Challenging detention without trial


Challenging detention without trial

Written by: Harmit Athwal


On 6 July 2004, at the High Court in central London, the appeals began of ten men, all foreign nationals, who are challenging their continued detention without trial under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001.

The men, many of whom are refugees or asylum seekers, and all of whom are Muslim, have been held since December 2001. They have not been charged with any offences and, furthermore, most have not even been questioned about their ‘offences’. All are being detained on the basis that they are suspected of involvement in terrorism in some way and are considered a threat to the national security of the UK. According to Home Secretary David Blunkett, they are all ‘free’ to leave the UK. But their options are in fact limited as they face possible torture or death if they return to their countries of origin.

The majority of the men are being held at Belmarsh and Woodhill maximum-security prisons. One man, Mahmoud Abu Rideh, was moved to Broadmoor high security hospital from Belmarsh after the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) upheld his detention but, in view of his poor health, advised that he be moved to a low-security psychiatric hospital. Blunkett overruled SIAC’s decision and Abu Rideh was sent to a high-security hospital instead. Mahmoud Abu Rideh, previously the victim of torture in Israel, has repeatedly harmed himself while in prison and has spoken to the Guardian about his wish to be dead.

The appeals against the detentions will focus on the fact that much of the evidence against the men is based on secret intelligence which has been obtained through the use of torture of detainees held abroad. The men and their legal representatives have not been able see or hear much of the evidence, as it has been heard in private. Ben Emmerson, a lawyer for some of the men, said in court, ‘we say it is an affront to the public conscience for the state to rely in judicial proceedings on evidence obtained by torture… We are assuming SIAC knew the individual was tortured. The underlying moral repugnance lies in this state then choosing to use the product of torture.’ The hearing has been adjourned.

Related links

Campaign Against Criminalising Communities


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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