Amnesty tears apart government plans for cloak-and-dagger 'anti-terror' hearings
Government plans for secret courts have been torn apart in a damning report by Amnesty International which branded them "straight from the pages of a Kafka novel."
Amnesty warned that plans to extend the use of secret evidence will enable the government to "play the 'national security' card whenever it wants to keep things secret."
The Justice and Security Bill containing proposals for more "closed material procedures" will be debated in the Lords over the next few weeks.
It will enable judges to listen to more civil cases in secret without claimants being able to hear the evidence against them.
But the plans were heavily criticised in an Amnesty report to be published tomorrow.
Amnesty's Alice Wyss said: "It's already bad enough that secret procedures have been allowed to creep into the justice system but the government is now trying to extend secret justice to an unprecedented degree."
She said the Bill posed "a real threat to the principles of fairness and open justice" in Britain and would enable the government to throw a "cloak of secrecy over wrongdoing."
Special advocates - the lawyers who would be involved in the cases covered by the proposals - also argue that key safeguards are missing.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Currently no-one, not the claimant, not their lawyers, nor the judge, can take into account or rely on national security-sensitive evidence.
"The result is that cases collapse and we never get to the bottom of serious allegations made against the state."
He claimed the Bill aimed to fix this problem by allowing national security evidence excluded under current rules to be heard in secret or "hidden" courts.
"Closed justice is never ideal but it is better when the alternative is silence," the spokesman said.
But Amnesty argued the proposals could result in information and evidence of human rights violations by British state representatives being kept secret.
It said the right to a fair trial for victims of alleged human rights violations could be critically undermined.
Ms Wyss added: "Evidence that is kept secret, lawyers that can't talk to you - it's a secret justice system straight from the pages of a Kafka novel."
The government claims it is wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on settling claims because it is unable to contest them as the evidence it would wish to produce is so secret that it cannot be revealed in open court.
Sixteen terrorism suspects, including former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, received a multimillion-pound payout last November after they claimed they were mistreated by US and British security and intelligence officials.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond believes himself vindicated by the High Court ruling that his Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) is independent.
A look at the causes and possible outcomes of Silvio Berlusconi and his right-wing coalition's lead in the polls.
Attacks such as yesterday's horrific murder in Woolwich didn't happen before the 'war on terror.' It's time we recognised the consequences of the conflicts we've unleashed