Lords to rule on 'torture' evidence

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The Independent Online

The House of Lords is to decide for the first time whether evidence obtained under torture is admissible when it hears a legal challenge by 14 men held under anti-terrorism legislation.

Security services have admitted in earlier hearings that intelligence that led them to detain the suspects was obtained under duress from prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay and the Middle East. Natalia Garcia, a solicitor for two of the men, said: "We've argued that it was unfairly obtained but the reply was they would assess it 'in the round'."

This week, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, will hear an appeal by the Home Secretary against a ruling that one of the 14 should be released from Belmarsh high-security prison because he had been held on "wholly unreliable evidence". The Government says the 37-year-old Libyan, known only as M, should remain detained as it regards him as a terrorist with al-Qa'ida connections.

Legal challenges against detention are heard by a special panel, but when it goes into closed session on grounds of national security, neither the detainee nor his lawyers can remain present. Nor are they allowed to know what information is held against the prisoner. A Government-appointed barrister can question the secrecy of the information; in one instance when this was successful, said Ms Garcia, it turned out to be a press cutting.

To pass the anti-terrorism law, the Government had to suspend part of the European Convention on Human Rights.