No compromise as govt pushes ahead with secret courts

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Justice... denied? Secret courts still going ahead
Justice... denied? Secret courts still going ahead

The government has been accused of arrogantly ignoring Lords amendments to the secret courts bill, as it tries to push the legislation through parliament.

Human rights campaigners and civil liberties advocates are outraged by the measures, which would allow judges to hear evidence in secret during sensitive cases involving information from security agencies.

"These proposals are an attempt to roll back even the minimal, and in themselves deeply unsatisfactory, amendments made when the bill was before the Lords," Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said.

"There was some hope that, given the defeats suffered in the Lords, the government would pay heed to widespread criticism of the bill, but instead they seem intent on forcing through these unprecedented secrecy measures.


"If this bill becomes law we will end up with victims of human rights violations being prevented from seeing secret evidence against them and even being prevented from talking to their own lawyers - a secret justice system straight from the pages of a Kafka novel."

The bill entered its committee stage today, but early indications suggest the Ministry of Justice intends to reject most of the amendments added in the Lords and insert other extra provisions.

The move will be disappointing to opponents, who had become more optimistic after Nick Clegg expressed sympathy with a joint committee of human rights recommendation for numerous amendments to be made to the bill.

The government says secret evidence allows terrorism cases which otherwise cannot be taken to court to get a fair hearing, but opponents say existing mechanisms already allow sensitive material to be protected while the case proceeds.

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