SIAC hearings - trial by dodgy dossier

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalsing Communities, Monday 16 October

Detainee calls secret commission a "fascist court martial"

SACC calls it "trial by dodgy dossier"

The scandal surrounding the government's use of contradictory evidence against people that it wishes to deport as "threats to national security" shows yet again that the parallel justice system operating in such cases is nothing more than a system of sanitised injustice. The scandal came to light last week when it was revealed that a high court judge chairing the Special Immigration Appeals Commission had ruled in May that the Home Office case against an Algerian man known only as "MK" had not been sufficiently "fact driven."

It's bad enough that this parallel system dispenses punishment to people who have not been charged with any criminal offence, but are merely suspected by the government of a connection with terrorism. But what's worse is that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) - the "court" that hears appeals against deportation in cases involving national security - considers part of the evidence in secret and requires an appellant to be represented in the secret part of the hearing by a security-vetted "Special Advocate" that he isn't allowed to meet. Neither the appellant nor his usual lawyer are present during this part of the hearing. It's impossible for an appellant to present a forceful and comprehensive case under these conditions.

The system is hardly better that the Military Commissions that the US imposes on people it labels as "unlawful enemy combatants". A Libyan man facing deportation has described SIAC in a recent message to Islam Channel News as a "fascist court martial."

It's time for this system to be dismantled and for everyone living in Britain to be given the right to a fair and open trial before a jury on recognisable criminal charges before facing any serious penalties

It was revealed last week that a ruling earlier this year by SIAC included blistering criticism of the Home Office for failing to disclose information that could have strengthened the case of a man who was appealing against a Home Office decision to deport him on national security grounds. The man is an Algerian who can only be referred to as "MK." The missing evidence that could have helped his case turned up in documents submitted by the Home Office as part ot it's case against another man, Abu Doha. The oversight only came to light when it was spotted by Andrew Nicol QC, the Special Advocate acting for Abu Doha, who happened also to be representing "MK". Yet even after SIAC had re-opened MK's case, and the Home Office had carried out a "trawl" of it's files, Andrew Nicol discovered still more undisclosed material that should have been presented by the Home Office.

The missing material unearthed by Andrew Nicol contradicted a Home Office claim that "MK" had allowed Abu Doha to use his passport.

Had it not been for the good fortune that Andrew Nicol happened to be representing both "MK" and Abu Doha SIAC would, in its own words "have been left to determine the question whether Abu Doha used the appellant's passport, on a false basis."

In the "redacted" (censored) version of it's ruling that has recently become available, SIAC says "there have been other aspects of this case which give rise to a need for some general comments" and calls for the Home Office preparation of cases to be "more fact driven." It says "there has been fault on the part of the Secretary of State for the Home Department."

But the bottom line in this non-fact driven case was that SIAC ruled in May that it would be "disproportionate" to allow MK's appeal or to order a fresh hearing. "MK" was deported to France in September. Fortunately for "MK", the French government appears to have no plans to deport him to Algeria. This might suggest that the French government doesn't share the Home Office interpretratation of the information that it presented in secret to prove that "MK" is a dangerous individual. MK had lived in Britain for 14 years and has a 10-year relationshop with his partner - a British citizen. He has a daughter here.

The judge took the view that the Home Secretary had not acted in bad faith. But in our view the catalogue of errors suggests a political culture in which the Home Secretary first chooses whom he wishes to deport, and then assembles the material to support his decision. It's trial by dodgy dossier.

The treatment that "MK" has received will strengthen fears that other foreign nationals currently in jail in Britain and threatened with deportation can expect no justice.

Many of the men are suffering from severe depression as a result of their prolonged incarceration. They are nevertheless lucid, reasonable and intelligent individuals who see their situation very clearly.

On of the men, a Libyan known only as Detainee "AS", has given an exclusive interview with Islam Channel News.

He has been detained for nearly five years and is considered a threat to national security. But he's never been charged with a crime and isn't allowed to see the secret evidence against him. He is currently held in Long Lartin Prison.

In the interview, "AS" demands to be given a fair trial before a jury. He is deeply critical of sections of the the British Muslim community, which he says have given insufficient support to the foreign citizens faced with detention and deportation. He says:

"We were kidnapped from our houses and are being detained as hostages. They took us from our houses and put us in prison simply because we are Muslims. All our families outside are suffering. They're being treated very badly, one of the brother's wives has miscarried her baby subsequent to the barbaric raid the day her husband was kidnapped by the police. I and another brother have not seen our wives for the period of our detention which is nearly 5 years".
"The court we are appealing to now - called the special immigration and appeals commission which has been made specifically for the detainees - we call it the fascist court martial because they use so-called secret evidence"
"Everything is based on fabrications and falsehood which can't be sufficient to be used in ordinary court. The judges are always on the side of the Government...
"They only listen to what they get from intelligence sources. We need juries and we need a fair tria"
"The agreement was that if I was deported I would get assurances by the Libyans that I wouldn't be tortured but the funny thing is that they both have got the right after six months of my deportation to withdraw from this agreement. This is an utter joke....
"The biggest kind of failure of this Muslim Council to help Muslims in this country, that (was when) one of the members called Dr El-Hilbawi was asked by the Government about the best way to deal with us. He replied "these people shouldn't be detained or sent back to their countries, but the best solution's to keep them in mental institution". He called us a crazy people, that we are not."
"We're not asking our Muslim brothers to send us money in here for our food, we're asking them just to support us, just to go at least for demonstration, just to write, just to do something."

Detainee "AS", HMP Long Lartin, October 2006

Notes

  • Rough transcript of the full message from Detainee "AS" to Islam Channel News Transcript
  • Clarke at centre of a shocking scandal of incompetence - The Daily Telegraph, 12 October 206
  • SIAC judgement - Redacted version of paragraphs 88 - 104 in the Closed Judgment of MK
  • Publication of the names of "MK" and "AS" is prohibited by court order. This order was granted for the protection of the men and their families. Publication of their names could result in prosecution for contempt of court.