Saturday, October 17, 2009

Binyam Mohamed: Judges overrule attempt to suppress torture evidence.

The British government told the British courts that, if they published reports into torture committed upon Binyam Mohamed whilst in US custody, the US would cease to share intelligence information with the UK and we would, therefore, be at risk from terrorist attack.

At first, the courts accepted this logic and backed down with great protest.

Yesterday, all of that changed.

In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.

In what they described as an "unprecedented" and "exceptional" case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.

"The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. "Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy."

The British government are, of course, appealing against this finding; arguing that we will all die, or some other such nonsense, should our American cousins be embarrassed in any way.

But the British court has got it right. What could possibly be more "inimical to the rule of law" than a British court - the very place where law breaking should be punished - bending over backwards to suppress evidence of wrongdoing on account of the fact that it was a government which had committed the offence in question?

Indeed, they even question Miliband's assertion that what they are being asked to suppress is "secret intelligence" at all.

There was a "compelling public interest" to disclose what Miliband wanted to suppress, they said; there was nothing in the seven-paragraph summary that had anything remotely to do with "secret intelligence".

"In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires, for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law in the United Kingdom, that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain in the United Kingdom."

I have no idea whether or not we will ever get to see this evidence, but the courts have got it right when they state that this deserves to be in the public domain. Courts are not there to hide tales of government wrongdoing, even when the government insisting on secrecy is that of a foreign ally.

The truth might embarrass the United States, but that would be no bad thing if it revealed evidence which shows that an innocent man had been tortured.

Perhaps that embarrassment would go some way to ensuring that such heinous crimes are less likely to be committed in the future.

Click here for full article.

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