Liberty, the group campaigning for fundamental rights and freedoms in the UK, has today (14 February) launched a campaign, ‘For Their Eyes Only’, against the Government’s Justice and Security Green Paper.
The Green Paper contains proposals which would allow future ministers to shut out the press, public and bereaved families from any court case where it is considered a public hearing could "cause damage to the public interest". This could include actions arising from complicity in torture, inquests into deaths in custody, police negligence, compensation claims resulting from friendly fire – or any civil claim capable of embarrassing the authorities, says Liberty.
The human rights group’s campaign is launched with the help of a short film entitled ‘End of the Affair’, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day – which dramatises the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the US as a much more human dalliance.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: “The Government’s 'secret justice' policy has been flying under the radar – but Liberty’s ‘For Their Eyes Only’ campaign will shine a light on this shameless attempt to cover up abuses of power.
"Proposed legislation wouldn't just end the long-held principle that no one is above the law – it would exclude the press, public and victims from seeing justice done. Open courts and investigative journalists fought to uncover some of the worst scandals of the war on terror. Now we have to fight against the Empire striking back."
The Government’s proposals would see Closed Material Procedures and Special Advocates brought more generally into the civil law. Proceedings would be conducted without the involvement of the party bringing the claim and secret evidence – never disclosed to the claimant, let alone public or press – would be used to defend serious allegations. The only people present would be the judge, the Government and Special Advocates – who are forced to try and represent claimants without ever being allowed to discuss evidence with them.
Liberty says the Government is also seeking to elevate the Security Services – and potentially other bodies – above the law in civil actions focusing on the wrongdoing of third parties where the UK is involved.