Saturday, February 20, 2010

Torture collusion probe urged by human rights watchdog.

The UK's human rights watchdog is calling for a review into claims that the British government colluded in torture.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission says 25 people now claim the UK knew of their mistreatment abroad.

Commission chair Trevor Phillips makes the demand for a review in a letter to Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

It comes after the Court of Appeal told the government to reveal what it knew about the torture of Binyam Mohamed.

In the letter, Mr Phillips says the government has not given good enough answers to allegations that officers from British intelligence agencies had colluded in the alleged torture or mistreatment of terrorism suspects held by the US, or on its behalf by allies, around the world.

Mr Phillips said that an independent review team should get unlimited access to documents and hold public sessions where possible.

He said: "Ministers and government agencies are facing very serious allegations of knowing that UK citizens were being tortured, failing to take action to stop that torture and supplying questions to be used in the interrogation of men who were subjected to a high level of ill-treatment.

"Given the UK's role as a world leader on human rights it would be inexplicable for the government not to urgently put in place an independent review process to assess the truth, or otherwise, of these allegations."

An astonishing number of people are now claiming that they were tortured and that the UK government colluded in their torture.

We have also witnessed the government going to incredible lengths, not to answer the charges, but rather to make sure that the courts keep secret any documents which might give us the answers which we seek.

The allegations cited by the Equality and Human Rights Commission include two men jailed for life for serious terrorism offences in the UK, both of whom say they were tortured by Pakistani interrogators before being handed over to British authorities.

Seven of the men referred to by the EHRC are trying to sue both MI5 and MI6 for alleged complicity in their ill-treatment, a case that may take more than a year to come to a full hearing.

The other cases include men whose allegations have been highlighted in recent reports by a UN working group on treatment of terrorism suspects and a separate paper by campaign group Human Rights Watch.

The time has long gone where the government can simply state, "We do not condone torture" and expect that to be enough to allay public doubt. Their credibility is being eroded by the sheer number of people now making the claim. And no case has undermined their credibility more than the case of Binyam Mohamed.

Courts have revealed that MI5 were sending questions which they wanted Mr Mohamed to answer long after their own reports were indicating that the man was being subjected to torture.
The Court of Appeal's judgement related to Mr Mohamed revealed that MI5 had received detailed reports from Washington of his 2002 mistreatment which included sleep deprivation, shackling and threats of being taken to a third country where he would disappear.
Two separate courts, one in the United Kingdom and one in the United States, have found that Binyam Mohamed was tortured and the the government of the UK was aware that he was being tortured. Even Lord Goldsmith, who was Attorney General at the time when Mohamed was being tortured, has now called for a public inquiry.

The government's credibility on this subject is in tatters. Only an independent inquiry with unlimited access to documents has any chance of getting anywhere near the truth on this matter.

The government will no doubt resist this with all of their might, which will only increase suspicion that they have something to hide.

25 people claiming that the government were complicit in their torture is an awfully high number.

Click here for full article.

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