Monday, July 06, 2009

Binyam Mohamed launches legal fight to stop US destroying torture images.

Former Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed has launched a bid to stop US courts from destroying evidence which proves that he was tortured whilst in US custody.

The image is said to consist of Mohamed after he was badly beaten by US guards.

The image, now held by the Pentagon, had been put on his cell door, he says.

Mohamed claims he was told later that this was done because he had been beaten so badly that it was difficult for the guards to identify him.

In a sworn statement seen by the Guardian, Mohamed has appealed to the federal district court in Washington not to destroy the photograph, which neither he nor his lawyers have a copy of, and which is classified under US law.

The US government considered the case closed once Mohamed was released and returned to Britain in February. The photograph will be destroyed within 30 days of his case being dismissed by the American courts – a decision on which is due to be taken by a judge imminently, Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed's British lawyer and director of Reprieve, the legal charity, said today .

Under US law, evidence relating to dismissed cases must be automatically destroyed. The only way to preserve the photograph is to have it accepted as a court document.
Obviously, if Mohamed was beaten in this way whilst being held in US custody, then he has the right to bring a case against his abusers and this photograph becomes a piece of vital evidence.

But this brings us back to Obama's decision not to release the other photographs of abuse which took place at Abu Ghraib on the grounds that their release might cause anti-American sentiment and place American troops in harm's way.

Might the Obama administration make a similar case here and argue that, if people see what was done to Mohamed that this might, "inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger”? For, if the administration were to make that argument, then how could Mohamed ever prove what was done to him in a court of law and obtain justice?

And let's remember what was actually done to him:

This is the aim of Mohamed's appeal and he says he needs the image as a crucial piece of evidence to fight his case against US authorities for unlawful incarceration and abuse. "That is one piece of physical evidence that I know exists of my abuse," he says in the statement, adding that it was taken in Guantánamo in 2006. After being kicked and punched, he says his guards "applied force to a pressure point on my arm, twisting the handcuffs up ... They tried to open my closed fists up by bending my fingers back one at a time." They took a picture of him when, he says, he was on the floor pinioned by the guards. He continues: "They then slammed me and my Qur'an into the fence." After he objected, he says, they "slammed me into the fence again".

He adds: "They then strapped me into a restraint chair and cut off half my beard. They then performed the humiliating 'anal cavity search', although it was painfully obvious that there was nothing to find."

Mohamed also describes how at one point he screamed and that this "made them redouble their efforts and my situation got worse".

He adds: "One [military guard] took the heel of my hand and pushed my nose up violently. One soldier pulled on my jaw. They slammed my forehead down on the concrete floor. One grabbed my testicles and punched me."

Mohamed said: "The authorities have consistently denied that I have been abused, and this is physical evidence that I am telling the truth, and they are not."

The US and British governments have already outraged British courts by their blatant attempts to conceal evidence of what was done to Binyam Mohamed, an act so appalling that the judges made their disgust publicly known:
"Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be."
Part of the judges incredulity was fuelled by a threat from the Obama administration that they would no longer be able to share terrorist related intelligence information with Britain should the court disclose the evidence they had relating to Mohamed's treatment.

If one takes Obama's argument to it's natural conclusion, then Mai Lai should have been covered up and none of us should ever have heard of the abuse of Abu Ghraib as both, "inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

It is perfectly understandable that Obama should wish to protect the troops, but it is not acceptable if the price of doing so is that people like Binyam Mohamed are denied the right to have justice for abuse wish they suffered at the hands of those troops.

Both the US and the UK governments have meddled with a British court as it attempted to do the right thing here, I only hope that they will not interfere in the US courts as Mohamed tries to preserve the only piece of evidence which he knows of which proves his case.

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