TEN foreign men who have been held in Britain's Belmarsh prison since December 2001 were told yesterday by the Court of Appeal that the Government is entitled to continue to imprison them without bringing them to trial, under the AntiTerrorism, Crime and Security Act. The men had previously applied to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (which sits in secret) for a review of their cases but were refused on the grounds that the Home Secretary held “sound material” that showed them to be a risk to national security. The lawyers for these detainees argued at the Court of Appeal that this unspecified “sound material” probably came from the interrogation of prisoners at America's Guantanamo Bay detention facility and may have been obtained by ill-treatment or torture and should therefore be inadmissable, but the judges decided by 2-1 that no evidence had been produced to support this allegation.

After the judgement one of the lawyers for the detainees said: “It is terrifying. It shows that we have completely lost our way in this country, legally and morally.” Home Secretary David Blunkett commented: “I am pleased that my decision to certify these individuals as suspected international terrorists has been upheld. We unreservedly condemn the use of torture. However, it would be irresponsible not to take appropriate account of any information which could help protect national security and public safety.” Mr Blunkett's statement speaks for itself and will no doubt be examined closely when, as is expected, the case of these detainees is taken to the House of Lords for final legal consideration. In the meantime they remain virtually without any rights whatsoever under British law. Should this be so?


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