Thursday, February 11, 2010
Theunis Bates Contributor
LONDON (Feb. 10) – A London court on Wednesday ordered the British government to disclose confidential U.S. intelligence showing that a British resident and former Guantanamo Bay inmate suffered "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" while in American custody.
U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband had previously refused to allow the publication of U.S. material dealing with the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. Divulging this information, warned Miliband, could jeopardize Britain's intelligence-sharing deal with the U.S. and damage future anti-terror operations.
Leon Neal, AFP / Getty Images
A London court ruled Wednesday that the British government must disclose confidential U.S. intelligence regarding the treatment of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, pictured here at a fundraising event last year.
However, three of the country's top judges dismissed these protests, pointing out that similar material concerning Mohamed had already been published in the United States.
This once-top secret intelligence – which was passed from the CIA to British security service MI5 in 2002 – can now be read on the U.K. Foreign Office Web site. The document supports Mohamed's claim, which he made repeatedly since his release from Guantanamo in 2009, that while British intelligence agents may not have taken part in his torture, they knew it was happening.
The document addresses a period soon after Mohamed's arrest, when he was being held by Pakistani interrogators at the request of the U.S. under suspicion of receiving training from al-Qaida in Afghanistan. It reveals that Mohamed was subjected to "continuous sleep deprivation," had been chained up throughout interrogations and was exposed to "threats and inducements" that played on his fear of being "removed from United States custody and 'disappearing.' " This treatment, the paper continued, led to Mohamed's being kept on suicide watch.
In their summary of the case, the London judges said, "Although it is not necessary for us to categorize the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities."
Ethiopian-born Mohamed, 31 -- who moved to the United Kingdom as a teenager and converted to Islam in 2000 – has long denied having any connections to terrorism and says he was simply arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He claims he flew to Pakistan in May 2001 to help kick a drug habit and later that year headed to Afghanistan, as he wanted to see a "pure" form of Islam under the Taliban.
On his return to Karachi airport in 2002, Mohamed was held on charges of using a false passport and handed over to American authorities, who put him on an "extraordinary rendition" flight to Morocco, where he was tortured. (He says a Moroccan torturer named Marwan slashed his chest and genitals with a scalpel during interrogations.)
Mohamed was then taken to a "dark prison" run by the U.S. in Afghanistan, where he says he was forced to listen to a recording of rapper Eminem, played at deafening volume, continually for a whole month. His next stop was Guantanamo.
The U.S. eventually dropped all charges against Mohamed. On his return to the U.K. in '09, he lodged a civil damages lawsuit against the government, which he accused of being complicit in his torture, since an MI5 officer had interviewed him when he was held in Pakistan. In 2008, Britain's High Court ruled that MI5's involvement in Mohamed's mistreatment had gone "far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing."
Wednesday's revelations are part of a revised version of that 2008 ruling, which – on first release – was missing seven paragraphs of comments from the judges. The foreign minister had appealed against the publication of those specific lines, but on Wednesday the Court of Appeal declined his request.
Human rights activists have celebrated the release of the blocked paragraphs and are now calling for a full public inquiry into the affair. "It has been clear for over a year that the Foreign Office has been more concerned with saving face than exposing torture," said Shami Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty. "These embarrassing paragraphs reveal nothing of use to terrorists, but they do show something of the U.K. government's complicity with the most shameful part of the war on terror."
There are likely to be more revelations about Mohamed's apparent mistreatment in coming months. U.K. police are investigating the MI5 agent who questioned Mohamed to find out if he broke any British laws on torture. According to Clive Stafford-Smith, Mohamed's lawyer, the seven paragraphs released Wednesday are just "crumbs" and there is "a vast body of other information out there showing Binyam Mohamed was abused."
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