A ‘landmark’ ruling slashes Theresa May’s power to keep the public in the dark

may ruling
Support us and go ad-free

The Upper Tribunal has ruled that the government can no longer have total secrecy around its actions by citing national security concerns. The court’s decision comes after a rights group challenged the government for refusing to release information about its drone strikes.

The UK government regularly cites ‘national security’ as its reason for suppressing information. After this ruling, however, that’s not going to be as easy to do.

Drone strikes

In 2015 RAF drone strikes killed two British citizens, Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin, in Syria.  The same year the UK coordinated with the US on an airstrike that killed Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John. All three UK citizens were involved with Daesh (Isis/Isil).

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Parliament about the strike that killed Khan and Amin. He explained it was a “new departure” for the UK. He also said the attorney general had advised that the action was “entirely lawful”.

So Rights Watch (UK) submitted a freedom of information request (FOI) to find out what the legal advice was. But the government wouldn’t reveal it. Rights Watch (UK) then appealed to the Upper Tribunal. And on 2 January 2018 the government published the Tribunal’s decision.

It ruled that officials cannot block all information related to the security services through a provision in the FoI Act (section 23). Instead, the Tribunal said information that doesn’t contain security intelligence or operational decisions, for example, can be “disaggregated”, meaning separated from the information that does, and potentially released in response to a FoI. Essentially, the court removed the option for the government to cite national security when information is requested and then keep everything related to that FoI secret.

Now the scope of what it can keep secret is more limited, and the rest of the information will be subject to other exemptions in the FoI Act.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Transparency

The tribunal, however, didn’t order the government to release the legal advice for its drone strikes. But Rights Watch (UK) welcomed its decision to limit the government’s secrecy in the “landmark case”. Yasmine Ahmed, the group’s executive director, commented:

This is a significant push-back against the Government’s expansive claims of secrecy, that would have allowed it to claim absolute secrecy and suppress information that had merely passed through the hands of the security services, corroding the public’s right to information.

Indeed, the public has a right to know what justification the government is using to carry out extrajudicial killing in countries the UK is not at war with. And people have a right to know the scale of UK involvement in US drone operations, given that leaked documents show a spy centre in North Yorkshire has aided “a significant number” of US “capture-kill operations”. Crucially, we also need to know what efforts the government is making to ensure the accuracy of such operations. Because the US’ record is appalling and the UK’s isn’t much better.

The Upper Tribunal’s decision certainly won’t give the British public an imminent answer to all these questions. But it’s a good start.

Get Involved!

– Find out more about Rights Watch (UK).

Take action with the Stop the War Coalition.

Featured image via Youtube

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed