Human Rights Breaches and the Wrongful Convictions of Samar Alami & Jawad Botmeh
Background and introduction
On 1 November 2001, Ms Samar Alami (Lebanese Palestinian) and Mr Jawad Botmeh (Palestinian) lost their appeal against their wrongful conviction of conspiracy to cause explosions in relation to the 1994 London bombings of the Israeli Embassy and Balfour House, and against their sentence of 20 years‚ imprisonment. There is no direct evidence connecting them to the attacks and both had alibis. Samar & Jawad, although politically active, are innocent of any involvement in these attacks. The two have always protested their innocence, and repeatedly emphasised, publicly and privately, that they do not believe that these bombings could be justifiable or acceptable. The crime of which they are convicted has not been fully investigated. while they languish in prison, the bombers remain free.
The bombings which, thankfully, did not result in any death or serious injury, were a carefully planned, professionally executed and highly sophisticated exercise that must have involved substantial resources and preparation. Yet, at trial, the authorities attributed them to a small London based group of amateurs and "quintessentially English Palestinians" frustrated with the peace process in the Middle East. The latter motive, which was presumed and never proven, is itself based on a fallacious inference that a political opinion of that nature is a sufficient reason for involvement in a bombing attack. Samar & Jawad’s wrongful convictions were largely secured through a systematic and unrelenting suppression of evidence pointing to parties and individuals unrelated to them. This was done by: failing to disclose evidence; deciding that the material requested is irrelevant; using Public Interest Immunity certificates (PIIs) or gagging orders; and at times police losing exhibits and documents.
This report documents the injustices that have been inflicted on Samar & Jawad, and the way they have been made an exception to basic precepts of fairness and most procedural guarantees underpinning English law. In particular, their absolute right to a fair and open hearing has been breached both at trial and appeal. Standards of fairness are all the more important in view of the crime perpetrated, and of the severity of the sentences delivered. Their breach is correspondingly more alarming and aggravating. The fight for justice is far from over, as the appellants are now taking their case to the House of Lords, and if that fails to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
More detailed background information can be found in the Appendices. Appendix A gives the chronology of the case, and Appendix B sketches its key aspects, including the charge sheet and the questions raised to the House of Lords. Note that while in court and in all official correspondence Samar & Jawad have been held party to the bombings, the actual attacks were not mentioned in the charges. Appendices C, D, and E, cover key pre-trial problems, the "human errors" in disclosure, relevant rulings from ECtHR, and key points from the appeal judgment.
The conduct of the investigation
There are three areas of concern about the investigation. Firstly, the police and prosecution (CPS) have clearly failed to complete the investigation or to pursue enquiries after the trial. To date, it is not known (at least not to the public or defence):
- what explosive and what mechanism were used in the bombings,
- where the explosives were made up,
- where the car bombs were assembled,
- who wrote the letters claiming responsibility,
- who drove the carss
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