New Torture Claims Rock UK Government
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
British Government Ministers stand accused of knowing about claims of Security Services’ complicity in torture of suspects accused of terrorism, but doing nothing to find out whether it was going on.
This is the claim of one of the leaders of the Opposition parties, but more importantly is what may be read into the draft judgment of the case of former GITMO detainee, Binyan Mohammed, by Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger. Sections of Neuberger’s draft judgment were suppressed after the intervention of Government lawyers.
Fortunately Neuberger’s draft judgement on the Mohammed case – he alleged that British agents had colluded with the CIA in providing information in the knowledge that he would likely be tortured – did see the light of day when it was sent to the Mohammed’s defence team. Mohammed, an Ethiopian, who had been a British resident, had been picked up in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorism and “rendered” to Morocco. There he alleged, he was tortured, by being hung by the wrists and having his genitals cut. “This”, says a former Conservative Opposition Spokesman, David David “seems like something the Gestapo got up to”.
The British Government wanted to suppress the evidence that not only the Security Services knew what was going on in the case of Mohammed, and up to fifteen other terrorism suspects but they kept the Government in the dark. The Government was keen to see the evidence suppressed because it claims that the United States would be reluctant to share sensitive security and intelligence material again. This line has been parroted by a succession of Ministers, including the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who begins to look like the biggest chump of the lot. Miliband has, over the past few days repeatedly trotted out the mantra that the British Government does not practice, nor does it condone torture. Indeed not, but Lord Neuberger also stated in his draft judgement that the Security Services have kept the Government, and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee in the deliberately out of the loop. In other words, having kept Miliband in the dark as to what they may have been up to, Miliband now feels obliged to leap to their defence.
But there is a pattern of deniability here. When I first reported for The Independent newspaper the practice of extraordinary rendition on the island of Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory, and therefore illegal under British law, the Government denied that any prisoners had been held or transited there. And then, just over a year ago, Miliband admitted that actually Diego Garcia had been used for just these purposes. And so today, we have the familiar flapping of wings and general contrived fury from Ministers who either a) knew exactly what was going on, and did nothing to stop something that is illegal under British and international law, b) heard the allegations, but chose to do nothing about them, or c) did try, but were stonewalled by the Security Services.
Quite why British Government Ministers such as Home Secretary Alan Johnson and the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Kim Howells, believe that they have to make such a commotion in defending rogue elements in the Security Services is beyond me. For a start, Johnson and Howells in particular would have been the focus of Security Services interest themselves some years back. Howells in particular, since he was once upon a time a card carrying Communist and leading light in the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers during the pivotal 1984-85 strike.
There is really something ludicrous and faintly comical now about these two former trade union rebels defending the unacceptable and unlawful behaviour by some of the Security Services. Unless, of course the spooks have got so much on these two gents, they feel obliged to defend the indefensible.
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