Just when it seemed that Republicans in America had a monopoly on Islamophobic hysteria, the Sunday Times prompted a torrent of similar hysteria in the UK by running an article in which an employee of Amnesty International — Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at the International Secretariat — criticized the organization that employed her for its association with former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg.
Before getting into the substance — or lack of it — in Sahgal’s complaints, it should be noted first of all that her immediate suspension by Amnesty was the least that should have been expected. What other organization would put up with an employee badmouthing them to a national newspaper on a Sunday, and then allow them to return to work as usual on Monday morning?
Those of us who have been aware that the principles of open justice in the UK are being threatened in an unprecedented manner have, to date, focused largely on the use of secret evidence in cases related to terrorism — widely ignored by the general public, and by much of the media — and on the use of “super-injunctions,” which recently broke into the mainstream with the Twitter-storm over the Trafigura case.
The use of secret evidence in cases related to terrorism involves prisoners held on control orders (a form of house arrest), or imprisoned on deportation bail, who are assigned special advocates to speak on their behalf in closed sessions of the Special Immigrations Appeal Court (SIAC), but who are then prohibited from speaking to the special advocates about what took place in these closed sessions. This regime is now under threat, after the Law Lords ruled in June that imposing control orders breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, because a suspect held under a control order is not given “sufficient information about the allegations against him to enable him to give effective instructions to the special advocate assigned to him.”
In summer, ACLU representatives traveled to the UK to interview five former Guantánamo prisoners: Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes (both featured in my new film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” co-directed by Polly Nash), plus Bisher al-Rawi, Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul (the latter being two of the “Tipton Three,” featured in the 2006 film “The Road to Guantánamo”). The short film that was made as a result of these interviews is available below (via YouTube):