(Reprieve) – The High Court has decided today that the trial involving the rendition and torture of a leading Gaddafi opponent and his pregnant wife should be conducted in secret.
Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar opposed the Government’s request for a secret trial under section 6 of the Justice and Security Act on the basis that extensive evidence of the CIA torture programme—and of their abduction—has been in the public domain for years.
Many key facts in the case and of the CIA rendition programme in general are officially confirmed. These include: the CIA’s use of specific torture techniques on its prisoners; its use of a black site in Thailand; and its use of the specific rendition jet (N313P) CIA to ‘render’ Mr Belhaj and his pregnant wife to Gaddafi’s Libya. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that MI6’s Sir Mark Allen was the suspect investigated for his role in the renditions and recommended criminal charges.
The High Court found that none of this official evidence required an ordinary, fair public trial. The Court held that an open trial “would cause significant damage to the interests of national security […] irrespective of the current sensitivity of the intelligence itself.”
The Court also expressed doubt that it would be necessary for the victims to know the Government’s case. The Court said it was “very unlikely that [secret] material could be put into open or made available to the Claimants or their legal representatives in a way which would better promote a fair and effective trial than a closed material procedure.“
Cori Crider, Reprieve counsel for the Belhaj family, said:
“We’re disappointed that there has been no effort by the government to engage with extensive evidence that has been in the public domain for years. We will ask the Court to revisit at the end of the secret disclosure process. ”
Mr Belhaj said:
“I went through a secret trial once before, in Gaddafi’s Libya. It took about a half hour, and I never saw any of the evidence against me. Later a guard came to my cell and tossed in a red jumpsuit—that was how I found out that the secret court had sentenced me to die. Fatima and I have stuck with this case for all these years because we believe the British system, unlike Gaddafi’s, can deliver justice. But what kind of a trial will it be if we put in a mountain of evidence and government officials can simply refuse to answer us? It’s hard to see how this fits with Britain’s long tradition of open justice.”
This report prepared by Reprieve.