Secret Courts: Politics displacing due process

June 13, 2014
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(London, UK) An appeals court has allowed a secret trial to go-ahead albeit with some concessions to media organisations that did not want it to be shrouded in total secrecy. 

The decision in Guardian News Media v AB and CD means that the two defendants Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, previously referred to as AB and CD respectively, can now be named, and the media and public will now be allowed to access less significant parts of the trial such as the swearing-in of the jury, parts of the prosecution's introductory remarks setting out the case, the verdicts and, where there are convictions, the sentencing. However, judges maintained that the trial of the two men was of an exceptional nature and that the core of it must still be held in private. 

The verdict also means that some journalists will be permitted to attend 'the bulk of the trial', though they will need 'accreditation'. Any notes taken will be held until the end of the trial before a decision is reached about what can and can't be reported.

CAGE maintains the following:

1. That only the the least significant parts of the trial will be open to public scrutiny, is no cause for celebration. In fact it can be said that ruling, in effect, will still only offer the pretence of due process because the crux of the trial will still be held in secret.

2. Inviting only 'accredited' journalists who potentially cannot report on the bulk of proceedings will not reassure the public that justice has been attained. The maxim that 'not only justice is done, but that it is seen to be done', will be hard achieved. The appointment of approved journalists by state officials is a worrying sign and has hallmarks of the system used at hearings at Guantanamo Bay. Will only those journalists who wish only to toe the government's line by accepted? What process will there be to decide who will be approved? One worrying feature of the system at Guantanamo is its arbitrariness - where journalists in the past have been banned for highly questionable reasons. Yesterday's decision allows for similar abuses of open trials to take place and is another indication that the rules of the game have changed: the legal gymnastics played at Guantanamo Bay are now being adopted elsewhere by western governments.

3. This judgement further normalises the use of secret evidence in trials by appearing to concede something to the media and public which in fact is rather insubstantial. With the use of secret evidence already established in English courts such as in the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission (SIAC), this decision represents another step on the slippery slope towards a parallel legal system becoming part and parcel of the English legal system.

You can read more information about this decision here.

For more information on the rule of law, you can see this talk delivered by barrister David Gottlieb at a CAGE seminar here.

For an additional view on this judgement, you can read more here.

<div class="field_article_author"><div><b>Written By:</b></div>Editor </div><div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:504px;min-width:300px;"><div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:67.261905% 0 49px 0;width:100%;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="398" scrolling="no" src="//embed.gettyimages.com/embed/200298275-009?et=VkkrnXruSXFmG4LaKh095A&amp;ContextMore=on&amp;sig=tgg23yYafLsjSZFKbnUDoPWZuEPN0coFyfwRNjehJQU=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="504"></iframe></div></div><div>(London, UK) An appeals court has allowed a secret trial to go-ahead albeit with some concessions to media organisations that did not want it to be shrouded in total secrecy.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The decision in Guardian News Media v AB and CD means that the two defendants Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, previously referred to as AB and CD respectively, can now be named, and the media and public will now be allowed to access less significant parts of the trial such as the swearing-in of the jury, parts of the prosecution&#39;s introductory remarks setting out the case, the verdicts and, where there are convictions, the sentencing. However, judges maintained that the trial of the two men was of an exceptional nature and that the core of it must still be held in private.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The verdict also means that some journalists will be permitted to attend &#39;the bulk of the trial&#39;, though they will need &#39;accreditation&#39;. Any notes taken will be held until the end of the trial before a decision is reached about what can and can&#39;t be reported.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>CAGE maintains the following:</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>1. That only the the least significant parts of the trial will be open to public scrutiny, is no cause for celebration. In fact it can be said that ruling, in effect, will still only offer the pretence of due process because the crux of the trial will still be held in secret.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>2. Inviting only &#39;accredited&#39; journalists who potentially cannot report on the bulk of proceedings will not reassure the public that justice has been attained. The maxim that &#39;not only justice is done, but that it is seen to be done&#39;, will be hard achieved. The appointment of approved journalists by state officials is a worrying sign and has hallmarks of the system used at hearings at Guantanamo Bay. Will only those journalists who wish only to toe the government&#39;s line by accepted? What process will there be to decide who will be approved? One worrying feature of the system at Guantanamo is its arbitrariness - where journalists in the past have been banned for highly questionable reasons. Yesterday&#39;s decision allows for similar abuses of open trials to take place and is another indication that the rules of the game have changed: the legal gymnastics played at Guantanamo Bay are now being adopted elsewhere by western governments.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>3. This judgement further normalises the use of secret evidence in trials by appearing to concede something to the media and public which in fact is rather insubstantial. With the use of secret evidence already established in English courts such as in the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission (SIAC), this decision represents another step on the slippery slope towards a parallel legal system becoming part and parcel of the English legal system.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div><strong>You can read more information about this decision <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27806814">here</a>.</strong></div><div><strong>For more information on the rule of law, you can see this talk delivered by barrister David Gottlieb at a CAGE seminar <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVvp7Jvvgws">here</a>.</strong></div><div><strong>For an additional view on this judgement, you can read more&nbsp;<a href="http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/how-open-will-this-newly-opened-justice-be-lawrence-mcnamara/">here</a>.&nbsp;</strong></div></div>

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Secret Courts: Politics displacing due process
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