How is a Member State of the ECHR supposed to react when the UN Security Council tells it to do one thing and the Convention requires it to do another? That is the interesting and important question which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights was presented with, and dodged, in its recent decision in Nada v. Switzerland.
Mr Nada is an 82-year-old Italian-Egyptian financier and businessman, who in November 2001 found himself in the unfortunate position of having his name added to the international list of suspected funders and supporters of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which is maintained by the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. Mr Nada has consistently denied that he has any connection to al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group, and in 2005 the Swiss Government closed an investigation after finding that the accusations against him were unsubstantiated. However, despite this Mr Nada remained on the list until September 2009. During the intervening 8 years the impact on Mr Nada’s health and his private and family life was severe, so he brought a claim against Switzerland for breach of his Article 8 rights, as well as breaches of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), Article 3 (right not to be subjected to ill-treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty) and Article 9 (right to freedom of religion).
The government’s Justice and Security Bill has this week entered a new phase of debate in the House of Commons as it is considered in detail by a 19-member Public Bill Committee over the next month. The critics of this Bill – and there are many – argue that it will make “secret justice” a standard part of our legal process. The latest set of amendments proposed by the government were revealed yesterday and within them lies a crucial and unjustifiable secrecy provision. The significance of the amendments becomes apparent when one looks at how the Bill has progressed so far.
In its original form the Bill said that a court “must” use closed material proceedings if there would be a disclosure of information that would harm national security interests. It would not matter how small the damage, it would not matter whether there were other public interests in disclosure of the material, and the court had no discretion.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly dose of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
Thanks to the Jubilee, it was a short week for most of us but there was still plenty happening in the world of human rights. Hot topics included the criminalisation of forced marriage and the UK’s second UPR, and as usual the debate surrounding the Justice and Security Bill rages on. And, today the Home Secretary will unveil her plans to persuade judges to alter how they interpret Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly smorgasbord of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
A bumper edition this week, mostly thanks to Lord Justice Leveson and his long-awaited report, released this week to a tumult of online commentary. In overshadowed, but potentially no less significant news, the House of Lords approved amendments to the “secret courts” Justice and Security Bill; the Joint Committee on Human Rights reported on the Crime and Courts Bill, and we have another round of arguments for and against the UK’s continuing association with the European Court of Human Rights.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your recommended weekly dose of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
This week, the focus of the online commentary has been very much on the subject of equal access to justice, which is beset on all sides from legal aid cuts, the proposals for secret courts to protect sensitive government information, the lack of representation for the judiciary in the government, and the efficiency drive in Strasbourg.
On 21/10/2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Office’s removal window policy (‘the Policy’) was unlawful. The Policy incorporated an unacceptable risk of interference with the right of access to court by exposing a category of irregular migrants — including those who have claims in respect of their right to life and/or freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment — to the risk of removal without any proper opportunity to challenge a relevant decision in a court or tribunal.
David Miranda v Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and three interveners  EWHC 255 (Admin) – read judgment
The High Court has rejected all the arguments supporting David Miranda’s application for judicial review of his detention at Heathrow Airport in August last year. In a highly readable and pungent judgment, Laws LJ has some robust things to say about the vaunting of journalistic interests over public security in the guise of Article 10, and the ‘mission creep’ of requirements demanded by the courts for state action to be considered “proportionate”.
This is the long-awaited conclusion to the substantive hearing since judicial review proceedings were initiated seven months ago; see our posts on previous stages of this saga here, here and here. It will be remembered that Mr Miranda was detained and questioned by police officers under the Terrorism Act 2000, and various items in his possession, notably encrypted storage devices, were taken from him. Miranda claims that all this was done without any legal authority.
The claim, which was supported by numerous civil liberties interveners, raised three questions:
Did paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 empower the police to stop and question the claimant for the purpose of determining whether he appeared to be “concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”?
Even if it did, was the use of the power proportionate to the legitimate aim?
Is the paragraph 2(1) power repugnant to the right of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the ECHR?
Laws LJ, giving judgment for the three judge panel, answered the first two in the affirmative, and said a firm “no” to last.
The claimant is a Brazilian citizen and the spouse of Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who at the material time was working for the Guardian newspaper. Some months after an initial contact made in late 2012 Mr Greenwald met Edward Snowden, who provided him with encrypted data which had been stolen from the National Security Agency of the United States. The data included UK intelligence material. Some of it formed the basis of articles in the Guardian on 6 and 7 June 2013 and on later dates. On 12 August 2013 the claimant travelled from Rio de Janeiro to Berlin in order to meet the other journalist involved, Laura Poitras. He was carrying encrypted material derived from the data obtained by Mr Snowden and he was travelling to collect computer drives containing further such material to assist in the journalistic activity of Mr Greenwald. He was stopped at 0805 on Sunday 18 August 2013 at Heathrow on his way back to Rio de Janeiro.
A series of Port Circulation Sheets (PCS) were circulated to counter-terrorism police alerting them that the claimant was “likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security”, and requesting them to establish the nature of his activity, assess the risk that he posed to UK national security and to mitigate as appropriate. A PCS essentially triggers the powers of the police under certain circumstances to carry out a ports stop against a named individual.
The claimant was detained for approximately 9 hours. According to a statement from the Intelligence, Security and Resilience in the Cabinet Office, the encrypted data contained in the external hard drive taken from the claimant contained approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents. Many were classified SECRET or TOP SECRET.
Judicial review proceedings started shortly afterwards, and in November 2013, after various interlocutory hearings, the substantive hearing came before the High Court.
The Court’s Decision: Improper purpose
The Schedule 7 purpose – determining whether [the subject] appears to be a person who “has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism” – must be the purpose for which the officers execute the stop if it is to be lawful. It doesn’t make the stop unlawful if there is a subsidiary purpose – “killing two birds with one stone” – but the permitted purpose must be the “true and dominant purpose behind the act” (R v Southwark Crown Court ex p. Bowles  AC 641,  UKHL 16].
The fact that the police officers in question had not been given sufficient information about the intelligence did not mean that they had not executed their instructions in good faith:
Given the context – the possible apprehension of terrorism – Parliament must have enacted Schedule 7 in the knowledge that there might be very good reasons why the examining officers … should not be privy to the whole story. (para 21)
The purpose of the stop thus disclosed was to “ascertain the nature of the material which the claimant was carrying and if on examination it proved to be as was feared, to neutralise the effects of its release (or further release) or dissemination”. Moreover, the proper exercise of the Schedule 7 power did not require that the examining officer have any grounds whatever for suspecting that a person was connected with terrorism within Act’s definition. The Schedule 7 purpose was not to determine whether the subject is, but only whether he “appears to be” a terrorist. The Schedule 7 power was created by Parliament in order to provide “a reasonable but limited opportunity for the ascertainment of a possibility: the possibility that a traveller at a port may be involved (“concerned” – s.40(1)(b)), directly or indirectly, in any of a range of activities enumerated in s.1(2)”.
Given the facts stated in the last PCS and the National Security Justification, Laws LJ for the Court concluded that the purpose of the stop – to ascertain the nature of the material which the claimant was carrying and if on examination it proved to be as was feared, to neutralise the effects of its release (or further release) or dissemination – “fell properly within Schedule 7 of the 2000 Act on the latter’s true construction.”
The classic three step proportionality test – was the objective important enough to justify limiting a right, was the measure connected to that objective, and was the measure no more intrusive than other necessary – has been elaborated over the past decade, most recently by Lord Sumption in Bank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury (No 2) 3 WLR 170,  UKSC 39. This adds a fourth question, which is to ask whether, even if the measure in question is not particularly intrusive, did it nevertheless fail to strike a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community? Laws LJ pondered on the implications of such a requirement, and found it not to his liking:
It appears to require the court, in a case where the impugned measure passes muster on points (i) – (iii), to decide whether the measure, though it has a justified purpose and is no more intrusive than necessary, is nevertheless offensive because it fails to strike the right balance between private right and public interest; and the court is the judge of where the balance should lie. I think there is real difficulty in distinguishing this from a political question to be decided by the elected arm of government. If it is properly within the judicial sphere, it must be on the footing that there is a plain case.
Free Speech and the Protection of Journalistic Expression
Laws LJ commenced his consideration of this element of the claim with a brisk dismissal of all the Strasbourg case law on the matter. The idea of free speech has received sufficient emphasis in the law of England –
I do not therefore think it necessary, on this part of the case, to place any reliance on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; the common law is a sufficient arena for the debate.
In any event, much of the law on free speech in journalism was of no relevance here since it concerned protection of sources. No such issue arose here. The source was no secret: “Mr Snowden stole the material, and the claimant (however indirectly) got it from Mr Snowden.” (para 48).
Furthermore, the mistaken idea seems to have taken hold that the essential justification of free expression as a fundamental value is the promotion or betterment of democratic government. Freedom of speech may indeed be “the lifeblood of democracy”; but that is not the same thing.
The perception of free expression as a servant of democracy, however, would tend to devalue non-political speech and justify the prohibition or abridgement of speech advocating undemocratic government … This would fuel what is anyway one of exuberant democracy’s weaknesses, namely the intolerance of minorities. Everyone, even democracy’s enemy, must surely be allowed his say provided he advocates no crime nor violates the rights of others. The reason is that free thought, which is a condition of every man’s flourishing, needs free expression; and this is every person’s birthright, in whatever polity he has to live. There are of course undemocratic societies in which free speech is an idle hope. But free speech is not a creature of democracy; if anything, the converse. The critics of democracy may keep democracy on its toes. (para 45)
Turning to the matter in hand, Laws LJ observed that this privileging of political speech over other forms of expression has a distorting effect on the proportionality debate. The claimant, in other words, was seeking a heightened protection for himself, or at least the material he was carrying) on account of his association with the journalist Mr Greenwald. There was no basis for the court to extend such protection:
the application of requirement (iv) in the toll of proportionality – “whether… a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community” – needs at least to be modified. The contrast is not between private right and public interest. The journalist enjoys no heightened protection for his own sake, but only for the sake of his readers or his audience. If there is a balance to be struck, it is between two aspects of the public interest.
The sting of the claimant’s challenge was that the defendants did not believe that the claimant’s possession of the material presented any real danger to national security or risk of loss of life. Whilst acknowledging the limits of evidence not cross-examined, Laws LJ could find “no perceptible foundation” for such a suggestion. The truth of it was that the claimant’s broader argument on proportionality – that the use of Schedule 7 was in any event unjustified – did not in fact depend on the categorisation of the GCHQ documents as journalistic material. The claimant was trying to make out a case that he had been assisting in the conduct of responsible journalism, and the law’s duty to protect that activity meant that interference with it by the summary and unsupervised process of Schedule 7 was disproportionate and unlawful whether or not any intercepted documents strictly fell within the statutory definition of “journalistic material”:
… given the substantial, often insuperable, difficulty a journalist faces in seeking to determine what classified material may be safely published and what may not (paragraph 58 above), the notion of “responsible journalism” throws little light on the proportionality issue.
The claimant’s essential argument rested on three propositions:
Journalists, “like judges”, have a role in a democratic State to scrutinise action by government.
The function of the free press is inhibited by an insistence that anything (in the security field) which the journalist seeks to publish must be stifled because it may be part of the “jigsaw” from which a knowing terrorist may draw harmful inferences.
There is a balance to be struck, again in the security field, between the responsibility of government and the responsibility of journalists.
But nobody had satisfied the court that there was any constitutional basis for any of these propositions, which would confer on the journalists’ profession a constitutional status which it does not possess:
They suggest … that journalists share with government the responsibility of measuring what is required by way of withholding publication for the protection of national security. Journalists have no such constitutional responsibility. They have, of course, a professional responsibility to take care so far as they are able to see that the public interest, including the security of the State and the lives of other people, is not endangered by what they publish. But that is not an adequate safeguard for lives and security, because of the “jigsaw” quality of intelligence information, and because the journalist will have his own take or focus on what serves the public interest, for which he is not answerable to the public through Parliament. The constitutional responsibility for the protection of national security lies with elected government: see, amongst much other authority, Binyam Mohamed QB 218per Lord Neuberger MR at paragraph 131.
He concluded, therefore, that the Schedule 7 stop was a proportionate measure in the circumstances. Its objective was not only legitimate, but “very pressing”.
In a press freedom case, the fourth requirement in the catalogue of proportionality involves as I have said the striking of a balance between two aspects of the public interest: press freedom itself on one hand, and on the other whatever is sought to justify the interference: here national security. On the facts of this case, the balance is plainly in favour of the latter. (para 73)
For similar reasons the Court rejected the claimant’s and intervenors’ related submission, that the Schedule 7 power is over-broad or arbitrary, and for that reason not “prescribed by law” under Article 10(2).
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R(on the application of Binyam Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs  EWCA Civ 65
This appeal was brought by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (“the Foreign Secretary”) against a decision of the Divisional Court to include seven short paragraphs in the open version of a judgment, notwithstanding the fact that the Foreign Secretary had started in a number of Public Interest Immunity Certificates that such publication would lead to a real risk of serious harm to the national security of the UK.
Our recent post highlights the Government’s consultation on the Justice and Security Green Paper. Having been involved as a Special Advocate in many hearings involving closed material, I am troubled about these proposals, as well as the lack of public debate that they have generated.
The main proposals in the Green Paper are based on the highly debatable assumption that existing closed material procedures (CMPs as per the acronym adopted) have been shown to operate fairly and effectively. CMPs, were first introduced in 1997 and have escalated in their application since then. At §2.3 of the Green Paper it is stated that:
The contexts in which CMPs are already used have proved that they are capable of delivering procedural fairness. The effectiveness of the Special Advocate system is central to this … .
Updated | For those looking for clues as to how the Ministry of Justice will prioritise its funding after the impending 25% budget cut, it has just released its 2011-15 business plan.
The MoJ’s ‘vision’ is certainly ambitious. Despite the cuts, there will be “better law“. This will come from a programme of “fundamental reform” which will cure the problems of “too much litigation, too many people reoffending and too much money spent on systems”.
Under the heading “Coalition Priorities”, the MoJ provides its plans for structural reform. It is not clear whether these are in order of priority:
The Court of Protection has ruled that an autistic woman with an IQ of 64 does not have the mental capacity to engage in sexual relations, on the basis that she does not understand the implications and cannot effectively deploy the information she has understood into her decisions.
H is a 29 year old woman with mild learning difficulties and atypical autism. Although there is potential for improvement in her conditions, they are life-long.
She had a history of a very early and very deep degree of sexualisation. H engaged in sexual behaviour with others which she did not always consent to, one man having been convicted in 2003 of her attempted rape, and when she did consent the behaviour was still unconventional and exploitative. She had been on the child protection register and had extensive entries in her adult records with the local authority. In short, she is highly sexualised and vulnerable.
Widely – and quickly – reported as a “crushing” or an “emphatic” defeat – in a rare turn – the Government was last night defeated in three consecutive votes on its proposals to restrict access to judicial review. With a ‘hat-trick’ of blows, on three crucial issues, votes on amendments tabled by Lords Pannick, Woolf, Carlile and Beecham were decisive. On the proposal to amend the materiality test – the Government lost by 66. On the compulsory disclosure of financial information for all judicial review applicants, and again on the costs rules applicable to interveners, the Government lost by margins on both counts by 33. A fourth amendment to the Government proposals on Protective Costs Orders – which would maintain the ability of the Court to make costs capping orders before permission is granted – was called after the dinner break, and lost.
Ten years after the Equality Act came into force, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have published their findings and recommendations in a report entitled “Inclusive Justice: a system designed for all”.Although the report recognises where progress has been made, it also identifies very significant problems.
The inquiry, which covered England, Wales and Scotland, heard from defendants, legal professionals, charities, intermediaries and organisations who help people with what are often referred to as “hidden disabilities” – cognitive impairments, mental health conditions, and neuro-diverse conditions.
The EHRC’s key recommendations focus on the pre-trial phase, when important decisions are made about adjustments and whether the defendant will plead guilty or not guilty. The report is concerned both with participation and also the opportunities and risks arising from the increase in modernisation (for example, video hearings).
When does being not guilty make you innocent? This question arose coincidentally in two rulings, just over a month of each other, from the highest courts of the UK and South Africa respectively.
The Citizen and others v McBride concerned libel proceedings which had been brought against a former member of the armed wing of the ANC. McBride had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1986 after killing three women in a bomb attack. Nine years later he was granted an amnesty by the SA Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The question before the Constitutional Court was whether a person convicted of murder, but granted amnesty under the Reconciliation Act, can later be called a “criminal” and a “murderer” in comment opposing his appointment to a public position.
Simon Price v. the United Kingdom, Application no. 15602/07, 15 September 2016 – read judgment.
In a unanimous decision, the European Court of Human Rights has held that the proceedings that lead to the conviction of an individual for drug trafficking charges were entirely compliant with Article 6, ECHR. Despite the inability to cross-examine a key prosecution witness, the Court considered that in light of the existence of supporting incriminating evidence (amongst other factors) the proceedings as a whole were fair.
by Fraser Simpson
In June 2004 a ship, entering the port of Rotterdam, was searched by customs officials and found to contain a quantity of cocaine worth £35 million. The applicant, Simon Price, was arrested after he made enquiries into the container shortly after. He was subsequently charged with an offence under s.20, Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and with the attempted importation of drugs from Guyana to the United Kingdom via the Netherlands and Belgium. Continue reading →
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