[JURIST] Lawyers representing Binyam Mohamed [Reprieve profile], the last British resident still detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], argued at a Monday High Court hearing [JURIST report] in London that the UK Foreign Office should be compelled to turn over evidence necessary to his defense before a US military commission. The evidence sought allegedly shows that Mohamed was the victim of torture and extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive]. On Friday, Mohamed’s lawyer asked the Irish government [Irish Times report] to turn over information about CIA rendition flights [JURIST news archive] that allegedly landed in Ireland in 2002 and 2004 while transporting Mohamed. Sky News has more. IRNA has additional coverage.
Mohamed says he was arrested in Pakistan and turned over to US officials who later transferred him to Moroccan agents who tortured him; he was later transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004. In December, in a letter [DOC text] sent by his lawyer to UK Foreign Secretary David Milliband, he asked the UK government [JURIST report] to ensure that photographic evidence of his alleged torture be preserved. For most of 2007, Binyam was one of five UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Three of those were released [press release; JURIST report] from US custody in December. A fourth British resident, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, a Saudi Arabian national, was to be returned there but his current status is unclear.
[JURIST] An eyewitness’ ability to recall specific details of an incident decreases dramatically in high-stress situations, according to a new study [PDF text; press release] that could have long-ranging impact on law enforcement and legal procedures. The study, conducted by Tin Valentine and Jan Mesout of Goldsmiths [academic website], part of the University of London, measured participants’ ability to recall details about an actor instructed to jump out at visitors as they moved through a “fun-house” maze. The study found that participants who reported being more stressed during the visit consistently failed to correctly identify specific details about the actor afterwards.
The study distinguished between “low stress” situations, which might actually produce a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings, with “high stress” terror, which reduces one’s recall. The researchers noted that the latter form of stress is more often the one experienced by witnesses to crimes. Evidence reform advocates are already critical of eyewitness testimony [NLADA materials] and some have predicted [advocacy blog] that the study could have major implications for criminal cases that rely on eyewitness testimony.
The five law lords unanimously overturned a high court decision in April that Tony Blair’s government and the SFO caved in too readily to threats by Saudi Arabia over intelligence sharing and trade.
In today’s ruling, the senior law lord, Lord Bingham, said the SFO’s former director, Robert Wardle, was confronted by an “ugly and obviously unwelcome threat”.
The Attorney General on 13 December 2006 was said to be “extremely unhappy” at the implications of dropping the investigation at that stage. What determined the decision was the Director’s judgment that the public interest in saving British lives outweighed the public interest in pursuing BAE to conviction. It was a courageous decision, since the Director could have avoided making it by disingenuously adopting the Attorney General’s view (with which he did not agree) that the case was evidentially weak. Had he anticipated the same consequences and made the same decision in the absence of an explicit Saudi threat it would seem that the Divisional Court would have upheld the decision, since it regarded the threat as “the essential point” in the case.
The Director was confronted by an ugly and obviously unwelcome threat. He had to decide what, if anything, he should do. He did not surrender his discretionary power of decision to any third party, although he did consult the most expert source available to him in the person of the Ambassador and he did, as he was entitled if not bound to do, consult the Attorney General who, however, properly left the decision to him. The issue in these proceedings is not whether his decision was right or wrong, nor whether the Divisional Court or the House agrees with it, but whether it was a decision which the Director was lawfully entitled to make. Such an approach involves no affront to the rule of law, to which the principles of judicial review give effect.
In the opinion of the House the Director’s decision was one he was lawfully entitled to make. It may indeed be doubted whether a responsible decision-maker could, on the facts before the Director, have decided otherwise.
On the one hand, we have our mainstream media going with the, “Incompetent but at least the passports are useless”.
On the other, the Register (for example):
A consignment of 3,000 “useless” blank biometric passports has been stolen on its way to British embassies throughout the world. Or at least, the Identity & Passport Service says they’re useless. …
Because of course it all depends on what the passport will be used for.