Torture – a shared value?

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Ian Cobain in the Guardian, 7 November 2017, ‘ . . . In February 2004 the LIFG commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Bouchar, who was four-and-a-half months pregnant, attempted to board a commercial flight from Beijing to London, where he hoped to claim asylum. Instead, the Chinese authorities deported the couple to Malaysia. On arrival in Kuala Lumpur they were detained. Among the secret papers discovered in Koussa’s own office was a fax from MI6, dated 1 March 2004, which informed the Libyans of the couple’s location, and copies of letters from Koussa to the Malaysian ambassador to Libya, requesting his assistance . . . he following evening, the Malaysian authorities put the couple on a commercial flight to London, via Bangkok. In Bangkok, they were taken off the aircraft, hooded, and taken to a CIA detention centre somewhere within Don Mueang international airport . . .

Belhaj says he was beaten and hung from hooks, and blasted by loud music. Bouchar told me that when she was dragged away from her husband, she feared he was going to be killed. “They took me into a cell, and they chained my left wrist to the wall and both my ankles to the floor. I could sit down but I couldn’t move.” Bouchar was chained to the wall for five days, and given water but no food. “They knew I was pregnant. It was obvious.” She was forced to lie on a stretcher, and was bound to it, head to foot, with sticky tape. They put a hood and earmuffs on her. She was unable to move, hear or see. “My left eye was closed when the tape was applied. But my right eye was open. It was agony.”

After five days, the pair were taken to Tripoli on a flight that took 17 hours. On arrival they were driven separately to Tajoura prison, east of the city. Belhaj says Koussa greeted him in person. Then he was chained to a wall, he says, and beaten. Almost immediately, MI5 and MI6 began sending questions that they wanted the Libyans to put to him. Many concerned the lives of other Libyan dissidents around the world. And the questions would keep coming. They are all there, in the secret papers discovered in Tripoli: more than 1,600 questions . . .  in Tripoli, Belhaj and Al-Saadi were interrogated by two British intelligence officers. On one occasion, when left alone with his British visitors, Belhaj says he indicated that they were being covertly recorded, displayed the scars on his arms, and indicated through sign language that he was being suspended by his arms and beaten. The British clearly understood, he says: one gave a thumbs-up sign, while the other nodded her head . . . l-Saadi settled his claim in 2012 when Britain paid him £2.23m in compensation, without admitting liability. Belhaj brought proceedings against not only the British government, but also against Allen and Jack Straw, who had been foreign secretary, and responsible for MI6, at the time that the agency assisted with his kidnap. Belhaj said he would settle for just £3 – £1 each from the government, Allen and Straw – providing both he and his wife received an unreserved apology. That was unlikely to happen, however: Scotland Yard had embarked upon a criminal investigation of the intelligence agency’s role in the Libyan rendition operations, and to make an admission of liability would be to invite arrests.’click here.

Robyn Wilson in the Independent, 15 August 2017, ‘. . . Like hundreds of other men on that island (Andoman and Nicobar Islands, off the coast of the Bay of Bengal), years of Sushil’s life here would be filled with torture, hunger and loneliness. They would be worked like slaves. Some would go mad, others would be driven to suicide. This place would form one of the darkest chapters in India’s struggle for freedom. . . The jailor’s punishments were terrible, banishing prisoners to the living Hell of the oil mills. But while the prisoners suffered, Barrie and the other British officials lived in opulence across the water on Ross Island. Among the other buildings of their administrative headquarters they had their own tennis courts, a bakery, a swimming pool and a clubhouse for the officers.’ click here.

Larry Siems in the Guardian, 8 August 2017, ‘A civil lawsuit brought by three victims of the CIA’s torture program against the two psychologists who created it will go to court on 5 September in Washington state, after a judge ruled that more than a year of discovery had yielded sufficient evidence to support the plaintiffs’ claims. It will now be up to a jury in Spokane, Washington, to decide if the psychologists, who reportedly were paid $75m-$81m under their contract with the CIA to create the so-called enhanced interrogation program, are financially liable for the physical and psychological effects of their torture. Two of the men, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, a Tanzanian national, and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, who is Libyan, survived their ordeal in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan in late 2002 and 2003; they are now free and living in their home countries. The third, an Afghan national named Gul Rahman, died as a result of torture in the facility.’ click here.

Ian Cobain, 29 June 2017, ‘The Foreign Office is asking the high court to sit in secret when former foreign secretary Jack Straw faces a damages claim over his alleged role in the abduction and torture of a Libyan dissident and his pregnant wife . . . The couple are suing for damages for what they say was the defendants’ involvement in their abduction, false imprisonment and mistreatment, and misfeasance in public office. Their lawyers argue that as Straw was the government minister responsible for MI6 at that time, he either authorised the rendition operation, or took no steps to prevent it. They also say there is clear documentary evidence that Allen led MI6’s contacts with the Libyan government and was the senior MI6 officer with responsibility for the rendition operation . . . Belhaj has offered to settle his claim for just £1, but insists that he and his wife must also receive an unreserved apology from the British government. Instead, government lawyers spent four years arguing that the case should be struck out. These attempts ended in January, when seven justices of the supreme court ruled unanimously that the claim must be heard by the courts. A Freedom of Information Act request subsequently established that the government’s failed attempt had cost the taxpayer £1.6m in legal fees . . . Separately, lawyers for the couple are seeking permission for a judicial review of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to charge Allen with any criminal offence. That decision is said to have angered some police officers at Scotland Yard, which believed it had built a powerful case during an investigation that lasted four years.’ click here.

Saad Hasan in trtworld,com, 19 May 2017, ‘ . . . “My initial source didn’t have the exact details,” he [Pakistan’s veteran jounalist Masood Anwar] told TRT World in a recent interview. “I knew there had to be someone among the ground handling staff who could have more information. . . Known as “extraordinary renditions”, the transfers were a way for US agents to detain and interrogate prisoners without trial. Using private jets registered to shell companies, the CIA flew shackled and blindfolded men mainly to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. These countries were infamous for extreme interrogation methods, and later testimonies showed that suspects were subjected to brutal torture.

“If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt,” Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, famously said. For the White House – most notoriously, then-vice president Dick Cheney – the renditions helped the US avoid the Geneva Convention and US laws that prohibit use of torture to extract information.The Bush administration, which authorised the extraordinary renditions, believed it could not be held responsible for the mistreatment of prisoners – so long as the torture happened in another country.’ click here.

Iain  Cobain in the Guardian, 15 March 2017, ‘. . .The operation, codenamed Aston, was considered something of a triumph for MI6 and British special forces . . . The two prisoners were held initially at a secret detention facility at Baghdad airport that British troops helped to run. The men allege that while there they were tortured by being beaten with chains, threatened with execution and confined to cells 18 inches wide . . . British government ministers were repeatedly denying that anyone captured by British forces in Iraq had been subjected to extraordinary rendition; the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, went so far as to claim that any allegations of UK involvement in rendition were conspiracy theories.” click here.

Spencer  Ackerman in the Guardian, 11 September 2016, ‘Bush was, for the first time, acknowledging the existence of the program that Senate intelligence committee staff investigator Daniel Jones would later expose as taking power drills to the heads of captured men; making them stand with their arms stretched above their heads for days at a time; leaving at least one of them naked until he froze to death; waterboarding them to the point of catatonia as bubbles rose from their open mouths; and inserting pureed food into their rectums while claiming it was necessary for delivering nutrients.’ click here.

Owen Bowcott in the Guardian, 27 June 2016, ‘Munyaka is one of 40,000 Kenyans who are suing the UK government for compensation over the injuries and losses suffered during official repression of the Mau Mau insurgency. Despite paying out £19.9m to 5,228 Kenyans who suffered abuse in and torture in a settlement in 2013, the government has refused to recompense this larger claim.’ click here.

Jamie Doward in  the Guardian, 26 June 2016, ‘The government has spent at least £600,000 of taxpayers’ money trying to prevent a civil case being brought against it by a husband and wife who allege that British intelligence was complicit in their detention, rendition and torture. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the extraordinary lengths to which the government is going to prevent the civil case against it, former home secretary Jack Straw, and former MI6 spy chief Sir Mark Allen coming to court.’ click here.

Nick Hopkins and Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 31 May 2016, ‘. . . According to documents found in Tripoli, five days before he [ exiled Libyan opposition leader, Abdul Hakim Belhaj] was secretly flown to the Libyan capital, MI6 gave Gaddafi’s intelligence agency the French and Moroccan aliases used by Belhaj. MI6 also provided the Libyans with the intelligence that allowed the CIA to kidnap him and take him to Tripoli. Belhaj told the Guardian that British intelligence officers were among the first to interrogate him in Tripoli . . . “I wasn’t allowed a bath for three years and I didn’t see the sun for one year,” he told the Guardian. “They hung me from the wall and kept me in an isolation cell. I was regularly tortured.” The secret role played by MI6 was revealed after the fall of Gaddafi, when documents were found in ransacked offices of his intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.’

. . .

The police files with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) are understood to describe how Belhaj, his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, and children, and Sami al-Saadi and his family were abducted from the far east to Gaddafi’s interrogation and torture cells in Tripoli in 2004.The British government paid £2.2m to settle a damages claim brought by al-Saadi and his family. Belhaj has refused to settle unless he receives an apology.’ click here.

Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian, 11 May 2016, ‘A federal judge has sharply rebuked the Pentagon for the process by which it concealed hundreds of Bush-era photos showing US military personnel torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting Barack Obama may have to release even more graphic imagery of abuse.’ click here. ‘The naked imagery of CIA captives raises new questions about the seeming willingness of the US to use what one medical and human rights expert called “sexual humiliation” in its post-9/11 captivity of terrorism suspects. Some human rights campaigners described the act of naked photography on unwilling detainees as a potential war crime.’  Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian, 29th March 2016. ‘Key documents that could shed light on allegations of UK collusion in torture and rendition are being suppressed by the British government. The newly uncovered files include confidential exchanges between former PM Tony Blair and former president George Bush about treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.’ James Hanning in The Independent, 5th March 2016 Jamie Doward in the Guardian (21 February 2016), ‘Britain has been accused of waging a behind-the-scenes PR offensive aimed at neutering United Nations criticism of Bahrain for its human rights record, including the alleged use of torture by its security forces . . . The original draft was watered down heavily, according to those familiar with its contents. “The first draft contained many more condemnatory elements than the final outcome,” a source said. “The UK managed to significantly weaken the contents of the text”.’ click here. Libya rendition update: ‘According to the documents discovered after the fall of Gaddafi, five men were subjected to control orders on the basis of intelligence assessments that are now alleged to have been based in part on information extracted during Libyan interrogation of the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, following UK-Libyan rendition operations…Lawyers who represented the men subjected to control orders say that both the high court and the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (Siac) were kept in the dark about the UK’s role in the kidnap of the two men who were providing the information about their clients…..According to the claim being brought against the British government, in late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG…The case follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the Saadi and Belhaj families, who were kidnapped in Asia and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to Saadi and his family. In a second case, which is ongoing despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, Belhaj is suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.’  click here. More on Shaker Amer: The last ‘Briton’ in Guantanamo Bay has given the first detailed account of how he was tortured in the presence of British agents. Shaker Aamer says his head was repeatedly slammed against a wall while a British officer was in the room. On another occasion, a young British officer in a red beret visited him in a ‘cage’. Both alleged incidents took place on US bases in Afghanistan shortly after his 2001 capture.’ click here, Daily Mail, 4th June 2015. Ben Fox in the Washington Post reports, ‘A former Maryland resident imprisoned at Guantanamo was subjected to mistreatment while in CIA custody far in excess of what has previously been disclosed, including being hung from a wooden beam for three days and kept in total darkness for nearly a year, a legal organization that represents him said Wednesday.Some details about the treatment of Majid Khan in the clandestine CIA detention center emerged in December when the Senate intelligence committee released a summary of a classified report critical of the agency’s treatment of prisoners suspected of involvement with al-Qaida following the Sept. 11 terrorist … The allegations of mistreatment, contained in years of previously classified notes taken by his lawyers, include being submerged in icy water during interrogations twice, in May and July 2003. A CIA spokesman said Tuesday that Khan was not one of the three prisoners subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. Khan also told his lawyers that he was sexually assaulted, including with forced enemas, and hung on a wooden beam for days on end. He said he was also kept in total darkness, with only a bucket for a toilet, for nearly a year in 2003, beaten and held in a cell with bugs that bit him.’ click here, 2nd June 2015 “Gordon Brown today insisted that the UK did not support or condone torture” – in 2009. However Jamie Merrill and colleagues in the Independent (1st March 2015), now reveal: “According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport [in 2010] was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in ‘immediate communication’ with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of ‘ticking bomb scenario’ operation.” click here. Paul Gallagher in the Independent: ‘Under Operation Demetrius the Hooded Men, aged between 19 and 42, were taken to one of three holding camps before transfer to RAF Ballykelly, in Co Derry. The numbers 1-12 were inked on the back of their hands and soles of their feet before they were stripped naked, weighed and examined, hooded (tightened so the men could barely breathe), forced into prolonged stress positions, beaten with fists, feet and batons, thrown against walls, dragged through a gauntlet of club-wielding guards and deprived of food, water, and sleep….’ 20th Feb 2015 , click here. Phil Shiner in the Guardian: ‘But the debate should not be about mere UK involvement or complicity in torture. It is the UK’s actual use of torture – most notably in Iraq – that needs judicial scrutiny in public. That is the story, despite the fact that today’s al-Sweady inquiry found the most serious allegations to be unfounded. And it’s the story the Ministry of Defence seek to cover up now with its constant attack on “unscrupulous lawyers” bringing forward cases on an “industrial scale”….In September 2011 the 1,400-page Baha Mousa public inquiry report painstakingly documented how the UK had trained its forces in unlawful interrogation techniques at the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre in Chicksands. These techniques included the use of hooding, sleep deprivation, dietary deprivation, stress techniques and the use of noise – techniques banned from Northern Ireland – and much worse: forced nudity, disorientation, threats, debility and many others.’ 17 December 2014, click here. Rowena Mason in the Guardian:  ‘The parliamentary inquiry into the involvement of British intelligence agents in the torture of terror suspects is not afraid to embarrass the prime minister and former senior political figures, its head, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, has said. Rifkind, the chairman of parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), promised he would investigate “without fear or favour” and would request secret material relating to the UK that was redacted from a damning US report about torture by the CIA.The Conservative MP said he would not be able to see all of the censored material but the committee would ask to examine anything taken out of the report at the request of the UK agencies.’  14 December, click here. ‘British spies may have been aware of CIA torture and may have even been present when it was taking place, a former security minister has suggested. Admiral Lord West, a minister under Gordon Brown, said there may have been the ‘odd case’ where agents were aware of what their CIA counterparts were doing…The bombshell claim increases the pressure on David Cameron to launch a full judicial inquiry into whether there was British complicity in American ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. Daily Mail, 12th December 2014 ‘Ministers have admitted that the island was a stopover for extraordinary rendition flights – in which terror suspects were moved to secret prisons around the world to be tortured. Yet the summary of the heavily censored report, published this week, did not contain a single mention of UK involvement. Daily Mail, 12th December 2014 ‘A Pakistani man can sue the UK government over claims he was unlawfully detained and tortured by British soldiers in Iraq, the High Court has ruled. Yunus Rahmatullah was captured in 2004, then sent from British to US custody and held for 10 years without charge. The UK knew he may face unlawful detention and torture, lawyers said. The Ministry of Defence said it should not face UK courts as the alleged behaviour was also conducted by the US.’ click here “Kat Craig, legal director of the charity Reprieve, told the Guardian: ‘Yunus Rahmatullah faced 10 years of unlawful detention without charge, trial or explanation. Now that he has finally been reunited with his family, he wants answers. He wants to know why he was subjected to horrific torture by the Brits, and why was he then handed over to the US to face the unimaginable terror of Abu Ghraib before being rendered to Afghanistan.“The British government is drawing out Yunus’s ordeal and trying to hold itself above the law. At the crux of the government’s argument is the assertion that, providing British operatives commit terrible wrongs alongside their American counterparts, they can never be held to account. The UK government must not be allowed to hide behind the coattails of the US to cover up its wrongdoing.’ Rahmatullah describes in detail his torture and abuse in a 60-page court document. He says when he was captured by British special forces in Iraq in early 2004 he was beaten unconscious. Soldiers cut his clothes with a pair of scissors until, he says, he was completely naked”. Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian. “At least two al-Qaeda suspects were brought to the ‘point of death’ during “real torture” by CIA officials following the 9/11 attacks, a security source has claimed…The US Senate is planning to publish a 3,600-page document – dubbed the Torture Report – spelling out what happened to al-Qaeda suspects in US custody. Another source said the report would “deeply shock” people in the US. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the report will reveal “brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation”. click here.   AFP report in the Guardian: “British authorities have been accused of funding a four-year intelligence operation in Nepal that led to Maoist rebels being arrested, tortured and killed during the country’s civil war. Thomas Bell, the author of a new book on the conflict, says MI6 funded safe houses and provided training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal’s army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID) under Operation Mustang, launched in 2002. click here.A Computer Weekly investigation has revealed that the UK plays a crucial role in supporting the US military network by providing part of the core communications backbone used by drone operations.[…] The UK connection is a high-security communications line that forms part of the Defence Information Systems Network (DISN), which provides vital support to drone operations.[…] According to reports by the BBC and the Washington Post, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is the base for US drone operations against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia – operations that have accidentally killed civilians. The base has also conducted other military operations in support of states in the region, as well as extensive humanitarian, infrastructure and state-building missions.[…] BT said it could not be held responsible for what anybody did with the communications infrastructure it supplied.” click  here.Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian who has been detained in Guantánamo since 2002 despite never having been charged with a crime by the US, is to publish an account of his experiences next year, detailing the multiple forms of torture to which he has been subjected and “shatter[ing]” the secrecy that surrounds the Cuban prison.” Alison Flood in the Guardian, 12 August 2014. “Yunus Rahmatullah was captured by British special forces in Iraq in 2004 and handed over to US troops soon afterwards. The incident was initially kept secret from ministers and only disclosed to MPs five years later, in 2009. Rahmatullah, now 31, was released by the US without charge in May.[…] He describes in detail his torture and abuse in a 60-page document drawn up by his lawyers and seen by the Guardian. He says when he was captured by British special forces in Iraq in early 2004 he was beaten unconscious. Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian.Lawyers for Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Bouchar will also seek to sue the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, who was responsible for MI6, for his alleged complicity in the family’s secret rendition to the Libyan capital in 2004….Court documents served by the law firm Leigh Day and the legal charity Reprieve describe how Belhaj was chained, hooded and beaten, and his pregnant wife punched and bound and their children traumatised, as they were abducted and jailed in Libya following tip-offs by MI6 and the CIA. Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian.Britain’s intelligence and security agencies are facing claims that they were complicit in the brutal torture of a British man secretly detained in an African prison.Ali Adorus, a security guard from east London, was subjected to electrocution, hooding and beatings during his 18 month imprisonment in Ethiopia, according to allegations made against Ethiopia and Britain to the United Nations High Commission. Before leaving Britain to visit family in Ethiopia in 2012, Mr Adorus had complained that he had been targeted by the Metropolitan Police and the Security Service, MI5, over alleged links to Islamic extremism. Now his lawyers say that some information contained in a false confession, which he claims was beaten out of him in an Ethiopian prison, could only have been provided by ‘British intelligence’. It is the latest case in which Britain has been accused of complicity in the torture of UK nationals and residents.” Robert Verkaik in the Independent. “Human rights groups seeking to confirm the use of a British overseas territory as a US secret prison have uncovered evidence previously undisclosed to the government confirming that more planes were involved in the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects around the world than had been admitted. The revelation has raised fresh questions about the role played by Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean leased to the Americans and which campaigners allege has been used to hold suspects out of sight of lawyers and in contravention of basic human rights.Jamie Doward in the Observer, 28 June 2014 “…many Brazilians are wrestling with painful discoveries about the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985…One of the most feared torturers, Col Paulo Malhaes, gave 20 hours of testimony. He arrived in a wheelchair looking frail. He then confessed to killing and mutilating his victims. He also expressed great admiration for psychological torture which, he felt, was more effective than brute force, especially when it came to turning a left-wing militant into an infiltrator. “Those prisons with closed doors, you can modify the heat, the light, everything inside the prison, that idea came from England,” he said. He admitted, privately, to the prosecutor, that he himself had gone to England to learn interrogation techniques that didn’t leave physical marks. The prosecutor, Nadine Borges, revealed her conversation with him.”  Emily Buchanan, BBC World Affairs Correspondent. “Britain has tried to block the release of US ‘torture files’ that could prove how the Blair Government was complicit in the capture and ill-treatment of dozens of terror suspects…US Senators are within weeks of publishing a top-secret report on America’s torture and rendition programme carried out in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.The 6,300 files will expose the horror of the CIA’s waterboarding and other tortures and could also reveal the extent of British co-operation in the programme.” Robert Verkaik in the Daily Mail “Guards at the interrogation centre have told the Guardian that between interrogation sessions – and out of sight of the cameras – they were ordered to kick the prisoners and strike them with rifle butts while forcing them, blindfolded, around obstacle courses. They also say they were ordered to prevent prisoners going to sleep. As the evidence mounted, the Ministry of Defence appeared increasingly nervous that the high court could conclude that the abuse was systemic, arising out of the training of troops and the instructions they had received, rather than the work of small numbers of ‘rogue’ service personnel.” Ian Cobain in the Guardian, 14 May 2014   “British soldiers committed “gross violations of the Geneva conventions“, including mock executions, during a fierce battle in which 20 Iraqis were killed and nine others seriously mistreated after they were captured, a public inquiry into the incident has been told. The allegations were made by lawyers representing the Iraqis and their families.” Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 16 April 2014 “Tony Blair knew in detail about the CIA’s secret kidnap and interrogation programme after the September 11 attacks and was kept informed ‘every step of the way’ by MI6, a security source has told The Telegraph.Mr Blair, the then prime minister, and Jack Straw, his foreign secretary, were fully briefed on CIA activities and were shown now infamous Bush administration legal opinions that declared ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques such as waterboarding and stress positions to be legal, the source said. Peter Foster, Sunday Telegraph, 4 April 2014 Senior army officers “slammed the door” to block a military police investigation into the treatment of prisoners captured after a fierce battle in Iraq, and then tried to deny having done so, a public inquiry into the incident has heard. Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 17 March 2014 Jonathan Owen in the Independent: A devastating 250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain’s leading defence figures facing prosecution for “systematic” war crimes. General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; former defence secretary Geoff Hoon; and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the report, entitled The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008.12 Jan 2014

Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian (18 Dec 2012), A prominent opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, has said that he was jailed, and later subjected to a strict control order, on the basis of information extracted from a leading dissident who was tortured after being seized in an MI6 operation. Ziad Hashem, a Libyan granted asylum in 2004, was arrested and jailed for 18 months without trial after Libyan secret police were given his name and those of other Gaddafi opponents living in Britain….Documents discovered in Tripoli after the Nato bombing of the Libyan capital in 2011 revealed that MI5 and MI6 provided Gaddafi’s intelligence officials with scores of questions to put to Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi. Saadi was also rendered to Tripoli in 2004 in a joint MI6/CIA operation….Al-Saadi has settled out of court for £2.2m. Belhaj, and his wife, Fatima, have refused a settlement and are asking for an official apology, and symbolic damages of £1. The al-Jazeera programme contains Fatima’s first filmed interview in which she describes her treatment in Tripoli in 2004 when she was pregnant. “They took me into a small room which had hooks in the wall. They tied my hands with chains and hung me from them. I stayed there for about two days”. They then injected her and punched her in the stomach, she says.

Next time superior-sounding politicians lecture us on the need to sign up unquestioningly to the shared values of liberal, democratic Britain, or ‘civilised’ US or Canada perhaps someone ought to raise a few caveats. 24th October 2013 Britain’s intelligence agencies want to prevent a leading Libyan dissident and his pregnant wife, who were abducted with the help of  MI6 and then tortured, from seeking justice because of “political embarrassment”, the high court heard on Wednesday….Cori Crider, a lawyer at Reprieve, said neither Blair, Straw, nor the current government, was prepared to give the apology “deserved”. She said: “Instead they are running a specious and immoral argument that British courts cannot judge British officials when they are said to have conspired with foreign torturers.”   17th October 2013 Security experts Richard Norton-Taylor and Ian Cobain remind us of collusion in torture: “When Griffin, a former trooper with the Special Air Service, gave a newspaper interview in 2006 in which he described witnessing US servicemen torturing prisoners in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence went to court seeking an injunction to silence him…Since then, Griffin has not been able to repeat his allegations, nor say anything further about his knowledge of the role played by the SAS in delivering detainees to prisons where US forces were known to be using torture. His allegations have been corroborated by a number of other former special forces personnel, however, and John Hutton, when defence secretary, was obliged to make public the fact that two of the SAS’s prisoners had been ‘rendered’ to a US-run prison in Afghanistan.” “In the Binyam Mohamed case, lawyers representing David Miliband, then foreign secretary, battled for more than a year to prevent the high court from publishing seven paragraphs of one of its own judgments…When the paragraphs finally saw the light of day in February 2010, following a judgement by the lord chief justice of England and Wales and the master of the rolls, they were found to contain not intelligence material, but a summary of the CIA’s description of the way in which Mohamed was being tortured in Pakistan. The description was provided to MI5 before the agency sent an officer to interrogate Mohamed, and this act was widely seen as evidence of the agency’s complicity in torture. The court’s decision – and the master of the rolls’ conclusion that MI5 had misled the intelligence and security committee, and could not be trusted when it claimed to respect human rights – was hugely embarrassing for the agency, and the British government.”   11th September 2013 British soldiers have accused colleagues of abusing Iraqis they shot or detained after an intense gunfight with insurgents in 2004, the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident heard on Tuesday. The inquiry was told that a soldier fired a weapon into a “twitching” body, threw rocks at a prisoner’s head, pushed him into a ditch where he nearly drowned, and hit him in the chest, stomach, and face. The allegations were made by British army witnesses who will give evidence to the al-Sweady inquiry in London over claims that British soldiers killed 20 unarmed civilians and abused others at Camp Abu Naji after what became known as the Battle of Danny Boy, a British military checkpoint near Majar al-Kabir, on 14 May 2004. Al-Sweady inquiry: British soldiers to accuse colleagues of abusing Iraqis 11th August 2013 A former MI6 officer will begin a week-long hunger strike on Monday in solidarity with the Guantánamo Bay detention camp prisoner Shaker Aamer, a move he says is prompted by shame over the behaviour of the British intelligence service he once served. Harry Ferguson, 52, will attempt to fast for a week to highlight the plight of Aamer, the last UK resident being held at the US military camp, who has been on hunger strike for more than 170 days. The former MI6 operative, who took part in the fight against terrorism, said he was motivated by a regret that the “organisation of which I was once proud to be a member now supports policies including assassination, rendition, torture and detention without trial”. He said that recent claims that British intelligence officers had been covertly campaigning against Aamer’s repatriation had proved the final straw. “In fact [the legal charity] Reprieve has recently uncovered evidence that MI6 is directly briefing against his return to this country because once he arrives here he will reveal that MI6 officers were present while he was being tortured,” he added. 26th July 2013

“Canada’s intelligence services, including the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), have recently been given an annual budget of about $400 million to use and share information extracted through the use of torture, despite the Canadian government saying it does not condone such acts….”

3rd July 2013 Human Rights Lawyer Paul Harris in a letter to the Guardian; “….In 2004, my client, Sami al-Saadi, an exiled opponent of Libya’s President Gaddafi, was handed to Libyan agents, with his family, by the Hong Kong authorities, at the request of MI6. The family arrived back in Libya on 28 March 2004, three days after Tony Blair arrived in Tripoli for his famous ‘rapprochement’ meeting with Gaddafi. Once in Libyan custody, Mr Saadi was imprisoned in appalling conditions for six years and repeatedly subjected to severe torture. He was given a show trial in 2009, condemned to death and finally released in 2010. Over the same time period that he was being tortured in Tripoli, he was visited and questioned by British intelligence personnel. Subjecting people to torture in Britain or overseas is illegal under British law. The British Government has paid the Saadi family £2.2m in settlement of a claim. This size of settlement could not have been authorised unless MI6’s conduct in relation to the Saadis was illegal. It is too much of a coincidence that Saadi’s forced return coincided with Tony Blair’s visit to Tripoli. I call on Tony Blair to disclose all he knows about MI6 and British government action in relation to Sami al-Saadi. 8th June 2013 Kate Allen in the Guardian: …Take the allegations of UK complicity in torture abroad in the context of counter-terrorism operations. It’s an issue that’s been festering for a long time and that the committee says gives rise to deep concern. In 2010 David Cameron, then recently elected as prime minister, acknowledged that allegations that UK officials had “colluded” in the rendition, secret detentions and torture of detainees in places such as Pakistan or Afghanistan risked tarnishing the UK’s reputation “as a country that believes in human rights, justice, fairness and the rule of law”. It needed to be addressed, he said, in order to “restore Britain’s moral leadership in the world”. Three years have passed – more than half a term in political office – and the stain remains, if anything deepening over time. 7th May 2013 David Pildich in Daily Express: “In the rebellion, groups of Kenyans attacked officials and white farmers who had settled in the country’s most fertile lands. The alleged victims say they were beaten and sexually assaulted by officers acting for the British administration trying to suppress the uprising. The legal defeat followed the discovery of an archive of colonial-era documents which the Foreign Office is said to have kept hidden for decades. The papers revealed that during the rebellion – in which tens of thousands died – officials authorised mistreatment of inmates held at the prison camps. It was only when the Kenyan Human Rights Commission contacted the victims in 2006 that they realised they could take legal action.” 2nd April 2013 Iain Cobain in the Guardian: “British soldiers and airmen who helped to operate a secretive US detention facility in Baghdad that was at the centre of some of the most serious human rights abuses to occur in Iraq after the invasion have, for the first time, spoken about abuses they witnessed there.” 31st March 2013 David Rose in the Mail on Sunday: “… Then again, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, which has officers based in Jerusalem, works closely with the Palestinian agencies that carry out the torture, seeing them as sources of valuable intelligence….The UK also provides and pays for the training of middle and senior ranking officers from every PA security agency, including the General Intelligence Service or Mukhabarat, the Preventive Security Organisation, Military Intelligence and the ordinary police force. Ironically, the training includes courses on the need to respect human rights and the rule of law.” 9th March 2013 Mark Townsend and Daniel Boffey in the Guardian: One of the country’s leading human rights barristers is to resign her membership of the Liberal Democrats to express her outrage over the coalition government’s backing for secret courts. Dinah Rose QC successfully represented the British-resident Guantánamo detainee, Binyam Mohamed, in his battle to establish that British intelligence services were complicit in his “cruel and inhuman” treatment by the United States. 6th March 2013 The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war… 28th Feb 2013 Chris Woods, Alice K Ross, Oliver Wright in the Independent: …An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has established that since 2010, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revoked the passports of 16 individuals, many of whom are alleged to have had links to militant or terrorist groups. Critics of the programme warn that it allows ministers to “wash their hands” of British nationals suspected of terrorism who could be subject to torture and illegal detention abroad. 10th Feb 2013 Robert Scheer in “When it comes to torture in the post 9/11 era, the record of the United States is so appalling that one must question our claimed abhorrence of the barbarism of other nations. In fact, the essence of our rendition program has been to outsource torture to those countries most sadistic in their use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ That is flattery of a most twisted sort…Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, known for its horrid interrogation tactics condemned in the Arab Spring uprising, was selected by the U.S. to interrogate Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who ‘under threat of torture at the hands of Egyptian officials, fabricated information relating to Iraq’s provision of chemical and biological weapons training to al-Qaida,’ the report states”. 3rd Feb 2013: “[Former CIA Director Michael] Hayden acknowledged that prisoners might say anything to stop their suffering. (Like the other panelists, he insisted EITs weren’t torture.)” 30th January 2013, Ian Cobain in the Guardian: Lawyers representing hundreds of Iraqi men who are demanding a public inquiry into their allegations that they were tortured while being held prisoner by the British say there is also a need for a transparent examination of suspicious deaths in Iraq. They say they have identified 13 deaths in British military custody, in addition to that of Baha Mousa, tortured to death by British troops in September 2003. The true figure could be higher, but is being withheld by the MoD, Michael Fordham QC told the court. “We don’t know how many deaths they are aware of and are investigating. We have suggested, a few times now, that they might want to tell the court the truth.” 20th January 2013, Ed Vulaimy in the Observer: Britain will face fresh charges of breaching international law over the alleged torture and killing of prisoners during the war in Iraq, which began almost exactly 10 years ago. The allegations will be unveiled in the high court, when Britain will stand accused of a “systemic” policy of abuse committed over five years, from 2003 to 2008. 13th January 2013, Owen Bowcott in the Guardian: “The partially suppressed version cuts out crucial details about torture allegedly being inflicted on an Afghan detainee who had been arrested by British forces. The man claimed Afghan forces he was handed over to had beaten him on his feet and legs with metal rods until he was unable to stand. Lawyers who fought the case claim the two versions demonstrate how politically embarrassing evidence can be concealed under the veil of protecting national security”. 6th January 2013: Henry McDonald in the Observer, “Clarke had a hood placed over his head for seven days and was subjected to torture, including ‘white noise’, sleep deprivation and beatings. Three years later he and the other men were awarded £12,500 for the way they were maltreated. The case was taken against the Ministry of Defence and the former Home Affairs department of the last Unionist-dominated Northern Ireland government. In 1976 the European Commission on Human Rights found Britain guilty of torture in the 11 men’s cases”. 23rd December: Lutze Oette in the Guardian, “The Ministry of Defence continues to pay the price for what the Baha Mousa inquiry termed its ‘corporate failure’ in Iraq, having paid out £8.3m to 162 Iraqi torture victims this year alone. While the figures speak volumes, the payments remain shrouded in secrecy….The British public, for its part, needs to learn what British forces did in its name. Ultimately, it is time to come clean and prevent history from repeating itself, from the torture condoned in the suppression of the Mau Mau in Kenya, through Northern Ireland, to Iraq”. 19th December: “There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto….The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America’s decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture program was real.” 17th December 2012:“The hotel receptionist [Baha Mousa], who had been hooded with a sandbag for 24 hours, sustained injuries including fractured ribs and a broken nose during the final 36 hours of his life in the custody of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Lancashire Regiment…” 13th December 2012: “CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on, the European court of human rights said in a historic judgment released on Thursday…The Strasbourg court said it found Masri’s account of what happened to him “to be established beyond reasonable doubt” and that Macedonia had been “responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the US authorities in the context of an extra-judicial ‘rendition’.” The Guardian, “Ministers have agree to pay more than £2m to the family of a prominent Libyan dissident (Sami al-Saadi) abducted with the help of MI6 and secretly flown to Tripoli where he was tortured by the security police of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator, Sami al-Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong with his wife and four young children in a joint UK-US-Libyan operation. They were then flown to Libya, where all of them were initially imprisoned. Saadi was held and tortured for years….The government paid the sum by way of compensation and without admitting any liability [sic]. Evidence of the UK’s role in the operation – believed to be the only case where an entire family was subjected to ‘extraordinary rendition’– came to light after Gaddafi’s fall in 2011.” Gareth Peirce’s article, 11th December 2012, ‘Why do we torture’: “…Habeas corpus has been abandoned for the outcasts of the new order in both the US and the UK, secret courts have been created to hear secret evidence, guilt has been inferred by association, torture and rendition nakedly justified (in the UK our government’s lawyers continue to argue positively for the right to use the product of both) and vital international conventions consolidated in the aftermath of the Second World War – the Geneva Convention, the Refugee Convention, the Torture Convention – have been deliberately avoided or ignored….” ” Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj, who spent six years in Guantanamo Bay prison, told Al Jazeera, 22nd November 2012,”They used dogs on us, they beat me, sometimes they hung me from the ceiling and didn’t allow me to sleep for six days…Sometimes they wouldn’t allow me to use the restroom, other times they would run the air conditioner very high and leave me in that room for a very long time.” Ian Cobain & Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, “The full story of the British government’s attempts to mount a cover-up following a massacre of unarmed prisoners during the 1950s Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya has been disclosed with the declassification of hitherto secret files from the era. The documents – held for five decades in a secret Foreign Office archive – show that ministers and officials were claiming that the men had died after drinking contaminated water long after they had been informed of the truth: that all 11 had been been beaten to death”. Solicitor Gareth Peirce’s response after the ruling to prevent the deportation of Abu Qatada: “It is important to reaffirm this country’s position that we abhor the use of torture and a case that was predicated upon evidence from witnesses who have been tortured is rejected – rejected by the courts of this country as by the European court of human rights”. However Prime Minister Cameron and his Home Secretary have no such compunctions. Politicshome website: “Torture claims have prevented the UK transferring insurgents to Afghanistan, a court heard yesterday. An urgent hearing found that that they would be handed over to a notorious torturer and alleged killer Asadullah Khalid, the head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security. A judge said foreign office minister Baroness Warsi had had done a deal with a man responsible for prisons where there were ‘still very live concerns’. Maya Wolfe-Robinson and Ian Cobain in the Guardian, 31st October 2012: “Human rights campaigners have called for a full criminal investigation into the rendition of a Pakistani man by UK and US forces to Afghanistan, following a supreme court judgment describing his subsequent detention at the notorious US prison at Bagram as unlawful. Yunus Rahmatullah has been imprisoned ever since he was handed over by the SAS to American forces in Iraq in 2004, and has never been charged”. Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 22nd October 2012: “Within days of the 9/11 attacks on the US, the CIA told British intelligence officers of its plans to abduct al-Qaida suspects and fly them to secret prisons where they would be systematically abused. The meeting, at the British embassy in Washington, is disclosed in a forthcoming book by the Guardian journalist Ian Cobain. It raises serious questions about repeated claims by senior MI5 and MI6 officers that they were slow to appreciate the US response to the attacks, and never connived in torture…Cobain’s book, Cruel Britannia, says the British military operated a ‘torture centre’ throughout the 1940s ‘in complete secrecy, in a row of Victorian villas in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in London’. They also ran an ‘interrogation centre’ near Hanover in Germany. Evidence from newly released records shows that British involvement in abuse was common earlier – in the colonies, later in Northern Ireland, and much more recently in Iraq.”. George Monbiot in the Guardian, 9th October 2012: “…Last week three elderly Kenyans established the right to sue the British government for the torture that they suffered – castration, beating and rape – in the Kikuyu detention camps it ran in the 1950s. …The government’s secret archive, revealed this April, shows that the attorney general, the colonial governor and the colonial secretary knew what was happening. The governor ensured that the perpetrators had legal immunity: including the British officers reported to him for roasting prisoners to death. In public the colonial secretary lied and kept lying….” Nicholas Watt and Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 19th September 2012: “Clarke brands critics of the government’s justice and security bill, which will usher in secret courts, as “reactionary parts of the human rights lobby”. He says it is necessary to introduce the new measures to ensure intelligence material can be admitted as evidence without risk of exposing it to the public domain…. The bill was drawn up after the court of appeal agreed to disclose CIA information which showed that MI5 and MI6 knew Binyam Mohamed, a British resident was abused and subjected to inhuman treatment while held as a terror suspect. It was also prompted by UK citizens suing the government for compensation after being held in Guantanamo Bay. Chris McGreal in the Guardian, 6th September 2012: “Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the US government of covering up the extent of waterboarding at secret CIA prisons, alleging that Libyan opponents of Muammar Gaddafi were subjected to the torture before being handed over to the former dictator’s security police. The report, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya, also says that the CIA, Britain’s MI6 and other western intelligence services were responsible for ‘delivering Gaddafi his enemies on a silver platter’ by sending the captured men to Tripoli for further abuse after the American interrogations…HRW said the treatment of the Libyans sheds light on the Bush administration’s failure to distinguish between Islamists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and “those who may simply have been engaged in armed opposition against their own repressive regimes”. David Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 5th September 2012: MI5 and MI6 remain embroiled in the unresolved dispute about their role in the abuse and torture of terror suspects. The government tried to push allegations under the carpet by compensating UK residents and citizens taken by the CIA to Guantánamo Bay – and no sooner had it done so than evidence emerged in Libya showing how MI6 helped arrange the abduction of Libyan dissidents to Tripoli, where they say they were tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s secret police. “There are clearly questions to be answered about … whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon,” says Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 at the time. MI6, which was ultimately accountable to then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, says the rendering of the dissidents to Libya in 2004 was authorised by ministers. David Barrett in the Sunday Telegraph, 24th August 2012: “…Salahuddin Amin, was jailed for life in 2007 for his role in a terrorist cell that conspired to detonate a massive fertiliser-based bomb at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent or at London’s Ministry of Sound nightclub. Amin’s lawyers allege the British authorities knew that incriminating evidence against him had been obtained through torture. He claims MI5 were complicit in his torture by Pakistani security agents, whom he alleges used pliers to remove three of his fingernails…Rangzieb Ahmed, is the highest ranking member of al-Qaeda yet to be put on trial in Britain. Ahmed, 37, was at the centre of al-Qaeda’s global web and had links with every British terrorist cell including the July 7 and July 21 plotters. The first person to be convicted of ‘directing terrorism’, he alleges MI5 allowed him to leave Britain for Pakistan and tipped off intelligence services there so that he could be arrested in 2006 and tortured. Ahmed claims Britain was complicit in his torture. He also claims he was denied a fair trial because it was ‘informed by the interrogation undertaken in Pakistan’ and he was denied access to material after a public interest immunity certificate was granted in the case…David Davis, a former shadow home secretary, has said there was ‘hard evidence’ of torture in the men’s cases and there should be an inquiry. ” Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian: The Ministry of Defence has been accused of withholding evidence of “truly shocking” treatment of civilians in an incident involving the most serious allegations made so far against British forces in Iraq. Interrogations by British military personnel involved “young men of 18, 19, and 20, some seriously injured with gunshot wounds, being stripped naked, forced to stand, not given appropriate medical treatment, and threatened with violence whilst still under the shock of capture in the middle of the night”, said Patrick Connor QC, counsel for the Iraqi detainees. David Rose in The Mail on Sunday: …devastating new claims of abuse by British soldiers carried out at a secret network of illegal prisons in the Iraqi desert. One innocent civilian victim is said to have died after being assaulted aboard an RAF helicopter, while others were hooded, stripped and beaten at a camp set up at a remote phosphate mine deep in the desert. Peter Oborne in the Guardian, 13th April 2012: “The evidence has become extremely strong that Britain has indeed been part of a conspiracy to transfer terrorist suspects around the globe to secret locations where we knew they would be tortured… Reportedly, M16 is ready to pay a significant sum of hush money to Mr Belhadj, said to be £1 million, in order to prevent him taking them to court. We only know the details of his case because of papers found after the fall of Gaddafi in the bombed-out offices of Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s intelligence chief. They included a letter allegedly from an MI6 officer, Mark (now Sir Mark) Allen congratulating Colonel Gaddafi’s government for the “safe arrival” of the “air cargo”. Sir Mark (who has not challenged the letter’s authenticity) apparently boasted of the British role: “It was the least we could do for you and for Libya.” There is no question that the actions said to have been carried out against Mr Belhadj (and an unknown number of others) were against the law. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 makes it clear that carrying out or abetting torture, whether under British or foreign jurisdiction, is punishable by jail. Indeed, the maximal sentence is life imprisonment – as Jack Straw, who voted for it, ought to be aware. If the claims concerning the treatment of Mr Belhadj stand up – and the evidence looks extremely strong – it is essential that those responsible should be prosecuted. Otherwise Britain will send the message to the world that we are prepared to sanction torture. Clive Baldwin in The Guardian, 21st Feb 2012: “Most countries, including the UK and Jordan, have signed up to the UN Convention Against Torture, which means they agree not only to the absolute ban on torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment, but also to refrain from any complicity in the crime…. Tony Blair’s government sought to end the ban on deportation to countries where the risk of torture was real, an effort rejected by the European court of human rights. Britain came up with another policy, of obtaining “diplomatic assurances” – it asked countries with a record of torture to promise not to brutalise those deported by Britain. Such promises cannot work. No country admits to torture, so governments will readily promise not to abuse anyone, even when torture is commonplace. But British involvement in torture abroad almost certainly went much further. Human Rights Watch discovered evidence of Britain helping to send people to Gaddafi’s Libya, where they were tortured, and of involvement in interrogations in Pakistan where torture took place. The extent of this practice remains unclear, as David Cameron’s government has abandoned the important, but flawed, inquiry it set up to investigate British complicity in torture abroad.” =========================== The speech by the MI5 chief, Jonathan Evans, at his alma mater, included this passage: Operating a security service within a liberal democracy does of course pose problems and occasionally dilemmas…. Given the pressing need to understand and uncover Al Qaida’s plans, were we to deal (however circumspectly) with those security services who had experience of working against At Qaida on their own territory, or were we to refuse to deal with them, accepting that in so doing we would be cutting off a potentially vital source of information that would prevent attacks in the West? In my view we would have been derelict in our duty if we had not worked, circumspectly, with overseas liaisons who were in a position to provide intelligence that could safeguard this country from attack…. we do not solicit or collude in torture. We do not practice torture. But we are operating in a difficult and complex environment.î [full text on the University of Bristol website, 15th Oct 2009] Clive Stafford-Smith, a voice of conscience, had this to say about Evans’s speech ìIt may well be that British agents do not soil their own hands with the apparatus of torture, but they certainly know that torture is going on, and loiter in the shadows while others apply the thumbscrews… Evans’s agents could witness the crime of torture and do nothing to prevent it. They could then step into the interrogation room and question the suspect. He suggests that these issues have presented ëa real dilemmaí for the service. Well, there should be no dilemma. To witness torture and act the ostrich is a criminal offence, which explains why the Metropolitan police are currently investigating the actions of the security services in at least two cases. This is a failure in leadership, more than of the agents in the field.î But it is not just a failure of leadership. Why havenít the checks and balances within Parliament worked? Why is that we do not hear of ministers, civil servants, officers and others breaking ranks, denouncing both torture and complicity in torture, and resigning where appropriate? Why has no one from the faith leaders come forward and remarked on Judeo-Christian values and their incompatibility with torture, or the complicity with torture? Where are the voices from the captains of industry. Professor Darius Rejali, in his masterly study, ëTorture and Democracyí [Princeton University Press, 2007], amongst many examples, cites a British company that installed the ‘House of Fun’ at Dubai’s Special Branch Headquarters: Marketed as prisoner disorientation equipment it is a high-tech room fitted with a generator for white noise and strobe lights such as might be seen in a disco, but turned up to full volume capable of reducing the victim to submission within half an hour. After all the Conventions and Protocols to which Britian has signed up to are unambigious. The UN Declaration against Torture states that ìtorture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.î The United Kingdom signed up to the UN Convention against Torture on 15th March 15, 1985. The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 3, reads, ìNo one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.î The United Kingdom signed up to the ECHR in July 2000. Any collusion in torture, or support of torture, or sanctioning a policy that leads to people being tortured is a breach of conventions. The witnessing of torture without seeking to prevent is a breach of conventions This includes the outsourcing of torture. If British authorities have been complicit in the torture of people, whether outside the UK or within, then this is clearly a breach of the UN Convention and the ECHR. British ministers and authorities take the moral high ground: – Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a Downing Street Press briefing, February 2009: ìOur policy is not to support torture or to condone tortureî – Lord Malloch-Brown, in a debate in the Lords on the case of Binyam Mohamed on 5th Feb 2009: ìAt the heart of Mr Mohamedís case have been allegations that he was tortured by foreign government officials in a number of locations. It is of course the long-standing policy of the Government that we never condone, authorise or co-operate in torture. I repeat that commitment today.î – Sir John Scarlett, outgoing head of MI6, stated in a BBC interview in August 2009, ìthere is no torture and no complicity in torture by the British secret service. This moral high ground does not square up with Mr Evans’s Bristol speech. Gareth Peirce, the famous human rights lawyer has noted in a brilliant essay in the London Review of Books, ìTorture is the deliberate infliction of pain by a state on captive persons. It is prohibited and so is the use of its product. The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment emphasises that there are no exceptional circumstances at all justifying its use, whether state of war or threat of war or any other public emergency; none of these may be invoked as a justification. Orders from superiors are explicitly excluded as a defence, and moreover the Convention requires that wherever the torture occurred and whatever the nationality of the torturer or victim, parties must prosecute or extradite perpetrators to a country that is willing to prosecute them. (LRB, 14th May 2009) Can there be a shared value more important than the complete prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment?