UK must come clean on torture accusations February 26, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
Tags: baroness scotland, binyam mohammad, Blair government, britain, british intelligence, camp delta, David Miliband, detainees, foreign office, foreign secretary, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, Human Rights Watch, jacqui smith, linda heard, m15, president obama, roger hollander, ruhal ahmad, tipton three, Tony Blair, torture, uk
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|By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer, www.onlinejournal.com
Feb 26, 2009, 14:33
During the murky eight years of George W. Bush’s White House tenure, there is little doubt that the hands of some British officials became grubby trying to please their US ally.
It has only been a month since ex-President Bush flew off to relative obscurity in Texas but it feels like an age ago. So much has changed climate-wise.
The new administration is making nice with Muslims around the world, has pledged to proactively seek a two-state solution and is rushing to get out of Iraq.
Moreover, President Barack Obama has promised to close Bush’s Guantanamo and has already taken steps to outlaw the practice of torture. His attitudes are as day to Bush’s long dark night. The problem is Bush’s exit leaves Britain holding the baby.
These are all moves which must have provoked a sigh of relief among Whitehall’s mandarins. After all, the former Blair government was arguably arm-twisted into Iraq and was never comfortable with kidnapping individuals on flimsy pretexts before locking them up while awaiting the verdicts of kangaroo military tribunals.
That was the official stance. But now there is evidence that the British secret service may have been complicit in the torturing of “detainees” (a nice innocuous word that deprived incarcerated suspects of their rights under the Geneva Conventions).
And it must be said that if the UK was seriously offended by their treatment, the government would not have waited years before seeking the repatriation of its own citizens and residents.
Now that torture has once again rightfully reverted to being a dirty word within so-called free and democratic societies, Britain’s Foreign Office is trying its best to wipe the stains from its carpet or, to be more precise, is endeavouring to hide them under a rug.
For years, former British detainees eventually allowed to return home have spoken of undergoing harsh interrogations at Camp Delta carried out by American and British interrogators.
Ruhal Ahmad — one of the “Tipton Three” featured in the 2006 docudrama, The Road to Guantanamo — told newspapers that he was interrogated in Afghanistan by an M15 officer and a representative of the Foreign Office.
“All the time I was kneeling with a guy standing on the backs of my legs and another holding a gun to my head,” he recounted. However, such firsthand accounts were not taken seriously until recently.
The case that has recently hurtled the UK’s possible involvement in torture into the spotlight is that of an Ethiopian with British residency, who returned to Britain Monday after being confined to Guantanamo for seven years, where, according to a medical report, he suffered malnutrition, stomach complaints, sores, organ and ligament damage, as well as physical and emotional bruising.
His British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, claims “he has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam [Mohammad] has been through should have been left behind in the Middle Ages.”
But when Mohammad’s plight was taken to a British court, the judges were hamstrung by Foreign Secretary David Miliband who suppressed evidence under the banner of national security.
He claimed that the US administration had warned it would cease sharing intelligence in the event such evidence became public knowledge.
The clearly irritated judges urged the Obama administration to reconsider its position and expressed astonishment “that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials and relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”
In reality, the court had been misled. It transpired that the Foreign Office had actually requested the US to issue a letter in those terms to umbrella its own reluctance to disclose British involvement in the torture. This revelation has triggered accusations of cover-up.
Obviously, the right hand does not know what the left hand is up to, as British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has asked Attorney-General Baroness Scotland to investigate “criminal wrongdoing” by UK and US security services related to Mohammad’s allegations.
Now the civil liberties group Human Rights Watch (HRW) is heaping more pressure onto Miliband by alleging that British intelligence officials have interrogated British citizens subsequent to their abuse or torture. HRW has issued a report suggesting at least 10 British detainees have been tortured with the knowledge or collusion of MI5.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office has responded with “our policy is not to participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhumane or degrading treatment, for any purpose.” Great! Then prove it!
There is a chance that Mohammad may pursue his case. In that event, Britain should come clean.
If mistakes were made, so be it. There are too many people in the know for them to be swept under a cosy rug.
Mohammad and others like him deserve recompense and an apology. And poised, as we are, on a promised new era of morality and the rule of law, we deserve the truth.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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More accuse Britain in torture of Guantanamo detainee February 11, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: andrew tyre, binyam mohamed, britain, british intelligence, david milibrand, extraordinary renditions, foreign secretary, Guantanamo, guantanamo detainee, guantanamo hunger strike, julie sell, m15, morocco, obama administration, roger hollander, torture, uk, uk conservative, uk parliament
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Julie Sell | McClatchy Newspapers, February 10, 2009
LONDON — Despite years of denials, new questions are being raised about Britain’s possible involvement in the torture of a detainee now on a prolonged hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Both an American military lawyer who’s seen classified documents on the case and the head of a special parliamentary committee said Tuesday that the British government might have been complicit in the alleged mistreatment of Binyam Mohamed. The former British resident was seized in 2002 and held in several countries — including Morocco, where he claims he was tortured — before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2004.
Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, a U.S. military lawyer assigned to defend Mohamed, said that British intelligence agency “MI5 was involved a long time ago” in the interrogation of her client.
“They were feeding certain information to his interrogators when he was in Morocco,” said Bradley, who’s in London this week to lobby members of Parliament to press for her client’s release and his return to Britain.
Meanwhile, Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament and the head of a committee investigating extraordinary renditions — the international transfer of suspected terrorists by the U.S. — said he’s also convinced that Mohamed was “severely tortured” during interrogations and that British officials had a role in his mistreatment.
Tyrie said the official line on British involvement in torture “has gone from flat denials to a succession of admissions that there was involvement.” The latter have come in the form of court documents, the most recent being last week’s ruling by a British high court.
Tyrie also said Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which has broader authority than his own, “appears to have been misled” about Britain’s role in interrogations and torture of American detainees when it was preparing an official report on the subject in 2007. That report cleared Britain of any wrongdoing, saying the CIA never told British officials where detainees were being held or how they were being treated.
It emerged last week that 42 classified documents seen by the British court and Mohamed’s lawyers had never been passed on to the intelligence and security committee when it was researching Britain’s role in the case the case.
A possible probe of British intelligence agencies is “under consideration” by the United Kingdom’s attorney general’s office, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. She couldn’t provide a timetable on the conclusion of its work. Another member of Mohamed’s legal team, Clive Stafford Smith, said that last fall he offered to provide the attorney general with documents to advance the inquiry if they were needed, but they have never requested them.
Under Britain’s Criminal Justice Act it is against the law for British officials to commit or be complicit in acts of torture anywhere in the world. Violation of the act can lead to life imprisonment.
Bradley, who’ll speak before several parliamentary committees and meet Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday, has suggested that there could be a “conspiracy” to keep her client in Guantanamo Bay in hopes that he might die there and never tell his story publicly. Mohamed is among a group of prisoners on a long-term hunger strike, and Bradley said there’d been a “drastic” deterioration in his health when she saw him two weeks ago on a regular monthly visit.
Bradley said she “applauds” the Obama administration’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay and send the remaining detainees home as soon as possible, as well as Britain’s willingness to let him settle here.
But Mohamed’s continued detention and stories about other abused prisoners suggest to her that not all officials have yet adopted the new policy. “Somewhere in the middle people need their mind changed to get along with the program,” she said. “But Mr. Mohamed doesn’t have months or years to give up his life for this to trickle down.”
(Sell is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
US Using British Atomic Weapons Factory for Its Nuclear Program February 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Foreign Policy, War.
Tags: aldermaston, anti-nuclear protests, atomic weapons, berkshire, britain, cnd, england, International law, kate hudson, liberal democrats, matthew taylor, mda, non-proliferation treaty, nuclear warhead, nuclear warhead stockpile, nuclear weapons, Pentagon, president barack obama, richard norton-taylor, Robert Gates, roger hollander, rrw, uk, uk parliament, warhead research
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Anti-nuclear protesters surround the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, England. (Photo: Getty Images)
09 February 2009, www.truthout.org
by: Matthew Taylor and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian UK
The US military has been using Britain’s atomic weapons factory to carry out research into its own nuclear warhead programme, according to evidence seen by the Guardian.
US defence officials said that “very valuable” warhead research has taken place at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire as part of an ongoing and secretive deal between the British and American governments.
The Ministry of Defence admitted it is working with the US on the UK’s “existing nuclear warhead stockpile and the range of replacement options that might be available” but declined to give any further information.
Last night, opposition MPs called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the extent of the collaboration at Aldermaston and campaign groups warned any such deal was in breach of international law. They added that it also undermined Britain’s claim to have an independent nuclear weapons programme and meant British taxpayers were effectively subsidising America’s nuclear programme.
The US president, Barack Obama, while on the campaign trail said he wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons and that one of his first actions on taking office would be to “stop the development of new nuclear weapons”. But the Pentagon is at odds with the president. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, and other senior officials argue that the US’s existing arsenal needs to be upgraded and that would not constitute “new” weapons.
Kate Hudson, of CND, said: “Any work preparing the way for new warheads cuts right across the UK’s commitment to disarm, which it signed up to in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. That this work may be contributing to both future US and British warheads is nothing short of scandalous.”
Nick Harvey, defence spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said parliament and the country would react with “outrage” at the prospect of British taxpayers funding a new US nuclear weapon.
”All this backroom dealing and smoke and mirrors policy is totally unacceptable, the government must open the Aldermaston accounts to full parliamentary scrutiny,” he added.
The extent of US involvement at Aldermaston came to light in an interview with John Harvey, policy and planning director at the US National Nuclear Security Administration, carried out last year by the thinktanks Chatham House and the Centre for Strategic Studies.
Referring to “dual axis hydrodynamic” experiments which, with the help of computer modelling, replicate the conditions inside a warhead at the moment it starts to explode, Harvey said: “There are some capabilities that the UK has that we don’t have and that we borrow… that I believe we have been able to exploit that’s been very valuable to us.”
It is unclear whether the experiments are still being carried out but, in the same interview, Harvey admitted that the US and UK had struck a new deal over the level of cooperation, including work on US plans for a new generation of nuclear warhead known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). He said: “We have recently, I can’t tell you when, taken steps to amend the MDA [Mutual Defence Agreement], not only to extend it but to amend it to allow for a broader extent of cooperation than in the past, and this has to do with the RRW effort.”
Campaigners said the comments represent the first direct evidence that the US is using UK facilities to develop its nuclear programme. Lawyers acting on their behalf said the increasing levels of cooperation and the extension the MDA breach the non-proliferation treaty, which states: “Each nuclear weapon state party to the treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices indirectly or indirectly.”
The MoD admitted the two countries are working together, “examining both the optimum life of the UK’s existing nuclear warhead stockpile and the range of replacement options that might be available to inform decisions on whether and how we may need to refurbish or replace the existing warhead likely to be necessary in the next parliament”.
Congress has stopped funding research into RRW but campaigners believe the US military may have used facilities in the UK to get around the restrictions at home.
”Billions of pounds have been poured into the Atomic Weapons Establishment over recent years to build new research facilities,” said Hudson. “If these are being used to support US programmes outside Congress’s controls on spending, it raises even more serious questions about why the British taxpayer is paying for a so-called ‘independent deterrent’.”