Tuesday, March 24, 2009

US tried to gag British man tortured in Guantanamo.

The American government tried to force Binyam Mohamed, the British resident recently released form Guantanamo Bay, to sign a waver stating that he had not been tortured and force him to promise to drop his High Court case against them as a precondition of his release.

They did all this knowing that Binyam Mohamed was not a terrorist and had never taken part in any terrorist activity. Binyam Mohamed was told that he also must promise not to talk to the media about what had happened to him whilst he was in US custody. Mohamed refused to agree to the conditions.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal group Reprieve who has represented Mr Mohamed for four years, said: "The facts reflect the way the US government has consistently tried to cover up the truth of Binyam Mohamed's torture. He was being told he would never leave Guantanamo Bay unless he promised never to discuss his torture, and never sue either the Americans or the British to force disclosure of his mistreatment ... Gradually the truth is leaking out, and the governments on both sides of the Atlantic should pause to consider whether they should continue to fight to keep this torture evidence secret."

What's utterly disgusting here - apart from one's obvious disgust at the torture - is the notion that one is not only being held because the government suspect wrongdoing, but that Mohamed was being told that he would continue to be held until he agreed to conditions. In other words, the US authorities knew that he was innocent and yet threatened to hold on to him anyway, unless he agreed to their terms.

So, far from realising that they had made a dreadful mistake and instantly setting out to correct it, the US authorities set out to make a deal which would cover up the evidence of what they had done.

This is a justice system that has no real interest in justice. It's main aim, at this point, appears to be covering it's own back and hiding evidence of it's own crimes. That's a bizarre position for a justice system to find itself in.

Last year, Mr Mohamed's lawyers became engaged in a series of High Court battles to obtain access to 42 documents which they argued supported his case against the US authorities. He claims he was flown to Morocco by the CIA where he was held for 18 months. During this detention he says he suffered barbaric abuse, including repeated razor cuts to his genitals. Last October, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled at the High Court in London that there was a "clear evidential basis" for accusations that the US government was doing "all it could" to avoid disclosing the documents. They referred to "delays and unexplained changes of course" by the American authorities, and the judges said the documents were "essential" for Mr Mohamed's defence. But they concluded that it was for the US courts to resolve the issues raised.

But yesterday it was disclosed that the judges had heard evidence that the US had drafted a plea bargain for Mr Mohamed to sign. The details could not be included in the judges' October judgment for reasons of confidentiality. They said it was now "appropriate" to reveal details of the agreement in an annex to the judgment consistent with "principles of open justice and the rule of law".

The judges said Clause 7 of the draft agreement required Mr Mohamed, in return for a lighter sentence, to plead guilty to two charges. He also had to agree not to take part in any legal challenge relating to his "capture, detention, prosecution" and detainee combatant status. In return, the maximum period of imprisonment for pleading guilty to the two charges would be 10 years, nine of which would be suspended.

The judges said Mr Mohamed had "wanted it to be made clear to the world what had happened and how he had been treated by the US government since April 2002".

This is the system of justice which Bush and Cheney imposed on those that the US captured. This is not justice because it is not based on evidence and it is not evaluated by a jury of one's peers.

Rather it is "justice" based on a series of confessions, which you are tortured to provide, and then you are offered your freedom if you agree that you are guilty and promise not to tell anyone of the methods which were used to get you to "confess" in the first place.

It's an absolute scandal that this kind of behaviour could take place at the heart of the American judicial system at the start of the 21st century.

This kind of behaviour would not have been out of place during the days of the Spanish Inquisition.

At the heart of all of this is a desire by the Bush administration to cover up it's own crimes, to have innocent men confess to crimes which the administration knows they did not commit in order to cover the backs of the very people who had tortured them.

If there's a single sentient person alive who doesn't think that Bush and Co deserve to be prosecuted for what they have done, then I'd love to know what their reasoning is.

Click title for full article.


anderson said...


Have you read Mark Danner's piece in the NY Review of Books? If not, you must.

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

The evidence is now everywhere: the Bush administration tortured people, at times quite directly (oh yeah!). It was systematic and ordered by the highest authorities. Prison is a must for these people, including but not limited to, George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, George Tenet, David Addington. There are more.

That's just the torture crowd. The net expands rapidly on the domestic scene, where Karl Rove and his merry band of pudgy Republican democracy-wreckers get to talk on television (Fox News of course!) in open defiance of a congressional subpoena and/or voter fraud laws (yeah, that's you, Ann Coulter). Normal people would be in jail.

Kel said...


Yes I came across that piece about a week ago. It's truly horrifying isn't it? And, as you rightly point out, there is no longer any doubt that the US engaged in the systemic use of torture.

And the worst point of all which I took from the article you referenced was that it appeared to be torture simply for the sake of torturing. It wasn't actually about information extraction, it appeared to be an exercise in how far you could go with detainees rather than an attempt to extract actionable intelligence from them.

And the more Obama's justice department release their memos, showing exactly just how illegal were their activities, it is becoming impossible to see any way that prosecutions could be avoided.

anderson said...

Danner's article makes entirely clear just why all those CIA videotapes of those Zubydah sessions were destroyed. And, yes, the senseless, months-long brutal escapades certainly do not strike one as extracting information. How much useful intel can any detainee have after months or years in prison? None. These were exercises in sadism.

Kel said...

Oh they were quite clearly destroyed because they contained evidence of crimes. Which makes their destruction a crime in itself.