AI Index: EUR 45/025/2003 (Public)
News Service No: 248
29 October 2003
United Kingdom: Proceedings amount to a perversion of justice
The proceedings under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
(ATCSA) amount to a perversion of justice, Amnesty International said
The Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC) today handed
down judgments on ten foreign nationals, eight of whom have been detained
under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) for more than
20 months. Two have "voluntarily" left the United Kingdom (UK) since their
As a result of the SIAC judgments, the eight could remain in
detention indefinitely, without charge or trial, principally on the basis
of secret evidence which they have never heard or seen, and which they were
therefore unable to challenge.
An Amnesty International delegate was in court today and heard
the SIAC rule that the Secretary of State for the Home Department had
reasonable grounds for forming his belief and suspicion that the ten men
were "suspected international terrorists and national security risks".
Disconcertingly, the SIAC ruled that under the ATCSA the burden
of proof that the Secretary of State has to meet to justify internment of
the ten is not the criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" but,
instead, is even lower than that needed in a civil case.
"The shockingly low burden of proof, which the SIAC ruled that
the Secretary of State had met, violates the right to the presumption of
innocence to which anyone subject to criminal proceedings is entitled.
Respect of the presumption of innocence is fundamental to fair criminal
trials," said Amnesty International.
Furthermore, Amnesty International is alarmed that today's
judgments by the SIAC may have relied on evidence extracted under torture.
Some of the secret evidence relied upon by the Secretary of State
reportedly includes statements which were obtained at Bagram airbase and
elsewhere in American custody, where there have been serious allegations of
torture. Under international law any statement that has been established to
have been made as a result of torture is inadmissible.
"It would seriously undermine the rule of law if the SIAC had
indeed relied on evidence extracted under torture," Amnesty International
Amnesty International opposes indefinite detention without
charge or trial. The organization continues to call on the UK government to
release all persons detained under the ATCSA unless they are charged with a
recognizably criminal offence and tried by an independent and impartial
court in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness.
There are currently 16 people -- all non-UK nationals -- detained under the
ATCSA in the UK.
Under the ACTSA, non-UK nationals, whom the government has
deemed non-deportable and who are certified as "suspected international
terrorists and national security risks" by the UK Secretary of State, can
be immediately detained without charge or trial -- that is, interned -- for
an unspecified and potentially unlimited period of time. The decision of
the Secretary of State and the SIAC judgments, can be based on secret
evidence -- which the detainee and their counsel of choice cannot see, or
hear, or challenge.
Since internment in these circumstances is inconsistent with the
right to liberty and security of person guaranteed under international
human rights treaty provisions by which the UK is bound, the UK government
has derogated from (i.e. temporarily suspended) its obligations under these
provisions. In particular, the UK has derogated from Article 5(1) of the
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
In May, June and July 2003, the SIAC heard appeals brought by
10 individuals against their detention under ATCSA following their
certification by the UK Secretary of State for the Home Department as
"suspected international terrorists and national security risks".
An Amnesty International delegate attended a number of hearings
of these appeals before the SIAC for the purpose of monitoring the open
sessions of the judicial proceedings. Proceedings held in camera, which
neither the detainee, his lawyer of choice or Amnesty International could
attend, which considered secret evidence, as well as the public
proceedings, culminated in the ten judgments today.
Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that a
number of provisions of the ATCSA , and the detentions resulting from
application of this law are inconsistent with a number of international
human rights and refugee law standards, including treaty provisions by
which the UK is bound.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in
London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web:
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