Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice 5 of session 2004-05                            12 January 2005


NEW INQUIRY:SPECIAL IMMIGRATION APPEALS COMMISSION (SIAC) TO COME UNDER SCRUTINY

An inquiry into the workings of SIAC, the court that sits in secret to hear appeals from terrorist suspects facing deportation or detention, including the ‘Belmarsh detainees’, was today launched by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

SIAC, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission hears appeals from foreigners living in Britain who the Home Secretary wants to deport on national security grounds as well as suspected international terrorists detained in the UK who can’t be returned to their own country.

Announcing the inquiry and issuing a call for written evidence, Committee Chairman Rt Hon Alan Beith MP said:

“When SIAC was created it was to deal with immigration applicants or asylum seekers who were suspected of involvement in terrorism against whom the evidence could not be produced without compromising security. Its role was then extended to include those who were detained under the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act.

Depriving a person of their liberty, without charge or trial is one of the gravest sanctions a state can impose.

SIAC plays an integral role in this process and so it is vital that the Government is able to demonstrate that this legal appeal process - the only one available to suspects - is sound.

Although SIAC is a court chaired by a judge, it meets in secret and the special advocates chosen to defend detainees' interests cannot tell them what the case against them is.

We will be taking evidence from those who have been involved with SIAC as well as hearing from organisations and individuals with expert knowledge of this area.”

The Committee’s inquiry will:

~examine the workings of the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal
~ consider how the operation of SIAC impacts upon the legal and human rights of appellants
~ question whether it offers appropriate safeguards against inappropriate detention or deportation
~ investigate whether procedures established to deal with immigration rights are adequate for decisions involving lengthy periods of custody.

Details of oral evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

Submissions relating to the terms of reference above are invited from relevant interested parties. These should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee at the address above by Monday 7 February 2005. An electronic version in MS Word or Rich Text format should also be submitted, either by e-mail to [email protected] or on a disk and this should be accompanied by a letter stating clearly who the submission is from, together with relevant contact details. Submissions should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and it would be helpful to include a brief executive summary. Attention is drawn to the guidance on the submission of evidence which can be found at www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm 

Notes for Editors:
1. Following the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the remit of the SIAC was extended to cover appeals by aliens who have been indefinitely imprisoned without charge because they are suspected of involvement in terrorism, but cannot be deported without the risk of torture or ill-treatment in their own countries.
2. The SIAC is the sole court of appeal for foreigners living in the UK, whom the Home Secretary intends to deport on national security grounds when evidence against them is considered to be too secret to be disclosed.  The Chairman at each SIAC hearing is a High Court judge. 
3.  In deportation cases, the SIAC can act in closed session and neither the appellant nor counsel is entitled to hear the evidence, which may include intelligence reports.  In closed sessions, the interests of the appellant are represented by a ‘special advocate’.  Once the special advocate has seen or heard the secret evidence denied to an appellant, they are barred from contact with the appellant or his/her lawyers.
4. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Peter Bottomley MP, Mr Hilton Dawson MP, Mr James Clappison MP, Ross Cranston QC MP, Mr Andrew Rosindell MP, Mr Clive Soley MP, Mrs Ann Cryer MP, Keith Vaz MP, Mr Jim Cunningham MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP
5. Press notice: 5