If the Justice and Security Bill becomes law, Ministers will be able to demand secret hearings, and to prevent the victims from ever seeing evidence about their claims.
Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, the chief British Army lawyer in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, has said what went on in the secret prison network amounted to ‘war crimes’.
He said it was his part of his job to monitor the treatment of prisoners taken by British Forces and the conditions at detention facilities. But he was kept ‘totally in the dark’ about the secret network’s existence.
“This prisoner facility operated entirely outside the normal chain of command,” said Lieut Col Mercer, who has left the Army.
“I find it remarkable that I knew nothing about it at the time. What is clear now is that, if the Justice and Security Bill does become law, the truth may never come out. These are alleged war crimes, but what Britain did may never be disclosed. Indeed, the Bill may be specifically designed to prevent such allegations ever coming to light”.
Senior Conservative MP David Davis said the Bill seemed to be ‘tailored to produce a cover-up’.
“I find it astonishing that the military authorities responsible for the legality of prisoner detention were not even notified about these secret camps. If these allegations are substantiated, they amount to a serious blow to the rule of law. The Bill, if passed, would be another, giving Ministers the power effectively to instruct judges to withhold evidence in court cases”, he said.
The pending action will be taken by solicitor Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, whose earlier work brought to light details of the murders of the hotel worker Baha Mousa and other Iraqis detained by British troops. The new focus is on a number of almost simultaneous incidents at two black site locations. It is thought there were at least two more.