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Secret information ‘found’ one week before Afghan torture trial

The High Court today heard that ‘secret information’ had come to light; a week before the court is due to consider whether the ban on handing over suspected Afghan insurgents by British forces to the Afghan authorities should remain in place.

22 November 2012

The High Court today heard that ‘secret information’ had come to light; a week before the court is due to consider whether the ban on handing over suspected Afghan insurgents by British forces to the Afghan authorities should remain in place.

Lawyers for the Government announced that: "The Secretary of State for Defence has received new information that will require consideration by him and reassessment of his position in relation to this case."

This announcement comes only one week before a full judicial review hearing, due to start on 29 November 2012, into the treatment of Serdar Mohammed who claims he was tortured into giving a false confession after being transferred from British Forces to the custody of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) - the Afghan intelligence service.

The Government’s lawyers applied to have the judicial review hearing adjourned to a later unspecified date and suggested the court see the secret information in "closed" session, excluding the public and Mohammed's lawyers Leigh Day & Co.

However Lord Justice Moses ruled: that he was not able to consider the secret document in a closed hearing and that he was not prepared to vacate the hearing starting on the 29th today. He indicated that the position may change later.

Richard Stein, from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day & Co, who is representing Serdar Mohammed, said today's hearing illustrated the adverse impact the Justice and Security Bill would have on open justice if it becomes law.

Mr Stein said: "If the Bill had been law today the Defence Secretary's application for an adjournment would have been heard in secret, and it is likely that the adjournment would have been granted without the claimant ever knowing why.

"The judge ruled today this cannot be done under our current law, and long may it be so.

"If the government succeeded in its application to adjourn, the case could have disappeared for months - and possibly forever – and we would not have known the reasons why, even though there is already a large amount of material in the public domain which shows there are massive problems about allowing the transfer of Afghan prisoners."

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