Sunday, March 01, 2009

UN attacks Britain over torture claims.

How humiliating is this?

Professor Manfred Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, has warned Britain of "a range of concerns" he has regarding our behaviour and has stated that MI5 officers might have been complicit in the maltreatment of suspects.

He is apparently organising a fact-finding mission to Pakistan, where it is alleged that British resident Binyam Mohamed was tortured by the ISI before being interviewed by MI5 agents.

It is the first time the UN's senior torture investigator has directly criticised a British government. Human rights groups said it was highly significant. Clare Algar, executive director of legal charity Reprieve, said: "This is a further significant embarrassment for the British government and reinforces the fact that we really need an independent review into what has been going on."

Nowak appeared to criticise the foreign secretary, David Miliband, for blocking the release of US files allegedly confirming MI5 involvement in the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed. Miliband said releasing the documents could do "real and significant damage" to British national security.

Nowak, who reports to the UN's human rights council and the general assembly, said: "I am very concerned about the fact that allegations of torture actually cannot be really investigated because of the state secrecy privilege.

"We must get away from the use of the state secrecy privilege as a way of quashing court cases and litigation from victims of torture being heard in public."

So, we now join the group of banana republics whose treatment of their prisoners is so inhumane as to require UN intervention.

The very fact that the UN has had to contact the British government at all on the subject of torture should surely embarrass Miliband into releasing the information surrounding the treatment of Binyam Mohamed.

This is not something which is going to go away. Mohamed is now a free a man and, once he recovers from his dreadful ordeal, he is going to be free to talk publicly - and in detail - about what happened to him. Surely it would be in Miliband's best interests for any release of information to be done on a timetable which he controlled?

The problem, as far as I can see, is that the British government never thought that they would ever have to account for what they have done.

However, the disclosure that the UN has raised the issue of torture repeatedly with the UK will intensify pressure on ministers to answer the allegations. Even so, both Miliband and the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, have refused to testify to a parliamentary committee on allegations of British collusion.

"The policies of the United Kingdom, we feel, have touched my mandate, such as the issue of diplomatic assurances. I have been in regular contact with the British government," added Nowak, who last week met US officials in Washington on issues such as the closure of Guantanamo Bay and claims of torture by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The whole question of co-operation between the British and the US government in the fight against terror is an area of concern - the co-operating on these rendition flights and of course the interrogations," said Nowak.

He said he raised concerns with governments only when allegations appeared to be substantive and that he had raised issues through UK diplomatic channels to ensure "full accordance with the prohibition of torture".

"If I send a communication to a government it's usually done on the basis that I have received very clear allegations by a non-governmental or other source," he said. He said that if allegations of MI5 officers' complicity in torture were substantiated, it would constitute a breach of the UN convention on torture. "A country should also not be complicit in torture. If you clearly participate in interrogation or are using information that was extracted by torture, you might also be complicit," said Nowak.

"Interrogating people in prisons where there is evidence that they have been tortured, even if you do not torture them yourself ... it's a slippery slope," added Nowak.

The Foreign Office is now stating that it has no objection to the release of the Mohamed documents as long as the US agrees to this.

From Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve:

A little background: Binyam, the Guantánamo prisoner represented for years by Reprieve, has described how he was abused in Pakistan, then rendered to Morocco where a razor blade was taken to his genitals. We know – from the judgment – that the UK has documents authored by the Americans themselves that would help prove some of his mistreatment.

I have seen this evidence, as I have a security clearance in the US.
You can't see it. Why not?

The judges repeat no fewer than eight times that the Bush administration threatened the British that if the judges made this evidence public, the US would retaliate with sanctions.

Since when do friends level threats at friends to prevent them from revealing evidence of crimes?

Both the British and the American governments now have to decide whether or not they are going to suppress evidence of torture, with the UN and the entire world looking on.

Nowak has stated that,"The whole question of co-operation between the British and the US government in the fight against terror is an area of concern."

In other words, George Bush's dreadful war on terror has led us to betray the ideals to which we have always been committed. Let's not forget, this war was mostly conducted by Bush and Blair, rather than by Obama and Brown.

I simply don't understand why Obama and Brown are getting themselves into such contortions, trying to shield Bush and Blair from the world knowing what they have done.

Were I in their position, I would simply push both of them in front of the bus.

Click title for full article.

2 comments:

Steel Phoenix said...

I would too, and to hell with the ensuing firestorm. There have to be consequences. The U.S. has too long been above the law. The U.N. should be saying these things to us, but the last few times they have, we have just laughed at them. What are they going to do to us? We are the U.N. in any military sense, and sanctions on us are sanctions on the world. Corruption is the price of a powerful majority. This is the very reason I oppose a strong government.

Kel said...

I would too, and to hell with the ensuing firestorm. There have to be consequences. The U.S. has too long been above the law. The U.N. should be saying these things to us, but the last few times they have, we have just laughed at them.

I agree that the US under the last administration treated the UN with contempt.

How do we change this? By showing that there are consequences. There should be prosecutions for the crimes of the Bush administration, especially for the war crimes.

I really hope Obama develops some balls on this issue.