Judges Squash Bipartisan Plea by UK Lawmakers to Hear MI6 Torture Case Publicly

In late 2019, Conservative MP David Davis and Labour’s Dan Jarvis joined Reprieve, a UK-based human rights non-profit, in seeking a public judicial inquiry into torture and rendition allegations involving Britain’s intelligence services after it was revealed that agents had taken part in such actions on at least 15 occasions since 9/11.

UK Judges Dame Victoria Sharp and Justice Farbey have thrown out an appeal by a pair of lawmakers and a charity to hold a publish inquiry into British intelligence agents’ involvement in torture and rendition on Tuesday, ruling that the inquiry will instead be heard in secret, The Guardian has reported.

Determining that Reprieve and MPs Davis and Jarvis did not have the right to have the case heard in public, since they themselves were not victims of the alleged torture or rendition, Sharp and Farbey ruled that “in these circumstances, it is difficult to envisage how the present judicial review proceedings – which concern the investigative duty – have anything to do with the claimants’ civil rights.”

In a statement, Reprieve director Maya Foa said that “history shows that in the absence of public testing and scrutiny of the evidence, justice is not done,” adding that the agency would consider appealing the decision. Unless one is forthcoming, the charity and lawmakers will be represented by a pair of advocates at a secret hearing, with advocates not allowed to communicate with the claimants.

Tuesday’s ruling follows a months’ long effort by Reprieve and the MPs to hold a public judge-led inquiry into alleged torture and rendition involving British intelligence officers.

In 2018, the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee completed a probe which concluded that British spies had engaged in dozens of torture and rendition operations during the US-led War on Terror, including the planning and financing of 31 renditions, and direct consent or witnessing of torture in 15 cases. In 232 more cases, agencies supplied foreign intelligence services with questions of detainees, with the presumption that they would be tortured or otherwise mistreated.

In October 2019, after joining the campaign for a public inquiry, Dan Jarvis said he supported the effort to make the inquiry public because he wanted to show that Britain “respect[s] international law, that we are honest and learn from our mistakes, that we are better than this.”

MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service, has insisted that none of the 15 cases found in the closed probe “presents an extant and unmet investigative obligation.” Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel urged against the disclosure of additional information to Reprieve, Jarvis and Davis, owing to its sensitive nature and the risk of damaging national security.

If an appeal is not forthcoming, the case is expected to be heard behind closed doors in the coming months.

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