Today’s Daily Mail contains a letter from 116 Liberal Democrats asking MPs to vote down Part 2 of the Justice and Security Bill. The signatories include a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, an MEP, 5 members of the Federal Executive, 2 members of the Federal Policy Committee, 6 past and present members of the Liberal Democrat Voice editorial team and a number of parliamentary candidates. The letter says:
We are writing to urge all MPs to do the right thing by voting against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill when it has its Report stage in the Commons today.
The Justice and Security Bill runs a coach and horses through fair trial guarantees which have been part of our country’s constitution since the Civil War and which were first enshrined in the Magna Carta. The secret court measures contained in the Bill could even apply to habeas corpus proceedings.
The stakes for our country could not be higher. The “War on Terror” led to many mistakes: liberty was sacrificed in the name of security. This led directly to British agents facilitating kidnap and torture such as the cases of Binyam Mohammed and Abdul-Hakim Belhaj. For those who are victims of such crimes to be shut out of the trials of their own claims for damages runs totally contrary to any notion of justice.
As the Special Advocates reiterated last week, the case for this Bill has not been made. The Joint Committee on Human Rights reported on 28th February 2013 that the government has failed to meet its requirements to make “Closed Material Procedures” less unfair.
We call on all MPs now to act before it is too late, and they become complicit in irrevocable damage to our constitution.
This issue goes beyond party politics. However, as Liberal Democrats the protection of civil liberties is of crucial importance. We are looking to Nick Clegg to lead the Liberal Democrat MPs in opposition to the Bill.
Opposition to Part II is what liberal democracy demands of us. Secret courts must not form any part of the legacy of a government in which Liberal Democrats have a role.
You can read it and see all of the signatories here.
Julian Huppert and Jo Shaw have both written for LDV in the past few days. Jo Shaw was also interviewed on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last week and you can listen to that here. The Bill is being debated in the Commons this week and will be amongst the first votes of our new MP, Mike Thornton.
Liberal Democrat bloggers have been very active on this subject. Over at Digital Politico, Charlotte Henry has done a round-up.
When the Joint Committee for Human Rights has said that it isn’t happy with the Bill, that should be a huge red flag for any Liberal Democrat MP considering voting for it. Even so, the fundamental principle behind Part 2 is flawed. Our legal system has had at its heart the idea that evidence must be fully disclosed and tested in court, or else a decision is simply not fair. The job of any liberal is to protect the individual from the excesses of the state. If this Bill goes through, it will make it easier for the Government to cover up complicity in torture. Surely Liberal Democrats cannot allow that to happen. It remains to be seen whether the leadership will listen to the clearly expressed will of its grassroots activists and vote in accordance with the motion passed at Conference last September.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings