Tuesday, August 04, 2009

MPs and peers call for inquiry into torture

Parliament's joint committee on human rights have now published their stinging report, which stops short of accusing the British government of complicity in torture, but insists that an independent inquiry must be set up to investigate the numerous and detailed allegations of such complicity.

Andrew Dismore, the committee's Labour chairman, said: "If the allegations are true they amount to complicity. They have not been tested but given the scale and number simply to issue a blanket denial is not adequate. That is why we are calling for an independent inquiry."

Among a list of actions that it says would amount to complicity in torture, and therefore in breach of the UK's legal obligations, the report includes "the provision of questions to such a foreign intelligence service to be put to a detainee who has been, is being, or likely to be tortured". It also includes "the systematic reception of information known or thought likely to have been obtained from detainees subjected to torture".

It adds: "For the purposes of state responsibility for complicity in torture ... 'complicity' means simply one state giving assistance to another state in the commission of torture, or acquiescing in such torture, in the knowledge ... of the circumstances of the torture which is or has been taking place."

The BBC have already obtained a highly redacted telegram believed to have been cabled from MI5 headquarters to the official it sent to Pakistan to question the terrorist suspect Binyam Mohamed.

And there are several questions included in the cable which the British Authorities would like to be put to Mr Mohamed:

In the telegram, MI5 refers to Mr Mohamed as the "dirty bomber" and states that he is a "committed Islamist".

It wants to know about his time in the UK, which mosques he used and who he associated with there.

The telegram states: "Has he ever attended training camps in the UK? If so where did he train, with who, what was he taught?"

It also suggests Mr Mohamed is questioned about his passport and his travel arrangements to Pakistan.

The document said: "Who did he buy the passport from? How did he make contact with this individual? Where did this individual live, did he visit him at home or did they meet him in a neutral location?"

And the High Court have revealed further evidence of the British government providing questions to be asked of suspects:

In a judgment revised after the disclosure of fresh evidence from MI5, the high court said on Friday it was now clear that MI5 "knew the circumstances" of Mohamed's secret detention at "a covert location", now known to be Morocco.

In their judgment, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones also revealed that MI5 sent the "US authorities" – believed to be the CIA – questions to ask Mohamed. Over a period of more than two years, MI5 received five reports from the US about Mohamed and gave the US a list of 70 further questions to be put to him.

The high court judgment contains evidence that appears to come clearly under the complicity criteria spelled out in today's report.

So, the providing of questions has already been established. And, the other day, I spoke of the governments attitude to the receipt of information gained in this way.
Then Lord Brown went even further stating, "It [the government] has a prime responsibility to safeguard the security of the state and would be failing in its duty if it ignores whatever it may learn."
Far from not acting on intelligence gathered through the use of torture, Lord Brown actually argued that the government "would be failing in it's duty if it ignores what it may learn". So, we can hardly pretend that the government would not use such information when Lord Brown is on record arguing the very opposite.

Today's report says: "If the government engaged in an arrangement with a country that was known to torture in a widespread way and turned a blind eye to what was going on, systematically receiving and/or relying on the information but not physically participating in the torture, that might well cross the line into complicity.

"Our experience over the past year is that ministers are determined to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and accountability on these matters, refusing requests to give oral evidence; providing a standard answer to some of our written questions, which fails to address the issues; and ignoring other questions entirely.

"Ministers should not be able to act in this way. The fact that they can do so confirms that the system for ministerial accountability for security and intelligence matters is woefully deficient ... There is now no other way to restore public confidence in the intelligence services than by setting up an independent inquiry."

It does not give one confidence to read of the way ministers are routinely avoiding giving answers on this subject, or giving standard answers which avoid the actual questions being asked, or simply ignoring questions which they appear to find inconvenient or embarrassing to answer.

Nor does the government's initial response fill me with any great confidence.

The Foreign Office told the committee: "We unreservedly condemn the use of torture and our clear policy is not to participate in, solicit, encourage, or condone the use of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose."

Read the report yourself and decide whether that is remotely credible. The amount of people claiming the UK was complicit in their torture is disturbing to say the least.


It's also informative to read the instructions given to operatives in the field who complained that the US were mistreating detainees.

The MI6 officer reported that the US military had mistreated the detainee before the questioning began. It is not clear what details he or she gave, but they were sufficient to provoke a remarkably rapid response. The next day clear instructions were sent to the officer - and copied to every other MI6 and MI5 officer in the field - explaining how to deal with this situation. The speed of the reaction could suggest that the solution devised by senior MI5 and MI6 officers and the agencies' lawyers had been rushed, and was possibly ill-thought out. Conversely, it could be a sign that the dilemma had been anticipated, and the remedy very carefully considered in advance.

"Under the various Geneva Conventions and protocols," London warned its intelligence and security officers, "all prisoners, however they are described, are entitled to the same levels of protection. You have commented on their treatment. It appears from your description that they may not be being treated in accordance with the appropriate standards. Given that they are not within our custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this.

"The law does not require you to intervene to prevent this". There's knowledge that torture is being committed right there. And inaction to prevent it which is arguably crossing the line into collusion.

Click title for full article.


nunya said...

Did you see this?

By Jeremy Scahill
August 4, 2009
Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

I didn't think I could be stunned, but I am.

Kel said...

That is staggering. Now they are murdering to cover their tracks.