Sir David Davis demands to hear the evidence in torture review


As published in The Times:

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, has launched a legal challenge to be allowed into a secret court that will hear evidence of British involvement in torture and rendition.

Mr Davis will argue that he should not be blocked from seeing material in the judicial review — which he is mounting against the government’s decision to drop plans for a judge-led inquiry into the UK’s alleged complicity in the abuse of detainees after 9/11.

The High Court is set to hold closed sessions, in which a judge would hear from government lawyers alone.
However, Mr Davis has urged the court that, given his history of handling sensitive material as a minister, he should have access to secret evidence on which the government will rely.

He is understood to be the first “civilian” to undertake such a move, which will be considered by judges this month.

Last year the government ruled out a judge-led inquiry into activities during the war on terror, overturning a 2010 promise by the former prime minister David Cameron.

The legal challenge, led by Mr Davis and Dan Jarvis, a Labour MP, is also backed by the human rights organisation Reprieve. They say that the public should learn the truth and that victims of rendition deserve justice.

The government is relying on the system of “Closed Material Procedures”, introduced under the Justice and Security Act 2013, to hold the challenge behind closed doors.

Mr Davis said: “What they’re saying is that I can’t know what the progress of my case is. And yet I’m probably privy to more secrets in my career than most people.” In his previous roles, including Brexit secretary and foreign office minister, Mr Davis received access to sensitive intelligence and questioned why he should be excluded now.

He said that in the case of torture and rendition, arguments for high levels of confidentiality were “very hard to see”, as the cases were no longer operational.

Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, said: “If British personnel helped torture people, that should not be concealed from the public behind the doors of a secret court. We want the government to keep the promise it made torture survivors ten years ago and air evidence of past wrongdoing in a fully independent inquiry”.