The government wants allegations that it was complicit in the torture by the US of Britons held as terrorism suspects to be heard in secret.
In documents seen by the Guardian, lawyers for the government argue it must be allowed to present evidence to the high court with the public excluded, otherwise Britain’s relations with other countries and its national security could be damaged. The government also wants its evidence kept secret from defence lawyers.
Lawyers for seven men who are now all back in the UK after the US released them without charge will tomorrow go to the high court in London to fight the government’s attempt, which they say is designed to cover the embarrassment of ministers and the security services.
The attempt to have unprecedented secret hearings comes as part of a case brought by four British residents and three UK citizens who were held in Guantánamo Bay. They are suing and allege the government and the security services were complicit in their rendition, unlawful detention and torture. …
The seven men bringing the lawsuit include Binyam Mohamed, who says he was tortured with the knowledge of the British security and intelligence agencies. In a separate but parallel case, the high court is locked in a fierce row with David Miliband, the foreign secretary, over his refusal to disclose CIA information.
Earlier this month, two senior judges dismissed the foreign secretary’s claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK’s vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. Miliband is appealing against the ruling.
In the high court, lawyers acting for the seven will urge Mr Justice Silber to reject MI5 and MI6 arguments that they should be able to rely on secret “closed evidence” to make their case.
The government filed a witness statement from the Treasury solicitor David Mackie outlining its defence. In it he explains the damage ministers and their lawyers believe could be caused if information held by the security services is publicly released. Mackie says in his witness statement that informants and the agencies methods would be jeopardised: “Disclosure of the information … would be likely to assist those whose purpose is to injure the security of the UK and whose actions in the past have shown that they are willing to kill innocent civilians.” …
Hiding torture under a cloak of national security is not acceptable. The threat made in attempt to hide the truth is a false choice. We can keep our countries safe without violating human rights. Lawmakers, end this Bush spawned dark age of detention without charges now.