Author Topic: Torture  (Read 19581 times)


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« on: February 15, 2010, 09:45:03 AM »
The Binyam Mohamed case: Top UK judges find US and Britain guilty of torture
WSWS, February 13 2010

The Appeal Court in Britain this week rejected efforts by the Foreign Office to suppress seven paragraphs of a report drawn up by British judges in August 2008, based on their access to more than 40 US intelligence documents. The paragraphs, now published in redacted form on the Foreign Office web site, find that Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, was subjected to treatment that "could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities."

The posted document also states: "The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972."

Ethiopian-born Mohamed, a British resident, was arrested in Pakistan on April 10, 2002 as he was about to board a flight to Britain. After being imprisoned and tortured in Pakistan, he was turned over to the FBI.

A victim of extraordinary rendition at the hands of the CIA, he was flown to Morocco, where he was again tortured, including being slashed with scalpels or razor blades on his chest and penis. He was then moved to Afghanistan, where he was frequently tortured in the infamous "Dark Prison" before being finally detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There he was held for four years, again suffering torture and abuse. He was released in February 2009 without charge, after nearly seven years in prison.

Mohamed is suing the British government on the grounds that the M15 intelligence agency was complicit in his torture and provided questions and information to his interrogators.

The legal attempt by Foreign Secretary David Miliband to suppress the incriminating paragraphs of the judges’ report is part of a broader effort to suppress findings that implicate the US and British governments in war crimes. The Obama administration has been a full partner in these efforts. It demanded that the British government suppress the findings on Mohamed on the grounds that their publication would damage security and intelligence cooperation between the two countries. Miliband cited the position of the US to argue that disclosure would threaten British national security.

In response to the British Appeal Court ruling and publication of the contested paragraphs, Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Obama, stated, "As we warned, the court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with (Britain), and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward."

The British government’s arguments were dismissed by Sir Igor Judge, the lord chief justice; Lord Neuberger, the master of the rolls; and Sir Anthony May, president of the Queen’s Bench. In his ruling, May rejected the claim by the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown that disclosure would threaten the UK’s national security.

He said, "In principle, a real risk of serious damage to national security, of whatever degree, should not automatically trump a public interest in open justice which may concern a degree of facilitation by UK officials of interrogation using unlawful techniques which may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

The judges had little choice in rejecting Miliband’s appeal, given that Judge Gladys Kessler, in a US court case involving Farhi Saeed Bin Mohammed, a Guantanamo prisoner from Algeria, had previously acknowledged that the account of Binyam Mohamed’s torture was based on "credible" evidence. In her now declassified ruling, Kessler stated, "Binyam Mohamed’s trauma lasted two long years. During that time, he was physically and psychologically tortured. His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food.

"He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in plots to imperil Americans. The government does not dispute this evidence.... even though the identity of the individual interrogator changed (from nameless Pakistanis, to Moroccans to Americans)."

Lawyers acting for the British Foreign Secretary had previously accused the Appeal Court judges of "charging in" to a diplomatically sensitive issue and "jeopardising UK intelligence sharing." Miliband said that he had spoken with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the case, which was being followed carefully at the highest levels in the US "with a great deal of concern."

The Appeal Court judges agreed to withhold one paragraph, number 168, which is particularly critical of MI5. The legal parties were given until yesterday to oppose the decision to suppress paragraph 168.

The paragraph is already known to make even clearer the damning verdict against the US, MI5 and the British government. A leaked letter to the Appeal Court from David Miliband's defence lawyer, Jonathon Sumption QC, demanded that the paragraph be removed on the grounds that it was "likely to receive more public attention than any other parts of the judgments."

Sumption noted in his letter that in the still-suppressed paragraph of the draft judgement, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, refers to MI5 officers as having "deliberately misled" parliament and of sharing a "culture of suppression."

These observations, Sumption argued, "will be read as statements by the Court" that MI5 "does not in fact operate a culture that respected human rights or abjures participation in coercive interrogation techniques," and "was in particular true of Witness B [the MI5 agent who visited Binyam in Pakistan in 2002 and is accused of collusion in his torture], whose conduct in this respect is characteristic of the service as a whole."

Neuberger apparently states that "'it appears likely that there were others."

In his letter, Sumption continues that it will be concluded that "officials of the Service deliberately misled the Intelligence and Security Committee" and that this suppressed information was shared "by the Foreign Office."

The letter warns that "the suggestion that the Court should distrust any UK government assurance based on the Service’s advice and information will unquestionably be cited in other cases."

Lord Neuberger told the court that, after receiving the letter, he had agreed to amend the relevant section "quite significantly." But his attempt to stem the tide has failed.

The partial publication of the suppressed paragraphs has already created a major political crisis. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg demanded to know if ministers were told the US had changed its rules on torture after the 9/11 attacks, stating that either the government knew, or MI5 was engaged in a cover-up.

"We can only conclude that the Security Services either kept the information to themselves, or they informed ministers who failed to act immediately," Clegg said. "Both of these would suggest at best a cover-up and at worst collusion in torture. Knowledge of Britain’s potential complicity in torture looks likely to have gone to the very top of government."

Conservative Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the BBC there were 15 other cases that suggested a culture of collusion or complicity in torture by both MI5 and MI6.

Kim Howells, the chairman of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), launched a public defence of MI5 head Jonathan Evans, rejecting accusations that he had misled Parliament. He stated that he had seen no evidence that MI5 had colluded in torture, flatly contradicting the judges’ findings. Again contradicting the judges, he claimed that Evans had assured him that MI5 had not withheld any documents relating to Mohamed’s treatment from the ISC.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2010, 05:47:37 PM by nestopwar »


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We don't do torture, says David Miliband. Oh yes we do
Human rights lawyers Phil Shiner and Clive Stafford-Smith say torture and abuse by UK soldiers and security services is comparable to what the US has done in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base, and complicity goes to the highest levels of government services.

By Robin Beste
Stop the War Coalition
16 February 2010


DAVID MILIBAND insists that,"The government's clear policy is not to participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose".

This begs the question of why he has spent the last two years in the courts desperately trying to cover up evidence of British involvement in the kidnapping and torture of Binyam Mohamed, just one case which human rights lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith says shows that a green light for torture went to the highest levels of the UK security forces.

Another human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who acts for over 30 Iraqi civilians killed or injured by British soldiers during the occupation of Iraq -- including hotel receptionist Baha Mousa who was beaten and tortured to death -- says a public inquiry is needed to get to the truth of who was responsible for a policy of systemic torture and abuse by the British army.

Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa and family
Baha Mousa beaten to death in UK custody
Shiner says human rights violations by UK soldiers in Iraq are comparable to what the US has done in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base. He also highlights the issue of UK complicity for US abuses and those of the Pakistan security services.

"We desperately need all those within civil society who are concerned with such matters to speak out in public and to do so on a consistent basis," says Shiner. "2010 is the year that we hope to see end with a concession from this Government that there must be a single public inquiry into the UK’s detention policy in Iraq. I feel certain that this is the only rational way of dealing with these issues from so many cases."

Phil Shiner has produced this review of the press coverage and public reaction to reports of human rights violations by British soldiers in Iraq, which he says shows:

1.That Baha Mousa was by no means the only Iraqi unlawfully killed (or murdered) by UK Forces inside UK facilities; [Independent] [Guardian]
2.That the Five Techniques banned from Northern Ireland returned as Standard Operating Procedure; [Times] [Times]
3.That coercive interrogation techniques used by interrogators within the Joint Forward Interrogation Team went much further than the Five Techniques; [Independent]
4.That PIL has at least 50 cases. In fact we have over 70 taking into account cases on the way to us; [BBC] [Independent] [Independent] [CNN] [Guardian]
5.That UK Forces routinely ill-treated/abused Iraqis (leaving aside the use of coercive interrogation techniques); [Independent] [Independent]
6.That UK Forces routinely detained Iraqis for months/years without due process apparently for no good reason (and in circumstances where even the lower standard of internment for imperative reasons of security could not be met);
7.That UK Forces routinely used techniques designed to sexually humiliate/debase male Muslims; [Independent] these included cases involving forcing a 14 year old to give oral sex to an adult male, [Telegraph] forcing Iraqis including this 14 year old to adopt prolonged simulated anal sex positions,[Independent] forcing male Muslims to masturbate in public [link], playing Muslims hardcore pornography all night during Ramadan [link], forcing young men into Abu Ghraib like "piled up body positions"[Independent], and male rape.[Guardian]
8.That UK Forces through women routinely debased male Muslims by having sexual intercourse with male soldiers in front of them, exposing their own genitals and breasts, caressing and fondling them and attempting to have sex with them. [Times] [Daily Mail]
9.That UK Forces routinely beat and abused for no good reason Iraqi children, elderly men and women in their own homes.
10.That finally when we thought the nation could sink no lower UK Forces appear to have abducted, tortured and murdered a 62 year old grandmother. This was the front page story in the Independent on Monday 11 January 2010.
For more information on Phil Shiner's human rights work see the Public Interest Lawyers website

For more information on Clive Stafford-Smith's human rights work see the Reprieve website


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Re: Torture
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2010, 11:55:14 PM »
British Government Acknowledges Torture of Guantanamo Detainee by US Officials

The Foreign Secretary lost his Appeal Court bid to stop the disclosure of secret information relating to the torture of British resident Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed. The evidence has shown that British authorities knew that Binyam Mohamed was tortured at the behest of US authorities after his detention in Pakistan in 2002. Judges ruled that paragraphs which say his treatment was "cruel, inhuman and degrading" should be released. David Miliband said the ruling was "not evidence that the system is broken". The judgment was delivered by the three most senior Court of Appeal judges in England and Wales.

Commenting on the case, the Prime Minister's spokesman said the government stood firmly against torture and cruel and inhumane treatment.

Mr Mohamed's lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, said the seven paragraphs were just "crumbs" and there was "a vast body of other information out there showing Binyam Mohamed was abused". "There's really no denying that the British knew all about it," he added.

The key details are contained in a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British intelligence officials about Mr Mohamed's treatment in 2002. These paragraphs have now been published on the Foreign Office website.

The paragraphs concern a period in which Mr Mohamed was being held by Pakistani interrogators at the behest of the US, who suspected him of having received firearms and explosives training from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. They say Mr Mohamed was intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation, as well as threats and inducements, including playing on his fears that he would be passed on to another country. London learnt that the stress brought on by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled during his interviews and that Mr Mohamed was eventually placed on suicide watch.

The court's judgement stated: "The treatment reported, if it had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom would clearly have been in breach of [a ban on torture]. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could be readily contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of BM by the United States authorities."

Following the ruling, Mr Miliband gave a statement to the House of Commons, saying he accepted the court's decision, but that the government's objection had never been about the seven paragraphs specifically.

"We have fought this case and brought the appeal to defend a principle we believe is fundamental to our national security – that intelligence shared with us will be protected by us," the foreign secretary said. No-one likes to lose a case, but the force of the judgement is that it firmly recognises that principle." He added: "This judgement is not evidence that the system is broken, rather it is evidence that the system is working and the full force of the law is available when citizens believe they have just cause."

A senior US official said that Britain remained "a key partner" in the fight against terrorism and both sides would "need to redouble our efforts to work through this challenge".

It has emerged that a senior government lawyer, Jonathan Sumption QC, wrote to the Court of Appeal criticising the original wording of the judgment. He argued it would be "exceptionally damaging" if published because it would give the impression "that the Security Service does not in fact operate a culture that respects human rights or abjures participation in coercive interrogation techniques". The passages to which Mr Sumption objected did not appear in the version of the judgement that was eventually published.

Last year, the High Court ruled that the seven paragraphs should be published as the risk to national security was "not a serious one" and there was "overwhelming" public interest in disclosing the material. However, the summary was kept secret to allow the Foreign Secretary to appeal.

Mr Mohamed, an Ethiopian granted refugee status in Britain in 1994, was initially arrested in Pakistan in 2002 over a visa irregularity and was handed over to US officials. He was secretly flown to Morocco in 2002. There, he says, he was tortured while interrogators asked him about his life in London – questions, he says, that could have come only from British intelligence officers. Mr Mohamed was sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in 2004. He was held there until his release without charge in February 2009, when he returned to Britain.

(Source: BBC, 10.2.10)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2010, 11:58:20 PM by nestopwar »


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Re: Torture
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2010, 07:59:48 PM »
Government definition of complicity in torture 'has no basis in law'

The government's definition of what constitutes complicity in torture has no basis in law, parliament's joint committee on human rights warns today in a hard-hitting attack on its attitude towards the abuse of terrorism suspects.

Its narrow definition of complicity is "significant and worrying", and in light of evidence, notably in the Binyam Mohammed hearings, the case for an urgent independent inquiry into claims of involvement in torture is irresistible, the committee says in a report.

The report also criticises Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, for refusing to give evidence to the committee in public and calls for a review of all counterterrorism legislation passed since 2001.

On torture, the report says ministers gave evasive replies when the committee asked them what would amount to complicity under international law. But in evidence to the committee and in public statements both the home and foreign secretaries, and the head of MI5, came "very close to saying that, at least in the wake of 9/11, the lesser of two evils was the receipt and use of intelligence which was known, or should have been known, to carry a risk that it might have been obtained under torture, in order to protect the UK public from possible terrorist attack".

The report adds: "This is no defence to the charge of complicity in torture." The government changed the question from: "Does or should the official receiving the information know that it has or is likely to have been obtained by torture?" to: "Does the official receiving the information know or believe that receipt of the information would encourage the intelligence services of other states to commit torture?"

Under international law complicity does not require active encouragement, the committee says. The formula used by the government "appears to us to be carefully designed to enable it to say that, although it knew or should have known some intelligence it received was or might have been obtained through torture, this did not amount to complicity because it did not know or believe such receipt would encourage … torture by other states."

Lady Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, appeared to go further in a speech this month. "Nothing, even saving lives, justifies torture," she said.

What constitutes complicity in torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is a key issue behind Gordon Brown's refusal to publish new guidance given to MI5, MI6, and military intelligence officers, operating abroad.

Brown has also declined to publish criticism of the guidance by the intelligence and security committee (ISC), whose members are handpicked by the prime minister.

Michael Mates, the senior Conservative on the ISC, told the Commons last week: "Torture is absolutely out ... However, there are degrees of [cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment] and it is not clearly defined in law, which gives everybody a problem."

He said the position was not helped by "the lack of any legal definition in UK law of complicity".

In their report today, the committee members say that, "paradoxically", the case for an inquiry into the UK's role in torture was made by the government's own senior lawyer, Jonathan Sumption QC, when he wrote to the court of appeal to warn that it could not conclude that the Binyam Mohamed case revealed "systemic" problems at MI5.

They conclude that the letter "powerfully makes the case for an independent inquiry into these grave matters, which would not be constrained from looking at the wider issues in the way that the court adjudicating on Binyam Mohamed's claims inevitably is".

The committee adds: "In our view, the case for setting up an independent inquiry into the allegations of complicity in torture is now irresistible."

The committee also calls for the publication of the official guidance to intelligence officers interrogating suspects overseas that was in place in 2002 and the years following – the period when abuse is known to have occurred – as well as the new, revised, guidelines.

The report says parliament still did not have the information it needed to properly evaluate whether the power to detain terrorism suspects pre-charge for up to 28 days continued to be necessary.

It adds that a thorough independent review should be conducted of the pre-charge detention of all those individuals who were arrested in relation to the Heathrow airline plot and detained without charge for more than 14 days.

The government has still not given up on the possibility that pre-charge detention may be extended to 42 days, it says. A draft bill exists that would be introduced if and when the need arose. The bill should be withdrawn and if it were enacted it would be likely to be in breach of the European human rights convention in the absence of a derogation from that convention.

In its report, the committee also says it is "disappointed" by the refusal of the head of MI5 to give evidence to the committee. Ministers have defended this, on the grounds that a separate committee – the ISC – is in charge of scrutinising the intelligence services, but the human rights committee says Evans should appear before it too.

"We have previously declined offers of a confidential briefing from the director general of the Security Service [MI5] about the threat level. The purpose of the director general appearing before us to give evidence would be to enable us to question him publicly, in order to enhance the democratic accountability of the intelligence and security services, make parliamentary assessments of the necessity and proportionality of counterterrorism measures more transparent, and so increase public confidence. These things cannot be achieved by off-the-record, secret briefings," the committee says.

The committee also calls for a "thoroughgoing, evidence-based review of the necessity for, and proportionality of, all the counterterrorism legislation passed since September 11 2001".

It explains: "Since September 11 2001 the government has continuously justified many of its counterterrorism measures on the basis that there is a public emergency threatening the life of the nation. We question whether the country has been in such a state for more than eight years. This permanent state of emergency inevitably has a deleterious effect on public debate about the justification for counterterrorism measures."