Government seeks secret trial despite “no defence” in Libya torture case

(Reprieve) – Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, former MI6 officer Sir Mark Allen, and the UK Government have refused to tell the High Court their reasons for contesting claims against them over their role in rendition and torture even after requesting a secret trial, it emerged yesterday.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar have sued Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen and the Government over their abduction, torture, and ‘rendition’ to Libya in 2004. Monday saw the start of hearings under controversial powers in the Justice and Security Act that allow the Defendants to request a trial in secret.

The couple are opposing the application on the basis that virtually every relevant detail of the operation is clear from documents handed to the court today. They have filed thousands of pages of evidence, including hundreds of pages of never-before-published intelligence files showing the operation – and the ‘deal in the desert’ with Colonel Gaddafi – in extreme detail.

Meanwhile, despite both Mr Straw and Sir Mark claiming that they are eager to defend the claims at trial, it has emerged that none of the Defendants is willing to tell the Court, even in secret, what their defence actually is.

Image Source: Jim Bowen, Flickr, Creative Commons
SIS (MI6) Headquarters

Cori Crider, Reprieve counsel for the family, said:

“After six years of delay, today was the Government’s first chance to put up or shut up – and they’ve shut up. We’ve given the court thousands of pages of evidence about CIA torture and Britain’s role in this sorry episode – and what does the Government have to say about it? Nothing. Anyone would think they had no defence. Abdul-Hakim and Fatima have fought to have their day in open court and the Government won’t even give them a reason for this secrecy. If our evidence is wrong, let’s hear why; if it’s not, then they should apologise to Abdul-Hakim and Fatima now.”

This report prepared by Reprieve.