The impending trial of two suspects charged with terrorism offences in secret in a closed court would amount to an abandonment of the fundamental right to a fair trial and disproportionately impact Muslims.
The trial of suspects AB and CD, due to be heard later this month, would be the first criminal case for centuries to be held completely in camera. In fact it would not even have come to light were it not for an appeal by sections of the national press against the application by the authorities to proceed with the case behind closed doors.
IHRC believes that all criminal defendants should enjoy the fundamental right to open justice. Justice must not only be done but seen to be done.
The Crown Prosecution Service has argued that without the guarantee of high secrecy it may not be able to proceed with the prosecution but those reasons have not been made public. IHRC believes that often it is the government’s own misconduct in cases and the need to cover it up that often drives its requests for secrecy.
We are concerned about the rapid rate at which secrecy has become normalised in the British justice system, and how it has been used to protect the government. Since the Justice and Security Act was passed last year the government has successfully applied for secret courts procedures, known as ‘closed material procedure’ to be used in a case concerning the UK’s alleged complicity in torture.
In the case involving Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed and a man identified only as CF a ‘closed material procedure’ was granted to the government so it can defend itself in secret against allegations that it was complicit in the detention, assault and torture of the two claimants. Mohamed made headlines when he went missing in November 2013 while under a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure (TPIM).
Secret evidence is also used in the controversial Special Immigration Appeals Commissions (SIAC) to deport terrorism suspects and others deemed to be harmful to the public interest.
The increasing resort to secrecy in trials has chipped away at the core legal principle that justice should be transparent and all evidence open to challenge. Since the justification for it is usually on national security grounds, it disproportionately impacts Muslims because they are the principle targets of Islamophobic security and anti-terrorism legislation.
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
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Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222