Court rules that evidence gathered using torture can be used

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The UK Court of Appeal has ruled that evidence gathered out the UK using torture can still be used in the courts. The appeal was lodged by ten men held indefinitely under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 who do not know most of the evidence held against them. Eight of the men are held in Belmarsh prison and high-security psychiatric hospitals. The decision to reject the appeal overall was unanimous. However, the decision on the use of evidence gathered by the use of torture was 2-1. It is intended to appeal against this decision in the House of Lords (the highest appeal court in the land).

Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Pills ruled that evidence gathered by torture could be used in British courts providing that the British state had not itself "procured" it or "connived" in it. The law, they said, could not require the Home Secretary to inquire into the methods used to get information. Lord Justice Laws said that the Home Secretary:

"may be presented with information of great potential importance, where there is, let us say, a suspicion as to the means by which, in another jurisdiction, it has been obtained. What is he to do?"

Lord Justice Neuberger dissented from this view say that a person would not have a fair trial if evidence was gathered by maltreatment, this was particularly so as the person giving the information would not be in court to be cross-examined.

In a press statement the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, welcomed the decision and justified the use of evidence gathered by torture or maltreatment:

"we unreservedly condemn the use of torture and have worked hard with our international partners to eradicate this practice. However, it would be irresponsible not to take appropriate account of any information which could help protect national security and public safety"

Gareth Peirce, the solicitor for eight of the men, said:

"This is a terrifying judgment. It shows we have completely lost our way in this country, morally and legally."

A Guardian editorial said the UK was in danger of becoming a "legal pariah" and:

"What is shocking is to see two of the highest judges in the land ready to ignore these international conventions. International law depends on the mutual respect of member states as a means of enforcement. None of the other 44 states that have incorporated the European convention on human rights has introduced detention without charge or trial, let alone allowed evidence generated by torture."

Full-text of judgement (pdf) (19.8.04)

Guardian: Coverage and Editorial (link)

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