Jump to page content

UK: Secret courts may suppress UK role in torture cases

last updated Sep 11, 2012

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT) Juan Méndez has criticised the proposed “secret courts” contained in the governments’ justice and security bill. So-called “closed material proceedings” could be established if the government believes that certain evidence might compromise national security. Méndez said that these proceedings could be used to cover up the role of the UK in torture and rendition cases.

Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; Source: United Nations - Geneva

Closed material proceedings would allow the government to present secret evidence to the courts without giving the non-state parties any knowledge of its evidence and, therefore, no possibility to challenge the agencies. Méndez, on the occasion of a speech at the thinktank Chatham House, said that “if a country is in possession of information about human rights abuses, but isn’t in a position to mention them, it hampers the ability to deal effectively with torture”.

Despite the criticism from Méndez and several other human rights organisations, the government insists that the justice and security bill is essential for the protection of its intelligence-sharing relationship with other governments, in particular the US.

Guardian: Secret courts could suppress evidence of UK role in torture, says UN official

Guardian: Secret justice bill not perfect, says Ken Clarke

Morning Star: Secret trials to cover up Britain's role in torture

United Kingdom country profile