Wednesday 27 January 2010
United Nations human rights investigators have published a report that concludes the UK government has been “complicit in mistreatment and possible torture” of British citizens during the so-called “war on terror”, says the Guardian today.
This latest development follows a string of allegations about the United Kingdom’s own version of the infamous US practice of “extraordinary rendition”. Two months ago, the New York based Human Rights Watch reported that Pakistani intelligence officers admitted torturing British suspects on behalf of their UK counterparts. And there have been a number of allegations about MI5 (UK counter intelligence), MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) and Greater Manchester Police officers involvement in torture at secret prisons abroad.
No doubt some people will argue that in the climate of terror that has existed since 2001, sometimes robust measures have to be taken to safeguard public safety. I would remind those people that the victims of this torture were terror suspects, not actual terrorists. Time and time again, men who have been investigated and subsequently cleared of any involvement in terrorism have claimed they were tortured. At times it has seemed that any British Muslim visiting relatives in Pakistan is fair game for arrest, secret imprisonment and torture. And many of them have been examined by doctors who have found injuries that could only have been caused by the infliction of repeated, brutal violence.
There is, for instance, the case of Binyam Mohamed. He was arrested in Pakistan and kept in a secret prison where he was tortured. During this time he was questioned by a MI5 officer who was aware of the torture. Then he was given to the CIA, who flew him secretly to Morocco, Afghanistan and finally Guantanamo Bay. He was kept there for 4 years before finally being released without charge.
Once he was back at home, Mohamed took the UK government to the High Court for its involvement in his secret imprisonment, extraordinary rendition and torture. It is useful to note that the British government did not deny his claims – David Miliband, then foreign secretary, just tried to cover it up. Miliband actually tried to censor the high court judges’ ruling, claiming it would hurt UK-USA relations if the truth about Mohamed’s treatment was made public. He actually got the CIA to write a letter to the judges saying the CIA would no longer share intelligence with the UK if Mohamed’s rendition and torture was revealed. Luckily the judges would have none of it and they published their ruling in full, criticising the government’s conduct in the matter.
Binyam Mohamed is just one example. UK agencies have repeatedly colluded with other countries to secretly imprison and torture British citizens. And who knows how many citizens of other countries have been tortured on behalf of the UK? It is a terrifying fact that absolutely anyone could fall victim to these barbaric practices.
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