Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The cover up

The judgement today by the three most senior Court of Appeal judges in England and Wales in favour of US intelligence documents that contain details of the torture of a UK resident, Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, represents a victory of sorts for the rule of law. "Of sorts" and it appears that David Milliband's disrespect for the law goes so far that he was willing to see a legal principal, which was established in 1637 and bans secret talks between lawyers and court, cast aside. Not only that but it would also appear that the partial victory which the publication of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British intelligence officials about Mr Mohamed's treatment represents, in the words of Mr Mohamad's lawyer, "only a few crumbs of the overall criminal enterprise", a "criminal enterprise" of the sort which, in my opinion, we would tend to associate with a fascist dictatorship.

Therefore, why just the "few crumbs"? Well, the government's lawyer Jonathan Sumption QC not only had "secret talks" with the court but he also managed to persuade it to omit the most damning details of MI5s complicity in Mr Mohamad's treatment.  Moreover, this was facilitated through the court being unaware that Binyham Mohamad's lawyers were not privy to the information. The government in fact lied, worse still Milliband was later to deny that he had lied. Therefore, while we should all be pleased that the government has been ordered to publish at least some of the evidence of MI5s complicity in this crime we should at least be aware that, as Mr Mohamed's lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, asserts, "the seven paragraphs were just "crumbs" and there was "a vast body of other information out there showing Binyam Mohamed was abused". Indeed, it might be contended that we shouldn't really be happy knowing that "they" are not quite getting away with it, but rather we should be worried and sad, that that "not quite" is a modifier which suggests that, despite today's decision, they are indeed getting away with it. Moreover, while the evidence that the government has directly influenced the court has come to our attention on this occassion, who knows the extent to which this will be the case when the government effectively undermines the judicial process in the future. Furthermore, the fact that this can and has happened has set a precedent that is at least as important as the decsion to publish what Mr Stafford-Smith refers to as "crumbs".

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