Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Revealed – the secret torture evidence MI5 tried to suppress.

David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, has used parliamentary privilege to expose the way in which the UK government are complicit in the torture of terrorist suspects and the methodology by which they have used the courts to hide what it is that they were doing.

David Davis told the story of Rangzieb Ahmed, and how the British intelligence agencies allowed him to enter Pakistan, despite the fact that they could have arrested him, and how they fed questions to the ISI whilst knowing that he was being tortured.

This is the first time that the information has entered the public domain. Previously it has been suppressed through the process of secret court hearings and, had the Guardian or other media organisations reported it, they would have exposed themselves to the risk of prosecution for contempt of court.

Davis told MPs that although sufficient evidence had been gathered to ensure Ahmed could be prosecuted for serious terrorism offences, he was permitted to fly from Manchester to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, in 2006 while under surveillance. He then detailed the way in which the British authorities:

• Tipped off the ISI that Ahmed was on his way.

• Told the ISI he was a terrorist and suggested that he should be detained.

• Were aware of the methods used by the ISI while questioning terrorism suspects.

• Drew up a list of questions for the ISI to put to Ahmed.

• Questioned him themselves after he had been in ISI custody for around 13 days.

This is the first time we have had actual proof that the UK government, who could have arrested Ahmed, instead chose to allow him to leave the country and have him arrested in a country where we knew that he would be tortured.
Addressing the Commons last night, Davis said: "A more obvious case of outsourcing of torture, a more obvious case of passive rendition, I cannot imagine. He should have been arrested by the UK in 2006. He was not. The authorities knew he intended to travel to Pakistan, so they should have prevented that. Instead, they suggested the ISI arrest him. They knew he would be tortured, and they organised to construct a list of questions and provide it to the ISI."
The Guardian reported yesterday that MI5 officers had visited Ahmed whilst he was in a British prison and offered him money and/or a reduced sentence if he would withdraw his claim that he had been tortured.

Ahmed is currently suing the British government for colluding in the torture he received whilst in Pakistan.

Ahmed is one of several British citizens and residents who have alleged British complicity in their torture in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and the UAE during the so-called war on terror.

Davis told MPs : "For each case, the government has denied complicity, but at the same time fiercely defended the secrecy of its actions which has made it impossible to put the full facts in the public domain, despite the clear public interest to doing so."

Ahmed, he said, "was astonishingly not arrested but was allowed to leave the country … the British intelligence agencies wrote to their opposite numbers in Pakistan, the ISI, to suggest that they arrest him". Davis went on: "The intelligence officer who wrote to the Pakistanis did so in full knowledge of the normal methods used by the ISI against terrorist suspects that it holds."

Davis said Ahmed was "viciously tortured by the ISI. He [Ahmed] claims among other things, he was beaten with wooden staves, the size of cricket stumps,whipped with a three-foot length of tyre rubber and had three fingernails removed from his left hand. There is a dispute between British intelligence officers as to exactly when his fingernails were removed, but an independent pathologist confirmed it happened during the period when he was in Pakistani custody."

Davis also said there was a pressing need for an inquiry into Britain's involvement in torture. "The Americans have made a clean breast of their complicity, whilst explicitly not prosecuting the junior officers who were acting under instruction. We have done the opposite. As it stands, we are awaiting a police investigation which will presumably end in the prosecution of frontline officers. At the same time the government is fighting tooth and nail to use state secrecy to cover up both crimes and political embarrassments, to protect those who are the real villains of the piece, those who approved the policies in the first place."

Davis has performed a true public service here. He has put on the record things that could only be said by an MP enjoying parliamentary privilege. He has put on the record things which previously the government have used the courts to keep from us.

Miliband and Brown have been ruthless in the way in which they have used the courts to keep British involvement in torture quiet, with Miliband insisting that to reveal what we have done would "give succour to or enemies". As I said at the time:
Why, if published, would this policy "lend succour to our enemies"? If the policy is as squeaky clean as we have been led to believe then there is no "succour" for any of our enemies in it's release, rather the opposite. Isn't Miliband, by refusing to ever release details of this policy, actually admitting that there is something to hide here? Something which would "lend succour to our enemies"?
David Davis, by using parliamentary privilege, has opened the can of worms. Now we can clearly see the complicity between the British government and the ISI.

And Davis is right to demand an investigation into this matter. It certainly looks as if we have been complicit in the torturing of suspects. The full degree to which we have done so deserves to be exposed. Miliband and Brown have been using the courts to silence any hint of their policy from becoming public. Hopefully, Davis' action will make it impossible for the government to continue to use the courts to shield us from what they have actually done.

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