As you may have been aware, I've been fairly vociferously opposed to the Coalition's plans to legislate for secret courts. As Liberty says:
Cabinet Minister Ken Clarke again insisted to Parliamentarians that the legislation was vital – to allow our spies to properly defend themselves and to protect relations with our US allies. These tired arguments would be somewhat more believable if all of this wasn’t coming so soon after a series of shameful events that expose the true motivation behind – and danger of – this Bill. Only last week the UK settled – for just over £2million – a claim brought by prominent Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi. In 2004 he was forced aboard a plane to Libya, in a joint UK-US-Libyan operation, where he and his young family were all imprisoned before al-Saadi was held and tortured for years. Naturally the Government will say it had to fork out because it couldn’t defend itself in open court without compromising state secrets. But this Bill isn’t really designed to prevent unjustified compensation. A case with no merit, or one too saturated with sensitive material, would never proceed under the current system. Either the court would throw it out, or the Government could apply to do so. Tellingly the UK has never opted to strike out any torture or rendition claim; but has instead now settled many of them for breathtakingly high sums. This alone suggests the cases had more than a little merit. Consider that alongside the state collusion in Pat Finucane’s murder, the Hillsborough police cover-up and the silence over the Jimmy Savile child sex allegations and phone-hacking, and it’s clear that the powerful always resist transparency.I think it would be a good idea for Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference to debate this and propose submitting the following motion by the deadline on Thursday.
§ The motion “No Government Above the Law – the Justice and Security Bill” passed overwhelmingly at the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference in September 2012 called for:
§ Part II of the Justice and Security Bill to be withdrawn or defeated by Liberal Democrat parliamentarians; and
§ Public Interest Immunity to be put into legislation;
§ That the amendment calling for “CMPs to be used only as a last resort and in cases that would otherwise be incapable of being tried” was rejected overwhelmingly by the Liberal Democrat Conference;
§ That Liberal Democrat peers formed the majority of those voting in the Lords to remove secret courts from the Justice and Security Bill;
§ That, despite the above, the government’s intention as stated by Ken Clarke in the Commons on 18th December 2012 is to pursue enactment of Part II of the Justice and Security Bill including some, but not all, of the amendments proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
§ That the measures in Part II of the Justice and Security Bill will mean the courts system of the United Kingdom will provide neither justice nor security in cases involving allegations against the state of the most serious nature including torture, rendition, negligence of armed forces, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment;
§ That the proposals in the Justice and Security Bill are directly contradictory to the core values and stated purpose of the Liberal Democrat party as enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution, namely to “build and safeguard a fair, free and open society”;
§ That Part II of the Justice and Security Bill should be withdrawn immediately;
Conference calls for:
§ A pledge to repeal Part II of the Justice and Security Act (if so enacted) to be included in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the next General Election.
If you are a Scottish party member who would like to support this (and we don't have any of this voting rep business up here), please email me at caronsmusingsATgooglemailDOTcom with your name, local party and address or membership number as soon as possible.