GTMO hunger strike and DWP make-believe
24 August 2015
Alex Wessely brings you the latest Round-up.
In the news
Guantanamo Bay was back in the headlines this week, after the Obama administration responded to a legal request to free a hunger-striking detainee “entirely in secret”. Tariq Ba Odah has refused to eat voluntarily since 2007, and now weighs a “shockingly frail” 74.5 pounds (33.8kg).
Tariq, who was 23 when first detained, has never been charged with a crime, and in 2010 a US task force concluded he could be released without posing a risk to the US. His lawyers filed a habeas corpus petition in June, and the long-awaited response by the US Justice Department was released on Friday: it simply read “sealed opposition”.
The Guardian reports that this is probably the first instance of a “secret” opposition to a writ of habeus corpus, and that Tariq’s lawyers are surprised and angry, calling Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo an “incoherent mess”.
Amnesty have called for his “immediate release” , citing his “deeply concerning” health (a doctor who examined him compared his state to that of a late-stage AIDS or cancer patient), as has the Center for Constitutional Rights. Human Rights Watch calls the US government’s decision “deeply disappointing”, aimed at shielding the government from embarrassment rather than protecting national security. Tariq remains defiant: “Protesting by hunger striking is the only way to communicate [to those with freedom] what it means to be unjustly detained, to be put in a cell for over a decade without charge”
- Legal Aid Strike: after 52 days, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association have released a joint statement announcing the suspension of the so-called legal aid strike. This, according to the statement, is a “gesture of goodwill” in relation to continuing negotiations, although the Law Society Gazette reports “mixed reactions” from lawyers across the country, as does Legal Cheek here.
- Human Rights Watch points to a surge in unlawful Palestinian home demolitions, with 126 Palestinians having been left homeless following demolitions last week.
- 441 cases of human rights violations went unpunished in Darfur in 2014 – the UN.
- The DWP have been left red-faced after admitting inventing quotes from fake ‘benefit claimants’ for a sanctions leaflet. This came to light after some astute Freedom of Information Requests made by Welfare Weekly. Matters got worse for Iain Duncan Smith’s department, when it emerged that one fake claimant, ‘Zac’, had previously appeared in other literature.
A case involving compensation for a minor road traffic accident may have far-reaching consequences for solicitors’ success fees, and reveals an unintended consequence of the cuts to legal aid.
The claimants, two children involved in a collision with a Royal Mail vehicle, were awarded around two thousand pounds each, in an entirely predictable settlement. However, changes to legal aid funding meant their father (and litigation friend) was required to pay their solicitors £1,865 in respect of a success fee and an after-the-event (ATE) insurance premium.
District Judge Lumb reacted angrily to suggestions that not charging a success fee would make such work “uneconomical”, as well as castigating the children’s solicitors for taking out ATE insurance in such a low-risk case. The ruling, and the doubt it cases on personal injury lawyers’ model of recovering fees is discussed here, and here by Joshua Rozenburg – who concludes that all this would have been prevented in the previous legal aid model, and that the subsequent scrapping of legal aid in these areas has created a “classic false economy [which] has cost us all much more than it ever saved”.
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