SUBMISSION TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE: SECRET JUSTICE IN THE NORTH
Relatives for Justice (RFJ) has been an NGO delegate at the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva during its examination of the UK’s human rights record this week. RFJ has been represented at the meeting of the Panel by Niall Murphy, a member of the Board of Management, who is also a Solicitor Advocate with KRW LAW LLP, both from Belfast.
On behalf of victims of conflict related human rights violations, submissions were made to the UNHRC regarding the continuing failures by the British government to deal with the out workings of the past in the North of Ireland. The imposition of austerity measures to legal aid were highlighted as causing further blocks to truth, justice and accountability. In a significant development, the UNHRC invited Mr Murphy to address the controversial issue of secret justice proceedings.
The UNHRC has particular interest in the way member states such as the UK government use draconian legal measures in the war against terrorism which encroach upon civil liberties and human rights. The British government introduced Closed Material Procedures (CMP) into civil legal proceedings through the controversial Justice and Security Act 2013 despite consolidated opposition from judges, lawyers, politicians and rights groups. CMP effectively stop litigants accessing evidence to be able to establish a civil claim against the British government for a human rights violation when National Security is considered by the Government to be at risk.
The CMP measure is therefore both a block to access to justice, offends the principles of the Common Law and the right to equality of arms in legal proceedings. It undermines the values of the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. It is disproportionate to its intended effect and was intended for use only in very rare circumstances. In the North of Ireland CMP is now being relied upon routinely by state agencies to block access to evidence in a number of conflict related Legacy cases including those of alleged state agents such as Kevin Fulton and Freddie Scappaticci. No one in our jurisdiction thought that this was a process to be applied in Conflict related Legacy litigation.
RFJ and KRW LAW LLP have outlined our opposition to the CMP in a submission to the UNHRC which is being considered today. Condemnation of such secret hearings will serve the interests of victims of the Conflict in the North of Ireland in the continued quest for truth, justice and accountability.