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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > March 2017 > Silence in court

Silence in court

Open justice let the light in on rendition; secret rulings will prevent us learning those lessons

In January, the Supreme Court ruled that a Libyan dissident, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, and his wife can sue the British state over their abduction and transfer to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons. This is a victory for transparency and rule of law. It shows that the British courts are prepared to hold those at the highest levels to account for “extraordinary rendition”—the programme of kidnap and torture launched by the US after 9/11, and facilitated by Britain.

The case will also be one of the biggest tests yet for the new rules on secret hearings. Under the Justice and Security Act of 2013, the courts could now hear evidence that is withheld from the Belhaj couple—and their lawyers—on national security grounds. The pair could be barred from most of the trial, and then lose the case without being able to challenge—or even hear—the evidence used against them. And they might only see a redacted version of the judgment. This does not sound much like British justice.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: Sam Tanenhaus, George Magnus and Dahlia Lithwick examine the state of America after Donald Trump’s first couple of weeks. Tanenhaus looks at the situation faced by the American press, Magnus looks at the state of global trade and Lithwick inspects the diminishing right to choice women face over abortion. Anne Perkins explores the rise of Theresa May through the political ranks and David Edmonds looks at how empathy affects our decision making. Also in this issue: Jay Elwes on Trump’s relationship with America’s intelligence agencies, Anita Charlesworth on the state of the NHS and Nick Cohen on what is done in the name of “the people” by politicians
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