New Internationalist

Living in the shadows

Detainee Y – as he is known – is a former ricin trial defendant who was fully acquitted. He has written this open letter to explain in his own words the system that he and eight other foreign nationals are subject to – conditions largely unknown to many. 

The media, politicians, security services and security analysts in England keep debating control orders. The current argument is just window dressing for something darker and more sinister behind closed doors. Aaah! There are only eight individuals under this controversial and inefficient order that breaches the human rights of those individuals – all British citizens (humans) of course.

But what they are not discussing are the other eight individuals who are under Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) bail restrictions – a more horrendous and draconian form of control. What about them? Why is no one discussing them or their basic human rights? Can it be because those eight individuals are refugees and therefore, by consequence, are not human beings? Is this not two-tier justice?

These eight indefinitely detained individuals, who live under SIAC restrictions, haven’t been charged or tried for any crime but have been detained since 2005. They live in complete anonymity because they are bound by SIAC to be referred only by the letters of the alphabet (A, B, X, Y etc).

They are under house arrest with up to 20 hours daily curfew with a judge permitted to impose a 24-hour curfew as in total house arrest. These men are tagged, with no visitors or friends permitted to enter their homes unless by prior consent of the Home Office. They are sent to live in remote areas (exiled in England), with no mobile phone, no computer, not even a play station (to kill time), no job, no education – basically no life as a human being or animal (because animals do have rights and their rights are protected), living in limbo in a boundary of less than a mile for the past five years. Not only are the detainees themselves affected, but also their wives and children who are, as they like to call it, collateral damage.  The list of restrictions is long and the amount of suffering is huge. Detainees and their families are broken; ruined; psychologically affected (depression, epilepsy, suicide attempts, PTSD, paranoia); physically weak; socially excluded; deprived of freedom and simple, normal life’s necessities and instincts as a human being. It is a collective, slow and premeditated torture.

The media, politicians, security services and even the English judicial system want to keep quiet about them, want to keep them hidden anonymously behind closed doors and closed sessions held in SIAC (a kangaroo court) where the evidence is secret and the judge needs security clearance to hear the evidence. The Home Office and security services are the prosecution and the defence is a security-vetted special advocate who is appointed by the Home Office to stand on behalf of the detainee. The special advocate and the detainee are not allowed, by SIAC rules, to discuss the case or the secret evidence.

So what kind of process is this where the defendant can’t speak to his legal representative? Is this the land where law rules? Is this democracy, liberty and justice? Is this a judicial system to be proud of?

In the meantime, the detainees and their families suffer in silence in the shadows, hoping for justice to prevail; but deep down they don’t see any justice in the near future and to this dilemma, this humanitarian calamity, the detainees are wishing and seeking a fair process, law-bounded treatment, open court and real justice.

The detainees are living between a rock and a hard place. Their choices? To live under these restrictions or as a category A prisoner in a high-security prison, or to drop the legal challenge against the Home Office and go back to their country of origin to face ill treatment, torture and indefinite incarceration. What a choice. Can you believe it? It’s happening here in England.

So who will speak for these detainees, their wives and their children? Who will talk about them? Who will argue their case for the sake of justice and humanity? Who?

I appeal and plead to your consciences, your human souls and compassionate hearts. I leave it to you.

May God bless you all.

In hope and anticipation,

Detainee Y

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  1. #1 Peace Activist 25 Aug 11

    I've read the blog above, but I'm very familiar with this situation. We desperately need more people to campaign against these injustices; most of the population just sit back and do nothing. The problem with secrecy is that the public do not know if justice is being served or not. Most would say it's not there problem, or 'there is no smoke without fire' they must be guilty of something. We have a justice system that demands all ordinary people are subject to the law. The penalties for any infringement of the law are getting more severe. They have TV' programs that show you people being dragged of to jail on many channels now; it's one big american style big brother is watching you show. Whilst we must have law and order, for society to work; we must never have arbitrary enforcement, law on the fiddle! There may be a case for some level of confidentiality when dealing with cases, but never blanket secrecy. Secret trials have, in the past been used to ascertain official not guilty's for some very nasty people, it all works just as well both ways. Let us all do some campaigning for open and fair justice with some real moral worth.

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About the author

Saleyha Ahsan a New Internationalist contributor

Saleyha Ahsan is a freelance journalist and medical doctor based in London.

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