WDIE Masthead

Year 2009 No. 53, July 28, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

For an Education System that Serves the Progress of Society

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

For an Education System that Serves the Progress of Society

Justice for the North West 10!

The Secret Trials That Besmirch Britain's Immigration Law

Justice Release Damning Report on Secret Evidence

Secret Evidence Undermines Right to Fair Trial

CASE:
About the Coalition Against Secret Evidence

Daily On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Web Site: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk
e-mail: office@rcpbml.org.uk
Subscription Rates (Cheques made payable to RCPB(ML))
170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: 020 7627 0599:
Workers' Weekly Printed Edition:
4 issues - £3.15, 6 months - £19.95 for 26 issues, Yearly - £36.95 (including postage)

Workers' Daily Internet Edition Freely available online
Workers' Daily Email Edition Subscribe by e-mail daily:Free / Donate
Subscribe to WDIE Lead Article RSS Feed (free) {Valid RSS}


For an Education System that Serves the Progress of Society

On June 6, 2009, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was merged with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to form the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It is headed by Lord Mandelson.

            The move is a further step along the path of integrating of education with business. Additionally, the absence of any reference to universities or education in the name of the new Department illustrate how the government has ceased to be in any way apologetic about the direction it is taking education. It amounts to a declaration that in this time of the crisis they are to entrench the needs of the monopolies; it makes official and overt the agenda to make education serve the aims of big business rather than the progress of society.

            Writing about his new Department for The Guardian under the heading “Education and business hand in hand”, Mandelson dreams up a world where “we” all share the same needs as the monopolies. “At the end of the day,” he writes, the needs of business and of higher education “are two parts of a single picture of a Britain that has the knowledge, confidence and character to prosper in a changing world”.

            Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University and College Union, said: “UCU is very concerned that his merger seems to signal that further and higher education are no longer considered important enough to have a department of their own. The fact they have been lumped in with business appears to be a clear signal of how the government views colleges and universities and their main roles in this country.”

            Such concerns and opposition are fully justified. Furthermore, it is vitally important to uphold that education is a right. This is consistent with the role of education serving the progress of society and entirely opposed to putting education into the service of the monopolies.

            In his article, Mandelson mentions the issue of tuition fees, which New Labour introduced over a decade ago. “Over the next few months,” he writes, “we will be publishing a framework for the future shape of our higher education system, followed by an independent review on student fees... It will set out how the sector will maintain its contribution to Britain's economic competitiveness in a global economy and extend the opportunity and social mobility that come with education as widely as possible.”

            This was the very argument used to justify fees in the first place: education is not a right, but rather to be educated is a privilege that provides “extended opportunity”: education is a privilege for which students should pay. Whether or not the “opportunity is extended as widely as possible”, this is the context in which the government views the issue.

            For big business, education is there to produce the workforce it requires, while the workers themselves are considered a cost of production. Investment in education and the claims of the workers are negative factors to big business. It is a privilege to be educated, a privilege to work for a "top company". On the one hand, their capital-centred view cannot and will not recognise that education is a right, while on the other, recognition of the right to education is a block to the aims of the monopolies to bring all aspects of society under their dictate.

            The opposition to the agenda being carried out, the agenda that is destroying the culture of learning in order to fulfil the aims of the monopolies, should stand firm with its alternative vision for education that is available to all at the highest level that society can provide. Investment in education should be increased so that this level is raised, and developed in order to serve the needs of society and not identified with the success of big business and the monopolies.

Article Index



Justice for the North West 10!

On April 8, 2009, in a high profile raid, armed police arrested twelve students as terrorist suspects. One, a Liverpool University student, was thrown to the ground and held there at gunpoint for an hour. The Prime Minister boasted of a major terrorist plot being foiled but three weeks of interrogations and searches showed no shred of evidence against them and Manchester police said they were innocent. They were “released” but ten of them, all Pakistani citizens, were immediately re-imprisoned as a “threat to national security”.

            Moved from prison to prison and currently held as Category A prisoners in Manchester, Milton Keynes and Leeds, they are facing a “special” immigration court where neither they nor their legal representatives can hear any “evidence” against them. If deported with the shadow of terrorism hanging over them, they will be treated as terrorists in Pakistan.

            The North West 10 have been targeted because they are young Muslims at a time when their country is facing intensive bombing as part of the “war on terror”, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis. They need our support in their fight for justice.

            Bail hearings for the students are scheduled to be heard over this week and began yesterday, Monday, July 27, at SIAC (Special Immigration Appeals Commission). The picket of the courts takes place outside the Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London WC2A 2LL from 12.00noon. Support the students and join the picket!

            For further information on the campaign, please visit the campaign website:

http://www.j4nw10.org

            Online petition:

An online petition has been set up demanding justice for the 10 Pakistani students and to stop their unjust deportations. Please sign the online petition and urge you friends and others to sign as well:

http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/28461.html

            Academics support NW10:

If you are an academic (or know an academic), please write or send an email to the Vice Chancellors of two of the institutes the students were studying at (Liverpool Hope University and Liverpool John Moores University) - to provide study material to occupy their minds at what is a very difficult time for them, and liaise with the prison authorities to permit the students’ access to their course materials and make arrangements for them to be able to sit for their exams. For further details including a list of supporting academics please follow this link:

http://www.j4nw10.org/LettersToInstitutes.htm

Article Index



The Secret Trials That Besmirch Britain's Immigration Law

Paul Donovan, The Independent, Monday, 27 July 2009

Today the latest session of Britain's secret trials begins at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in London. The appellants coming up before the SIAC over the next week are seven of the Pakistani students arrested before Easter under suspicion of terrorist activity.

            There was blanket media coverage at the time, helped by the intervention of the Prime Minister, who felt the need to declare: "We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot."

            Two weeks later all 12 students originally arrested were released without charge to far less fanfare. It was then announced that 10 were to be deported on national security grounds.

            One returned to Pakistan while two others were released last week, pending visa issues being investigated. The remaining seven, however, now face Britain's secret system of justice overseen by the SIAC and operating under the aegis of immigration law.

            The SIAC deals with appeals against decisions made by the Home Office to deport or exclude individuals from Britain on national security grounds. The process has all the appearance of a court, but operates more like a star chamber.

            Secret evidence plays a big role in the process, with the appellants not told what they are accused of to justify their deportation. Neither are their lawyers allowed to know this information. Instead special advocates are appointed, who are allowed to see the evidence against them.

            A damning indictment of the process comes from Dinah Rose QC, who acted as a special advocate. "I heard the appellant ask the judge the question: 'Why are you sending me to prison?' To which the judge replied: 'I cannot tell you that.' I could not believe that I was witnessing such an event in a British court. I could not believe that nobody protested or made a fuss. They simply took him to jail, without any explanation at all," said Rose.

            This system of justice overseen by the SIAC has come to prominence since 9/11, when the Government turned to immigration law as a means of holding foreign nationals without trial, pending deportation. Following 9/11, the Government rushed through the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act, which allowed foreign nationals to be detained without trial indefinitely.

            In 2004, the law lords ruled that it was unlawful under the Human Rights Act to detain people without trial. It was as a result of this ruling that control orders were devised.

            These effectively amounted to being detained under house arrest. There were short periods of time when the individual could go outside into a proscribed area. They were also required to wear a tag and ring up the tagging company a number of times a day.

            One of those originally detained under this process in December 2001 was an Algerian man known only as "G". He was imprisoned, then released on house arrest-style bail conditions then re-arrested after the London bombings, and served with a deportation notice. While in prison he then tried to kill himself using wire.

            Today, "G" continues to live with his wife and two young children under house arrest conditions on deportation bail. "No one here has ever told me what I am accused of. I have no rights here it seems. In Britain animals have rights. I have less rights than an animal," he said.

            It is onto this conveyor belt of injustice that the seven Pakistani students enter today. The one way out of this nightmare is to agree to leave the country. This, though, is not an option for most who fled their home countries like Algeria as refugees in fear of their lives. Were they to return, as some have, they would be likely to face torture, prison or death.

            The Pakistani students’ case is somewhat different to that of the others being detained in that they did not flee their home country. However, it is not an appetising prospect to return to Pakistan under the cloud of terrorist suspicion. To their credit the students remain committed to resuming their studies in the UK.

            There have been some encouraging signs of progress in the effort to roll back the operation of this secretive system of injustice. Last month, the law lords ruled that control orders breached the Human Rights Act in that the reliance on secret evidence denied the appellants a fair trial.

            Meanwhile, some 90 MPs have signed an early day motion calling for an end to the use of secret evidence.

            In the case of the students, the government may just be about to score a PR own goal. It created such a public fuss around the initial arrests, only to then declare no charges were being brought.

            As a result there is sure to be more interest about the plight of the students as they enter the SIAC process. It can only be hoped that, come the end of this week, a little more light has been shed on this secret system of justice. It must also be hoped that all those students who want to can resume the studies that were so brutally interrupted back in April.

Article Index



Justice Release Damning Report on Secret Evidence

Justice, an independent legal human rights organisation founded in 1957 recently released their report on the use of secret evidence in the judicial system.  An Executive Summary the report details the following concerns;

• It is a basic principle of a fair hearing that a person must know the evidence against him.

• This core principle of British justice has been undermined as the use of secret evidence in UK courts has grown dramatically in the past 10 years.

• Secret evidence can now be used in a wide range of cases including deportations hearings, control orders proceedings, parole board cases, asset-freezing applications, pre-charge detention hearings in terrorism cases, employment tribunals and even planning tribunals.

• Defendants in some criminal cases are now being convicted on the basis of evidence that has never been made public. Criminal courts have issued judgments with redactions to conceal some of the evidence relied upon. Evidence from anonymous witnesses has also been used in hundreds of criminal trials and is widespread in ASBO hearings.

• Since they were first introduced in 1997, almost 100 special advocates – lawyers prohibited from communicating with those they represent – have been appointed. Indeed, the government itself does not know how many special advocates have been appointed.

• This report calls for an end to the use of secret evidence. Secret evidence is unreliable, unfair, undemocratic, unnecessary and damaging to both national security and the integrity of Britain’s courts.

• In its place, this report sets out a series of recommendations that include the strengthening current disclosure procedures by the creation of public interest advocates to replace special advocates in PII claims; increasing the transparency of existing court procedures; and ending reliance on “reasonable suspicion” in such proceedings as deportation and control orders.

            For further information, contact Eric Metcalfe, Director of Human Rights Policy, emetcalfe@justice.org.uk, direct line: 020 7762 6415.

Article Index



Secret Evidence Undermines Right to Fair Trial

By David Mery

The right to a fair trial, an essential principle of the legal system enshrined in both domestic and international law, is limited by the use of secret evidence in judicial proceedings. For justice to be served, an accused person must know the case against him and be able to scrutinise and challenge the evidence used against him in a fair, open and public hearing.

            The use of secret evidence has become all too common in deportation and terrorism cases. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) deals with appeal hearings against decisions made by the Home Office to deport someone on grounds of national security. When the government deems that the publication of some evidence could pose a risk to national security, appellants, and their counsel, are denied access to the full evidence against them. They cannot properly prepare a defence. To mitigate this situation, special advocates – state-appointed barristers who represent the detainees in closed sessions – are given access to the secret evidence. However they are prohibited from discussing anything that takes place in these sessions with either the detainees or their lawyers.

            This closed court process does not give confidence that the evidence can be properly examined or that it has been obtained in a wholly legal manner. Former Special Advocate, Dinah Rose QC describes the great difficulties she encountered taking evidence in closed sessions when the Home Office had applied to revoke a detainee’s bail on the basis of secret evidence: “I can still recall my deep feeling of shame when I heard the appellant ask the judge the question: why are you sending me to prison? To which the judge replied: I cannot tell you that. I could not believe that I was witnessing such an event in a British court. I could not believe that nobody protested or made a fuss. They simply took him to jail, without any explanation at all.” [1]

            The reliability of secret evidence is questionable; it may consist of hearsay evidence possibly obtained though bribery or coercion or even from torture. Information received from friendly countries, such as Pakistan, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, as well as from Guantánamo Bay, likely to have been obtained through the torture of alleged terror suspects cannot be used in an open court in the UK. However, it can and has been passed as secret evidence. On the basis of secret evidence concealed from them, individuals – sometimes not even charged – have been detained in high-security prison units for years without ever knowing what they are accused of. Around 20 individuals are currently waiting for SIAC to hear their appeals against deportation, and several dozen have passed through SIAC since 2001. Some have been deported. Some are let out of prison, but given bail conditions so restrictive that they choose to risk torture instead by seeking “voluntary” return to their countries.

            Like SIAC proceedings, control orders – and the state’s defence against appeals to end or modify them – may invoke secret evidence. Forty [2], or more, have had to live under the severe conditions of the control-order regime (a breach of which becomes crime). With restrictions on visitors, use of phones or internet, these orders affect their families as well. They can have their property confiscated, bank account frozen, face travel restrictions and curfews of up to 16 hours per day. Their movement outside the home may be limited to a few streets. These conditions, continuing for years, have led some to contemplate suicide. Control orders can be imposed indefinitely, although they are renewed every 12 months. Seventeen such orders are currently in force [3].

            When the government invokes national security as a ground to introduce the use of secret evidence, the accused has no chance. There is no way to challenge either the evidence or the decision to use it, whether it is justified or whether it is a politically motivated catch-all excuse. Gareth Peirce explains: “‘Security’ is such a dramatic yet ill-defined concept that those in power are able to curb criticism and shut down debate by invoking it and by claiming to possess vital knowledge (which cannot, of course, be safely revealed) to support their actions or policies. Those in power draw on traditions of deference and non-partisanship when it comes to security, making it unnecessary for governments to provide reasoned justification when security is said to be at stake. There is therefore a dangerous circularity to the entire process. Deference is fed in part by ignorance, and ignorance is fed in turn by claims that secrecy is indispensable. The public receives only the barest of justifications, which it is supposed to take on trust, while the government machine ignores or short-circuits normal democratic processes.” [4] As the role of the UK in complicity with torture is being revealed little by little, we discover that “national security” is a convenient excuse to hide possible culpability by agents of the government.

            SIAC is not the only form of legal proceedings to make use of secret evidence. Foreign Secretary David Miliband has repeatedly tried to stop the High Court from disclosing information about what Britain’s security and intelligence agencies knew of the torture of Binyam Mohamed. This case was only brought after the government refused a request by the lawyers to make public “secret evidence” that could exculpate Mr. Mohamed in an American case. Miliband has argued that publication would cause irreparable harm to Britain’s relationship with America.

            A government proposal, in the Coroners and Justice Bill, to hold some inquests in secret where issues of national security were involved was dropped in May 2009, only after vociferous campaigning by CAMPACC, Inquest and other organisations. However, the government can also use powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 to substitute an inquiry for an inquest and to hold part of the inquiry in secret in inquests involving the military or, again, when questions of national security arise. Solicitor Louise Christian adds “Rule 54 of the employment tribunal procedures allows an order for secret evidence and “special advocates” even in employment cases. Government employees such as immigration or customs and excise officers from whom security clearance is withdrawn – all of whom just happen to be Muslims – are not told the reasons they have lost their jobs. Instead they are faced with secret evidence and orders for “special advocates” in their race discrimination claims.” [5] Secret evidence can also be used to refuse or revoke British citizenship – those affected have no right to know the reasons for these actions.

            In February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that when the open evidence is insubstantial and that the evidence relied upon is largely to be found in the closed material that those accused are not “in a position effectively to challenge the allegations against them”. [6] This constitutes a violation of Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states: “Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.” Earlier this month, the House of Lords ruled unanimously that the use of secret evidence to impose control orders on individuals in situations was a breach of their right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights), that “everyone is entitled to the disclosure of sufficient material to enable him to answer effectively the case that is made against him.” [7] This reliance upon secret evidence by the United Kingdom has also been condemned by other international bodies including “the Eminent Jurists Panel” of the International Committee of Jurists, the UN Committee on Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the European Commissioner for Human Rights.

Foot Notes

[1] Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence; Andy Worthington. http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/01/britains-guantanamo-calling-for-an-end-to-secret-evidence/
[2] The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism
http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/news-publications/publication-search/general/HO_Contest_strategy.pdf
[3] Home Office rejects control order time limit; Alan Travis
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/21/terrorism-control-orders-time-limit
[4] ‘Make sure you say that you were treated properly’ Gareth Peirce
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n09/peir01_.html
[5] Secret inquests, secret evidence; Louise Christian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/may/15/secret-inquests
[6] A and Others v. the UK [2009] ECHR 301
http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2009/301.html
[7] Secretary of State for the Home Department v AF & Anor [2009] UKHL 28
http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2009/28.html

Article Index



CASE:

About the Coalition Against Secret Evidence

Secret evidence is evidence that is not provided to a defendant or their lawyers during a hearing making it impossible for such persons to know the case against them or prepare a defence. Secret evidence is used in different ways in the UK courts, usually by the government in cases in which it considers “national security” to be an issue. Used as a basis for withholding evidence, for some detainees, this has resulted in over seven years of detention without proper trial or any charge. The government is currently trying to roll this out into other areas of the law.

            Everyone has the right to a fair trial under national and international law. Secret evidence restricts that right and the proper functioning of our legal system. The European Court of Human Rights recently recognised that this goes against the right to a fair trial and ruled against the British government.

            The Coalition Against Secret Evidence (CASE) was set up in February 2009 and is made up of individuals and organisations working on the issue of the use of secret evidence in the UK courts. Secret evidence is an affront to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our legal system for more than 800 years. CASE campaigns for an end to the use of secret evidence in British courts, the restoration of everyone’s right to know the reason why they are detained and an end to a system based on secrecy and unfairness.   Add your organisation to the list of CASE sponsors:

Cage Prisoners
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
Newham Monitoring Project
Peace and Justice in East London
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities

            You can contact CASE sponsors directly or if you have a more general question or you can email:  reveal at coalitionagainstsecretevidence dot com

Article Index



RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Daily Internet Edition Index Page