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Calls for inquiry into British 'complicity' in torture

Calls for inquiry into British 'complicity' in torture

Categories: Latest News

Thursday December 11 2014

The newspapers this week (Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, The Times and Daily Mail) have all given prominence to the publication of a US Senate report into the use of torture, ‘or “enhanced interrogation techniques” by American operatives in the CIA as part of the ‘war on terror’.

Among techniques highlighted in the report are being “forced to stand on broken limbs for hours, deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, “rectal feeding” without medical necessity, and rectal exams conducted with “excessive force”. 111214_timesOne prisoner was later diagnosed with anal fissures, chronic hemorrhoids and “symptomatic rectal prolapse”. Prisoners were also subjected to “mock executions, Russian roulette. US agents threatened to slit the throat of a detainee’s mother, sexually abuse another and threatened prisoners’ children. One prisoner died of hypothermia brought on in part by being forced to sit on a bare concrete floor without pants”.

The report raises uncomfortable questions about the methods employed by the US spy agency to extract information from detainees, the quality of information retrieved – with some doubt cast over CIA claims that the information had been indispensable to averting terrorist acts, and, crucially, questions about how much the UK new about what was going on and how far the British Government was complicit in the act.

guardian_1012154The issue of the UK’s complicity and its own legacy on the use of torture and rendition is the subject of a book by the Guardian’s investigative reporter, Ian Cobain, titled Cruel Britannia: A History of Torture. In a review of the book, Peter Oborne, Chief Political Commentator at the Daily Telegraph, wrote that Cobain “proves beyond doubt that we do indeed make use of torture, and sometimes with relish”.

Andrew Tyrie MP, who as chair of the APPG on Extraordinary Rendition, has fought for the disclosure of documents relating to the UK’s possible complicity in torture and rendition said, “It’s impossible to tell how much the report has been redacted or reduced, cut, to take out the extent of the involvement of other countries, in particular America’s closest ally the United Kingdom.

“I think it is quite likely that we will find that those redactions are very heavy. There is a non-aggression pact on this, where the UK on the basis of something called the control principle does not release information that they have been given by the United States security forces, and likewise the Americans don’t do so in reverse.”

Geoffery Robertson QC, in a guest column in the Independent, reinforces the implications of the UK’s exercise of the ‘control principle’ indy_101214stating, “Certainly, among the 5,500 unpublished pages in this Report, will be found details of MI6 collaboration in CIA torture. They are unpublished because the British government has invoked a protocol that allies must not spill each other’s secrets. Mr Cameron, if he shares the gumption and integrity displayed by President Obama, should call for these redacted passages and publish them. Britain, too, should publicly reject conduct up with which we should not put.”

The Daily Mail reports on the calls by a Tory MP for the immediate release of Shaker Aamer, a British Muslim citizen who has been held at Guantanamo for 13 years without charge or trial. Conservative MP Jane Ellison, told the Daily Mail: “Shaker Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo Bay is unacceptable.

“The UK Government has confirmed repeatedly that they want him released to the UK and the latest revelations serve to underline that Shaker Aamer should be immediately reunited with his family in Battersea.”

mail_121214And the Guardian notes the reactions of human rights campaigners to the Senate report with many calling for the fulfilment of a promise by the PM to establish a judge-led inquiry into the allegations of UK complicity.

Clare Algar, of the charity Reprieve, which has at the forefront of legal cases involving Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi, who allege the UK Government acted with intent in their rendition and torture at the hands of the former Libyan regime, told the Guardian, “David Cameron promised a judge-led inquiry into our intelligence services, but he has since u-turned. Now the government says it will ask parliament’s intelligence and security committee to examine this scandal – the very same committee which completely failed to notice UK involvement in rendition when it was going on, and for years after.”

The ‘judge led’ inquiry alluded to is the Gibson Inquiry which was launched in 2010 but soon ran aground after its proceedings had to be halted as legal challenges in the cases of Belhadj and al-Saadi, were mounted. Sami al-Saadi has since settled his case after a £2.2 million payout by the Government but, importantly, with no admission of guilt.

tele_101214Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who was recently cleared by the Appeals Court to proceed with his case again
st former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and security chief, Sir Mark Allan, continues his battle for compensation and an apology from the Government.

Editorials in the various newspapers touch upon the ethical issue decrying the ‘immoral’ use of inhumane methods not least considering their ineffectiveness.

The Guardian editorial points more closely to the profiteering from torture with the Senate report revealing the vast sums paid to private contractors to carry out the “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

What hope there is of the UK fully disclosing its own involvement in the CIA’s conduct and its conduct in relation to rendition and torture separate of US collusion can perhaps be gleaned from the outcome of the trial of Binyam Mohamed in which the then chair of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, the very same tasked with investigating torture claims, said of the court’s ruling “I don’t know what the Master of the Rolls is playing at.”

times_101214In his judgment in Binyam Mohamed’s case, Lord Neuberger accused the British security agencies of a “culture of suppression”. How far this will be challenged by the Government remains to be seen. As calls grow for the CIA agents implicated in the use of torture techniques to face prosecution, the failure to hold officers accountable for the torture experienced by Binyam Mohamed is a stark reminder of the impunity enjoyed to date.

A final point rests on the accountability process and quality of information passed by security agencies to Government in support of ever draconian legislation. The publication of the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill – with its measures to revoke passports for up to 30 days, place the Channel programme and the Prevent programme on a statutory footing, and the duty to be placed on universities, schools and prisons to tackle radicalisation, although evidence of their being centres where radicalisation occurs is contested, reminds us of just how far civil liberties are being eroded under the ‘war on terror’ with little regard for an objective test of the arguments used by security agencies in their favour.


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