can order part of the inquiry to be held in private and it can decide which of the findings are published and which remain secret.

“If secret inquests are dropped but replaced by secret inquiries, this ‘climbdown’ may do little to increase government transparency. The Inquiries Act should go the same way as the proposals for secret coroners inquests – it should be scrapped.”

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