FOIA APPEAL CHALLENGING NON-DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL ON UK ADVICE TO PRIOR TO AMRITSAR ASSACRE 1984 CONCLUDES
KRW LAW LLP represents journalist and researcher Phil Miller in his quest for information relating to advice provided by the UK government to the Indian government – including advice and assistance provided by the SAS to the Indian security forces – regarding the counter-insurgency campaign which lead to The Amritsar Massacre 1984.
Mr Miller’s historic request (this has process has taken four years) is which is now subject to appeal because the UK government will not allow disclosure of this apparently sensitive material. The UK government has spent considerable amount of public money in defending its position including briefing a former senior Treasury lawyer – KRW and Counsel are acting pro bono on behalf of Mr Miller – and the public interest.
In 2014 Mr Miller made a FOIA request for information held by the UK government regarding its provision of advice and assistance to the Indian authorities prior to The Amritsar Massacre 1984. Inadvertently a file discovered by Mr Miller described an authorised visit by an SAS officer to India to advice the army and police. Mr Miller wanted to understand the context of this visit and the advice and assistance provided then and later.
The resulting Amritsar Massacre lead to a violent counter-insurgency operation by the Indian military and police involving human rights violations including which has been described as genocide. The material discovered by Mr Miller and the material he seeks would illuminate the British role in these tragic events.
Four years after Mr Miller’s request for the files (that were due to have been disclosed in 2014 under the 30 year rule) and 34 years since the genocide, the British government has spent a large amount of public money in defending a position which Mr Miller and his legal team (acting pro bono) and the Sikh community – and the wider public interest – consider unsustainable in terms of both law and justice and certainly counter to the empty rhetoric of the British state – primarily the institution of the civil service – around openness and transparency in the conduct of public affairs and international diplomacy (for which, perhaps, read the maintenance of trade and commerce with former colonial partners).
The UK government maintains that this ‘historic’ material remains sensitive and could disrupt Anglo-Indian relations. It is perhaps more probable that disclosure would embarrass the UK government in its provision of providing advice and assistance (rubber bullets and internment being mentioned in court at least twice during proceedings – echoes of the conflict in the North of Ireland) which lead to the Amritsar Massacre and the human rights violations which followed in order to secure trade links and stability in ‘the region’ – then and now.
The hearing concluded yesterday – having been heard largely in ‘closed’ (secret) – with judgment reserved. Judgement is expected in six weeks and could be subject to onward appeal which now doubt the government will robustly contest. But the more the UK government protests the more the suspicion and rumour – the right to truth – will demand disclosure otherwise the FOIA system will be exposed, and it guardian the Information Commissioner – as not fit for purpose.