1 Crown Office Row’s Philippa Whipple QC was leading counsel to the Gibson Inquiry. She is not the writer of this post
The Justice Secretary has told Parliament that the Gibson Inquiry tasked with considering whether Britain was “implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11” has been scrapped.
Ken Clarke announced that the police investigations into rendition, which were always to come before the formal start of the inquiry’s hearings, would take so long that the current inquiry could not continue. He said the Government remained committed to a judge-led inquiry, but presumably the current inquiry team could not be kept twiddling their collective thumbs for years longer.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced last week that it would not be bringing charges in relation to some of the historic allegations – particularly in relation to Binyam Mohammed and a 2002 incident at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. It would, however, begin to investigate more recent allegations in relation to Libya and “a number of further specific allegations of ill-treatment“. Continue reading →
The proposals have been little reported, save for journalist Joshua Rozenberg, channeling Dinah Rose QC, warning that they will “undermine a fundamental constitutional right:”. Perhaps legal correspondents prefer to pick over testimony from the glamorous Leveson Inquiry as opposed to complicated government proposals involving clunky phrases – some would say fig leaves – like “Closed Material Procedure” and “Special Advocate”.
But these proposals are extremely important. If they become law, which is likely given the lack of opposition from any of the main parties, the justice system will look very different in the coming years. Many civil hearings could be held in secret, and although (as the Government argues anyway) more justice may be done, undoubtedly less will be seen to be done.
Ali Zaki Mousa v Secretary of State for Defence & Anr  EWCA Civ 133 - read judgment
Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row represented the respondent secretary of state in this case. He is not the author of this post.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, set up to investigate allegations of ill-treatment of Iraqi detainees by members of the British armed forces, lacked the requisite independence to fulfil the investigatory obligation under Article 3 of the Convention.
The claimant was representative of a group of Iraqis numbering about 100 who brought judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Defence alleging that they were ill-treated in detention in Iraq at various times between 2003 and 2008 by members of the British Armed forces – see our post on the permission hearing.
The so-called ”Iraq Historic Allegations Team” (IHAT) was set up to investigate these allegations. The IHAT included members of the General Police Duties Branch, the Special Investigation Branch and the Military Provost Staff. A separate panel, the Iraq Historic Allegations Panel (IHAP), was appointed to ensure the proper and effective handling of information concerning cases subject to investigation by the IHAT and to consider the results of the IHAT’s investigations, with a view to identifying any wider issues which should be brought to the attention of the Ministry of Defence or of ministers personally.
A year after it was first announced, the Detainee Inquiry on 6 July published its Protocol and terms of reference. On 3 August, JUSTICaE together with 9 other NGOs wrote to the Detainee Inquiry. Among other things, we said that an Inquiry conducted on such terms would ‘plainly … not comply with Article 3 [of the ECHR]’. We also made clear that, were the Inquiry to proceed on this basis, we would not submit any evidence or attend any further meetings with the Inquiry team.
In his interesting article last week (‘Will the Detainee Inquiry be human rights compliant?’, 8 August) Matthew Flinn queried our claim that the Protocol fails to meet the requirements of article 3 ECHR. Notwithstanding the government’s own statement that it doesn’t intend for the Inquiry to comply with article 3, Flinn set out various arguments to suggest that the Protocol might nonetheless comply with article 3 in any event.
Ten human rights campaign groups and the lawyers for a number of detainees alleging UK involvement in their mistreatment have confirmed that they will be boycotting the impending Detainee Inquiry.
We recently posted on the publication of the Terms of Reference and the Protocol for the Detainee Inquiry and set out some of the reaction to it. At the time, a number of lawyers representing those who claimed to have suffered mistreatment threatened to boycott the inquiry, claiming it would be a whitewash. As the BBC has reported, they have now been joined by a number of Human Rights organizations, and it seems that the clear intention is for the boycott to go ahead.
The Terms of Reference and the Protocol for the Government’s impending Detainee Inquiry have recently been published. The Protocol makes clear that the Inquiry is to be granted unfettered access to a broad range of information, but the limitations on the publication of that information have prompted criticism from human rights groups.
On 6th July 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron announced to the House of Commons that an independent inquiry would be held into whether or not the UK Government was implicated in or aware of the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. On the same day, he wrote to Sir Peter Gibson inviting him to lead the inquiry, and appointed as his fellow panel members Dame Janet Paraskeva and Peter Riddell. Philippa Whipple QC of 1 Crown Office Row has been appointed as counsel to the inquiry – she is not the writer of this post.
Smith & Ors v Ministry of Defence  EWHC 1676 (QB) – Read judgment
The Human Rights Act applies in the UK. That much is clear. Whether it applies outside of UK territory is a whole other question, and one for which we may have a new answer when the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights gives judgment in the case of Al-Skeini and others v. the United Kingdom & Al-Jedda v. the United Kingdom next week.
The court is to give its long-awaited ruling at 10am (Strasbourg time) on Thursday 7 July. In short, the 7 applicants in the case were killed, allegedly killed or detained (Al-Jedda) by British forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2007. Both of the claims reached the House of Lords in the UK (now the Supreme Court), and in all but one case, which involved a death in a military detention centre, the court found that the Human Rights Act did not apply in Basra at the time, and therefore the UK military had no obligation to observe the requirements under the European Convention on Human Rights, and in particular article 2 (the right to life) and article 5 (right to liberty).
McCaughey & Anor, Re Application for Judicial Review  UKSC 20 (18 May 2011)- Read judgment
The Supreme Court has followed the European Court of Human Rights in ruling that an inquest into the death of two people killed before the introduction of the Human Rights Act is still bound by the rules laid down by that Act. In so doing, it preferred a “poorly reasoned and unstable decision” of the Strasbourg Court to a clearly drafted Act of Parliament and a recent decision of the House of Lords. How did this happen, should it have done so – and does it really matter?
The case concerned an appeal to the Supreme Court against a decision from the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on which we have previously blogged at length. The appellants were the families of two men killed by the British Army during an attack on a police station in Northern Ireland in 1990. Allegations were made that a “shoot to kill policy” was being operated by the security forces.
Unsurprisingly, the coroner has found that the 52 people who died as a result of the bombings were unlawfully killed. She also found that they would have died “whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them”. The coroner made 9 recommendations (using her power under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules) for the future prevention of such events, which are reproduced in full below.
R (Ali Zaki Mousa) v. Secretary of State for Defence  EWHC 3304 (Admin) (21 December 2010) – read judgment
The High Court has dismissed a challenge to the government’s decision to ‘wait and see’ if another public inquiry into abuse of Iraqi detainees is necessary, pending the outcome of internal Ministry of Defence investigations. The court looked in detail at the obligation on states under Article 3 to conduct an independent and effective investigation into allegations of torture, before concluding that what is required by Article 3 essentially depends on the facts of any given case.
The judicial review application was brought on behalf of some 127 Iraqis who claimed that they were tortured and ill-treated by members of the British Armed Forces while being held in detention in Iraq. They demanded that the Secretary of State order an immediate public inquiry, and said that only a public inquiry would effectively investigate both their individual allegations and any wider systemic issues arising out of the individual claims (the background to the claim and a short summary of the permission stage can be found here).
November saw the publication of the report of the Redfern Inquiry into human tissue analysis in UK nuclear facilities (read the report, here).
The inquiry was the latest in a number of investigations looking at the post mortem removal, retention and disposal of human body parts by medical and other bodies, and the extent to which the families of the deceased knew of and consented to such practices. The Inquiry chairman, Michael Redfern QC, also chaired the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital (Alder Hay) Inquiry. Continue reading →
Legal Services Commission v Humberstone, R.( On the application of)  EWCA Civ 1479 (21 December 2010) – Read judgment
The high court was right to quash the decision of the Legal Services Commission not to recommend public funding for a mother to be represented at the inquest into the death of her 10-year-old son. However, the court of appeal has ruled that the judge’s conclusions on when the state was obliged to conduct an expanded inquest into a death were confused.
The court of appeal has upheld the decision of Mr Justice Hickinbottom in the high court, although Lady Justice Smith came to her decision by a different route and criticised his reasoning. The case is important as it lays down guidelines for when legal representation for relatives of the dead should be funded at inquests, an often controversial issue, and how this fits with the state’s duties to investigate deaths under the European Convention on Human Rights. These duties have, partly as a result of Mr Justice Hickinbottom in this case, fallen into confusion, and the court of appeal has given a welcome clarification.
The Home Secretary has said that the government will not appeal the High Court’s decision to uphold that there were to be no ‘closed’ hearings at the 7/7 inquests.
As we posted earlier this month, The High Court, composed of two colleagues of the Coroner (Dame Heather Hallett) in the Court of Appeal, robustly rejected the Home Secretary’s application for a review of the decision. In short, both judges concurred with Hallett LJ’s decision that the Coroners Rules did not provide a power to hear evidence in sessions from which ‘interested persons’ (including families of the 7/7 victims) could be excluded.
Richard Mumford’s analysis of the High Court decision is here, and his previous post on Lady Justice Hallett’s decision is here. Continue reading →
On 30 November 2010 the High Court handed down its written ruling upholding the 7/7 inquests Coroner’s decision that there were to be no ‘closed’ hearings at the inquests. An analysis of the Coroner’s decision can be found here. The High Court had previously given its decision, with an indication that reasons were to follow.
The Divisional Court of the High Court, composed of two colleagues of the Coroner (Dame Heather Hallett) in the Court of Appeal, robustly rejected the Home Secretary’s application for a review of the decision. In short, both judges concurred with Hallett LJ’s decision that the Coroners Rules did not provide a power to hear evidence in sessions from which ‘interested persons’ (including families of the 7/7 victims) could be excluded.
Updated | On 3 November the judge acting as coroner for the 7/7 inquests ruled that she does not have the power to hold secret hearings to hear evidence which, if made public, would pose a threat to national security. Dame Heather Hallett also ruled that although she, as a Court of Appeal Judge, could look at ‘intercept evidence’ governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (“RIPA”), such material could not form part of the evidence at the inquests.
The fundamental problem faced by Hallett LJ, linking the two parts of her ruling, was what to do about intelligence material , the revelation of which “in unredacted form would threaten national security” but which might have a bearing on her findings at the inquests. The problem can be traced back to Hallett LJ’s earlier ruling concerning the issues to be determined at the inquest, in particular the requirement for: