Government Plans Secret Courts!

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A REPORT issued yesterday by the civil rights group Amnesty describes the proposed Justice and Security Bill as being straight out of a Franz Kafka novel – and with very good reason.

This Bill, being pushed through and due to come before the Lords in a couple of weeks, extends into the main court system of England and Wales the use of Closed Material Procedures (CMPs).

These procedures are already in use, according to Amnesty the government can use secret evidence in twenty one different contexts including employment tribunals, immigration appeals and security tribunals including those hearing complaints about the security services.

Under this Bill secret courts will become a feature of the main court system and they will basically allow people to be prosecuted for offences which will not be spelt out to them, and their case will be heard in secret without either the accused or their lawyers being present and with evidence given against them being kept secret.

Only a specially security-vetted judge would hear the evidence while the accused’s interests would be represented at the secret court by an appointed security-vetted lawyer known as a Special Advocate.

The report, entitled ‘Left in the Dark’, highlights the fact that if passed this law would give the government the power ‘to simply play the “national security” card whenever it wants to keep things secret.’

The coalition government intends this will become a normal feature of British justice – secret courts, secret trials, secret evidence and people not even told what they have been charged with!

All that is required is for a government minister, along with a tame security-vetted judge, to rule that a case involves ‘national security’ and every right to a free, open and public trial goes out of the window to be replaced with a system that will be the envy of every dictator in the world.

Centuries of rights, which have been assumed to be inviolate from the signing of Magna Carta in 1215, have already been torn up under the guise of the fight-against-terror and now will be completely trampled on.

The Bill will also permit CMPs to be used in cases of people taking the government to court over human rights abuses.

It would unquestionably be used against republicans in the North of Ireland seeking redress against the secret, murderous activities of the British state, along with claims resulting from illegal rendition operations carried out by US and British imperialism, and atrocities committed by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this drive to extend secret courts into the entire judicial system is not just about the state wishing to keep its illegal activities secret.

It is part and parcel of the preparations being made by the ruling class to ditch the cloak of bourgeois democracy and ‘democratic rights’ and gear the capitalist state up for all-out class war against the working class.

When, in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher described the miners as the ‘enemy within’ and branded them as more dangerous than any terrorist, she was speaking for the entire capitalist class.

During the miners’ strike the full force of the capitalist state, from the police to the courts and the security services, was mobilised to defeat them.

They failed in 1985 to crush the miners but today they face not just one union but the entire working class being driven down the road to revolution by the impact of the crisis.

To defeat such a mass movement the state is dispensing with its democratic trappings.

This is not a sign of strength but, on the contrary, is testimony to their weakness.

The working class must respond by using its strength to defeat this Bill by bringing down the government and the entire capitalist system.