The government has been accused of attempting to bury the truth about Britain’s role in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition process by seeking to have a case, brought by two men detained by the US, heard in secret.
It is the first time that a civil claim involving extraordinary rendition will be heard in such a way.
The use of “closed material procedure” (CMP) cases in matters of national security is extremely rare. They were extended to the civil courts under the Justice and Security Act 2013. But in their first year of operation they were used only five times. They have also been used in proceedings involving children who have been suspected of being radicalised and in cases involving female genital mutilation and forced marriage. In cases of national security, secret intelligence introduced by the government during a CMP case will be seen only by the judge and a security-cleared “special advocate”.
The new case, to be heard in the high court on Tuesday, centres on two Pakistani men the UK handed over to American forces in 2004. The US then rendered the pair to Afghanistan and secretly detained them in for a decade without charge, trial or access to a lawyer. They claim that they were tortured throughout their ordeal until they were eventually released to Pakistan in 2014.
“For years, ministers made false statements about their involvement in torture and rendition until they were forced to admit the government’s complicity in this sordid affair,” said Omran Belhadi, a lawyer with which is helping the two men bring their case.
“Now they are trying to use secret courts to keep the full truth buried. With a torture apologist now in the White House, it’s more important than ever that the government recognises the horrific mistakes of the Blair years and ensures … it never happens again. Instead, the official dissembling continues.”
According to the particulars of the claim submitted by one of the men, Amanatullah Ali, he was held in solitary confinement and interrogated by “servicepersons … (who) had the British flag on their uniforms”. He was made to stand naked in front of a camera. “If he moved”, someone “would enter the cell and beat the claimant”.
When he was transferred to the US military, the claimant “was taken to a windowless cell which he believes measured about six and a half feet wide by six and a half feet long” and in which he was “forbidden from lying down”. He was subject to sleep deprivation and was allowed to use the toilet only twice a day.
“If the claimant needed to go to the toilet outside those times, he had no choice but to urinate and defecate in his cell,” the claim states. “If the servicepersons discovered he had done this they became furious and punished him. The claimant therefore tried to hide his faeces in the cell. As a result, the cell became extremely insanitary and smelled disgusting. The claimant felt as though he did not exist in the world and had no importance to anyone.”
Ali alleges he was subject to a number of punishments including deprivation of food and denial of a toothbrush and toilet paper.
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A government spokesperson said: “Where we are defending a case that involves material which may impact on national security, we apply for closed material proceedings so that the court can properly consider all relevant information. This application is now before the court and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Secret courts have been used to hear a claim involving a man alleged to have been the army’s main informant inside the IRA. Another case was brought by several Libyan dissidents and their families who were held by the UK authorities before being deported back to their home country.