The government has yet to provide any evidence that its plans for Kafkaesque secret courts are necessary, a committee of MPs said today.
The joint committee on human rights (JCHR) said in a report that it remained "unpersuaded" that closed material procedure (CMPs), proposed in the Justice and Security Bill, are essential in a growing number of civil cases.
CMPs would give ministers the ability to exclude their opponents from the courtroom, along with the press and the public, and present evidence free from effective challenge.
Ken Clarke (pictured), the minister steering the Bill, claims CMPs are necessary because the government is being forced to pay out in civil cases as it is unable to defend itself without jeopardising national security.
But opponents argue the government is seeking to put itself above the law and avoid embarrassing disclosures.
The joint committee on human rights (JCHR) said it was "unpersuaded that the government had demonstrated by reference to evidence that there are a significant and growing number of civil cases in which a closed material procedure is essential for the issues in the case to be determined."
It also said that, despite some amendments, the proposals do not provide "sufficiently robust safeguards" to protect the interests of justice.
The report came as a group of over 700 legal figures published an open letter warning that the Bill is "dangerous and unnecessary" and will "fatally undermine" the fairness of court hearings.
Executive director of legal action charity Reprieve Clare Algar said: "It is staggering that the government is tearing up one of our oldest legal freedoms, despite having failed to produce a shred of evidence that this is necessary.
"This should make it clear to anyone that this Bill is more about covering up politicians' embarrassment than anything else."
Amnesty International UK head of policy and government Affairs Allan Hogarth said: "Hardly a day goes by without more criticism of this dangerous and fundamentally unjust Bill.
"If the Bill becomes law we will end up with victims of human rights violations being prevented from seeing secret evidence about their own case and even being prevented from talking to the lawyers who are supposedly representing their interests."
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