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A podcast of the seminar Justice and Security Bill: Covering up State Crimes

At the same time as the Justice and Security Bill was being debated in the Lords, on the evening of 21 November, CAMPACC, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and the Coalition Against Secret Evidence (CASE), held a seminar at Garden Court Chambers in London, “Justice and Security Bill: Covering up State Crimes”, to debate the issues of concern with a number of leading individuals and organisations.

They included former special advocate and barrister in open proceedings at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) Dinah Rose QC, Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian journalist, Clare Algar, executive director of Reprieve and Saghir Hussain, director of Cageprisoners. The meeting was chaired by Haldane member, solicitor Louise Christian from Christian Khan solicitors, who was personally involved in litigation involving former Guantánamo Bay prisoners; it was another case for disclosure of torture evidence in the treatment of British nationals and residents previously held at Guantánamo Bay, ending in an out-of-court settlement in 2010, that largely provided the purported rationale of the bill.

All the speakers raised concerns about the government’s attempts to hide evidence of its involvement in international crimes, to protect diplomatic and intelligence-sharing relations as well as about provisions that undermine the traditions of the English legal system and the right to a fair trial. The potential complicity of lawyers and judges in such a system,  the failure to explain or consider what the actual and practical use of closed material procedures will involve and the discriminatory nature of the proposals were all raised.

A podcast of the meeting can be heard at:

Criticisms have continued from other quarters as well, with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) publishing its latest report earlier this month. The report includes recommendations and suggestions for greater scrutiny of the proposals if passed, as well as to further narrow the scope of the bill. Data on the twenty or so civil damages claims cases in which national security is an issue, which the government alleges provide the rationale for such a bill being passed, has not been provided to the JCHR by the government; it thus remains unconvinced that there is a compelling argument for the use of CMPs being “essential”.

Take action:

  1. The Justice and Security Bill will have its third reading in the House of Lords on 28 November, which is the last opportunity for amendments to be made before the Bill moves on to the House of Commons.
  2. At the meeting, Clare Algar mentioned that Reprieve has been lobbying MPs on this bill. It is largely assumed that if the bill is not defeated in the House of Lords that it will definitely be passed in the Commons, albeit with amendments. There is also a strong possibility that the mitigating amendments currently being made in the Lords could also make the Bill more palatable to MPs.
  3. Amnesty International letter-writing campaign:
  4. Liberty campaign: