Daily archives: December 8, 2005

Massive blow to Blair-Straw torture policy – Lords rule out use of secret evidence gained through torture as grounds for detention without trial

From BBC News

Click here to listen to Craig’s comments on this breakthrough during thursday’s Simon Mayo Radio 5 Live show

Secret evidence which might have been obtained by torture cannot be used against terror suspects in UK courts, the law lords have ruled.

The ruling means the home secretary will have to review all cases where evidence from other countries might have been obtained in this way.

It is a victory for eight men who were previously detained without charge. The government says it does not use evidence it knows to have been obtained by torture.

Human rights

The ruling centres on how far the government must go to show improper methods have not been used. The Court of Appeal ruled last year that such evidence was usable if UK authorities had no involvement.

But eight of the 10 foreign terror suspects who were being held without charge, backed by human rights groups, challenged that ruling. They argued evidence obtained in US detention camps should be excluded.

The Special Immigration Appeals Court (SIAC) must now investigate whether evidence was obtained by torture, the law lords have ruled.

‘Important day’

Daily Telegraph legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg told BBC News 24 the ruling was a “very significant blow for the government”.

He said it would not be enough for suspects simply to say the evidence against them had been obtained under torture – it was up to SIAC to investigate their claims. But if the government was not prepared to say where evidence has come from, it must find other evidence to justify their continued detention.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights pressure group Liberty, said: “This is an incredibly important day, with the law lords sending a signal across the democratic world that there is to be no compromise on torture.

“This is also an important message about what distinguishes us from dictators and terrorists. We will not legitimise evidence obtained by torture by using it in our justice system.”

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said he would deport anyone considered a threat to national security. But the suspects have the right of appeal to SIAC.

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Rice’s claim that U.S. dosn’t torture is based on administration’s narrow definition

From Media Matters

Summary: L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statement that the United States “does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” without noting that the Bush administration’s definition of torture is at odds with international standards.

The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s December 5 statement that the United States “does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” without noting that the Bush administration’s definition of torture has been criticized as overly narrow. In contrast, The New York Times reported on December 7 that the administration’s circumscribed definition of torture is at odds with international standards. The New York Times noted that Rice’s statement has been criticized as misleading given that under the administration’s definition, U.S. interrogators are free to employ methods that fall outside of the narrow category of “torture” but that violate the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture. All three broadcast news outlets challenged directly or featured sources who challenged Rice’s misleading statement, noting that it rested on the administration’s limited definition of torture.

In a December 5 statement made before departing for a trip to Europe to meet with foreign government officials about concerns over reports of secret prisons operated on that continent by the CIA, Rice responded to recent criticisms of the United States’ treatment of detainees by saying “the United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances.”

In December 6 articles, two major newspapers — The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) — printed Rice’s statement but did not report that the administration’s definition of torture has been criticized by human rights groups, government officials, and members of Congress, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who authored an amendment defining torture that the White House has threatened to veto.


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Human Rights Under Renewed Threat From Asylum and Nationality Bill

Extracts from a debate in the House of Lords on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill (6th December). The full transcript can be found in Hansards

Baroness Stern: The new Clause 51 proposed by the Government will include within that definition acts of committing, preparing or instigating terrorism, and acts of encouraging or inducing others to commit, prepare or instigate terrorism, whether or not the acts themselves amount to an actual or “inchoate” offence. That may sound eminently reasonable until we remember, first, the definition of terrorism being used here, and, secondly, that it covers acts wherever they are committed, whether in Uzbekistan, North Korea or perhaps Burma.

I cannot do better than draw to the attention of the House the view of the Joint Committee of Human Rights on this issue:

“To redefine the scope of Article 1F(c) exclusion so as to catch anyone who has threatened damage to property as a means to political change anywhere in the world, and anyone who in the Secretary of State’s view has engaged in one of the unacceptable behaviours such as ‘justifying’ terrorism, is in our view to broaden the scope of the exclusion in Article 1F(c) in a way which is not itself compatible with the Refugee Convention”.

It seems to me, although of course I am not a lawyer, that advocating the overthrow of a repressive regime’for example, that in Uzbekistan’and supporting a move to another form of government such as democracy is enough to ensure that you will not get the protection of the United Kingdom, should you be able to flee before the secret police get you. In my view, that is a deeply shaming position for us to find ourselves in, and a long way from the haven for the Huguenots mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville.

The position is not improved by the provision in Clause 7 that requires appeals against deportation on national security grounds to be brought out-of-country. The Joint Committee considers that the failure of the new clause to preserve an in-country appeal on asylum grounds gives rise to a risk of incompatibility with the refugee convention…

Clause 53 will introduce a new test for the deprivation of a person’s British citizenship….the basis for the Secretary of State to deprive a person of British citizenship will be that he is,

“satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”….

I have one more question for the Minister: how do the Government propose to reconcile the work of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in reviewing the definition of terrorism in the 2000 Act with the plans to use that definition straight away across such a wide range of new legislation?

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UK and Germany Agreed to Allow Visas for Uzbek Politicians

From Hansards on 1st December

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answers of 24 November 2005, Official Report, columns 2247’48W, on Uzbekistan, to the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), when EU Ministers plan to review the exemption of Islam Karimov and his family from the list of Uzbek officials banned from travelling to the European Union; what discussions he has had with German authorities regarding the visit of Uzbek Interior Minister Almatov; and whether Mr. Almatov is still in Germany. [33768]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The measures announced by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 3 October in relation to Uzbekistan came into force on 14 November. They clearly demonstrate the profound concern of the European Union (EU) about the situation in Uzbekistan and the EU’s strong condemnation of the refusal of the Uzbek authorities’ to allow an independent international inquiry into the events in Andizhan in May.

The Council decided to implement these measures for an initial period of one year. In the meantime, the Council will keep under constant review the measures it has implemented in the light of any significant changes to the current situation, in particular any that demonstrate the willingness of the Uzbek authorities to adhere to the principles of respect for human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms.

The German authorities consulted us before Almatov’s visa was issued and we agreed with their assessment that Almatov qualified for an exemption as a case of urgent humanitarian need. Our embassy in Berlin remains in contact with the German authorities with regard to this case.

The details of Almatov’s presence are a matter for the Germans.

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