How the British Government is Ignoring Justice to Appear Tough on Terror
By Paul Donovan, 1 February 2007
The will of a number of Algerian men held in detention or under anti terror laws over recent years appears to have reached breaking point as growing numbers agree to return home to face an uncertain future. They have been driven to this position by a government that has kept them incarcerated, first in prison then under control orders, but failed to produce any evidence in a fully accredited court of law to justify such detention.
Most of the men have attained full refugee status yet now face return to a country that Amnesty International claims « continues to torture uncharged detainees held in their custody. »
Initially, a number of the men were detained indefinitely without trial under the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. Then after the Law Lords ruling in December 2004 that detention without trial was unlawful they were put on control orders. After the London bombings they were re-arrested in August and September 2005 prior to being served notice of deportation by the Home Office. At this time, a number of the men cleared in April 2005 in what became known as the ricin trial (where no ricin was found) were also arrested. Since arrest a number of the men have been bailed under control order style conditions pending deportation. It has been this ongoing incarceration in prison and at home that has driven a number of the men to the point where they are prepared to face possible torture and death at home rather than remain in the UK.
Adrienne Burrows of Peace & Justice in east London has visited a number of the men. « There are the regular visits from the tagging company to the houses of those held under control orders. The police will accompany, which raises suspicions with the neighbours, » said Ms Burrows. « One wife said they’ve done this, abusing power, destroying my life and my family’s life. »
Most of the men detained have children, who have been effected as a result of being imprisoned in the house with their fathers.
Solicitor Gareth Peirce has told how one child walks around with a watch on his ankle imitating the tagging device his father wears. The child thinks it normal for adult males to be tagged. The children at school have problems when they need to use the internet for homework. They have to confess they cannot use the internet at home because their father is under a control order.
Originally, the government aimed to remove the men by securing Memorandums of Understanding (MOU). The government asserts that a « MOM » guarantees, by way of « diplomatic assurances », that people deported by the UK would not be tortured or ill-treated in the country to which they are sent. The MOM though proved impossible to achieve with Algeria.
This though did not stop the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) – through which the Home Office has sought to deal with these cases – from ruling in the case of an Algerian man known as Y that assurances given to Tony Blair by the Algerian Government that « no torture, no ill-treatment » would take place were sufficient.
The significance of the ruling was that the barrier to deporting people back to countries where they could face torture had been lowered even below that of the nefarious MOMs.
Y’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, succinctly summarised the position. « A year ago Tony Blair said the rules of the game had changed and they would deport refugees to countries that they knew used torture, but they would not do it unless we have a MOM and an independent monitoring group, » she said. « Now one year later, there is no MOM and no monitoring group in place. The government is saying they are not necessary and today the court has endorsed that. »
There is growing concern in legal circles at the way in which the Government have effectively used the immigration court process via the SIAC as a way to circumvent normal due process. All most of those being detained have called for all along is to be brought before a fully accredited court to face whatever charges they are accused of. The reality has been they have become trapped in the immigration court sphere, unable to access justice.
Now many of the men have reached despair and would rather face the uncertainties of life in Algeria than continue with the ongoing torture of life in the UK
So this is the triumph of Home Office policy to drive a number of mainly family men to such a level of distraction that they will contemplate returning to a country where they face torture and probable death. All have indicated a willingness to answer any charges of which they are accused but nothing has ever been produced in evidence before a court.
The decision of these men to return home is not a triumph for government policy but a sad day for human rights in this country. Most of the implementation of government policy has been carried out quietly behind the scenes, supervised by a growing secret state operating within the state.
People in this country were quick to condemn the Soviet Union and other countries for such behaviour over the years, why the silence now when it is going on in our own back yard, runs by our government in our names.
Victims of British injustice
Adrienne Burrows and Desiree Howells on behalf of Peace & Justice in East London, Letter in Morning Star – 30/1/2007
As members of an organisation that has visited a number of Algerian detainees held in Britain without trial since 2001 we want to express our concern at the news that two men are now being held by Algeria’s feared military police the DRS (Dapartement du renseignement et de la securita).
Amnesty International has documented how « beatings, electric shocks and the forced ingestion of dirty water, urine or chemicals are just some of the methods used by Algeria’s security forces with systematic impunity. »
The two Algerians presently being held are shortly to be joined by others who have been driven out of this country by ongoing pressure put on them by the British Government. They have never been charged or interviewed by the police and their lawyers have not been able to see evidence against them.
All have been keen to come before a properly constituted court of law in order to answer any charge that the Government may want to bring against them.
Instead all the detainees have been held first in prison and then on control orders under the caveat of immigration law supervised by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. It has been this process of indefinite detention that has driven them to accept the offer of deportation being made by the British Government.
It has been clear they were caught in a process that offered no opportunity to put their case and offered no sign of ending at any time in the near future. As a number have stated it was a case of go mad and die a slow death in Britain or go back to Algeria and take their chances with the torturers at home.
The suggestion made by Lord Carlisle, the government’s independent monitor of terrorism, that the men returned voluntarily is to play along with the Government’s facade of justice. The voluntary nature of the return to Algeria needs to be set against the psychological torture these individuals were being forced to endure in this country and the dangers they clearly face at the hands of the DRS in Algeria.
We would like to emphasise to the British and Algerian Governments that the eyes of the world are now on the fate of these men. Amnesty International has already issued an alert and made clear its concern. Were anything to happen to any of the individuals forced to return then both the British and Algerian Governments will have to answer before international law and the court of world opinion.