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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UK court rules evidence may be kept secret in torture suit
Hillary Stemple at 1:30 PM ET

[JURIST] The British High Court [official website] ruled [judgment text] Wednesday that the government may withhold evidence from seven claimants suing UK intelligence services MI5 and MI6 [official websites] for their roles in alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The court ruled that the agencies can rely on the evidence in their defense without disclosing it to the claimants. The ruling marks a departure [Independent report] from the "public interest immunity" procedure, which weighed the public interest in non-disclosure against the interests of justice. If the evidence was found to be so sensitive that it should not be revealed, the information could not be used by either side. The court indicated that a "closed material" procedure, where a "special advocate" reviews evidence not disclosed by the government and acts on behalf of the claimants, would be appropriate in this case. The ruling was condemned by Amnesty International [advocacy website], and lawyers representing the men have indicated they will appeal the decision.

The ruling comes amid criticism of an October ruling by the High Court ordering disclosure [JURIST reports] of portions of previously redacted text regarding the alleged torture of Binyam Mohamed [JURIST news archive], one of the seven men involved in the civil suit. UK officials have expressed concern that the release of alleged torture information would pose a risk to the national security of the UK and its relations with the US.

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