Monday, February 23, 2009

Coming home: the last Briton in Guantanamo.

There are two things notable about the reports into the release of Binyam Mohamed, the last Briton to be freed from Guantanamo Bay. The first is that his family have been warned that they might not immediately recognise him. And the second is that, unlike the other Brits released from that place, he is not expected to make the journey to Paddington Green’s high-security police station in west London, but will be released immediately.

It says something that the British police won't even ask him the most routine questions about his supposed involvement in terrorism which caused him to be held in American custody for seven long years. There is literally nothing to be cleared up in this case, no final assurances which the British authorities need to seek. They will simply cut off his plastic handcuffs and release him immediately.

I don't know why, but this gets me really angry. Why was this man held for seven years if there is so little evidence against him that the British police can't think of a single question that they need to ask him? And the Guardian are reporting that he continued to be brutalised until the very moment that he departed that place:

Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay [on Saturday], according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.

Mohamed's British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten "dozens" of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks. He said: "He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages."

[U.S. Army] Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this." . . .

And the stupidity of those who support Bush's "enhanced interrogation techniques" - what the rest of the planet knows by it's more common name of "torture" - is highlighted by the reason Mohamed gave for the confession which he made. He said he had confessed, “to anything those inflicting that treatment on him wanted him to say”.

This is the problem of information gained in this way, it is notoriously unreliable.

People subjected to it will say whatever their assailant wishes them to say in the hope that the torture will stop.

So yet another British resident who has been brutalised, beaten and illegally detained for seven years without charge will return to Britain today. The people who ordered his torture and who decided to hold him, without charging him with any crimes, are enjoying their new retirement arrangements pretty sure that they will never pay any price for what they have done.
His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith said: “What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the Middle Ages.”
Indeed it should have. And the politicians who ordered that these crimes be committed in the first place deserve to be hauled in front of a court to answer for what they have done.

But what of those countries that tender for torture? Who calls them to account? The expert interrogators abroad practice on their own citizens. Egypt does this par excellence. Factories somewhere make the instruments too. Again there is little information of where these job opportunities are. And so torture spreads, endorsed by messianic democrats and activated by barbarians whose services are essential to keep us civilised. It works for both sides. The US and the UK can claim ignorance of what goes on in those dark cells pierced by screams; and obliging nations can do their business efficiently in countries without any transparency. There is a long history of such mutuality in evil. Apartheid had willing black operators; the transatlantic slave trade depended on black suppliers. These colluders always get away with it.

But they shouldn't. What has been done to this man is disgraceful. Simply disgraceful. And it should be a source of disgrace to all of us that we all know who the people were behind this dreadful miscarriage of justice, and that we are going to allow them to walk away, never having to answer for their crimes.

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