With the expected arrival back today of Binyam Mohamed, the young British resident held for four years in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp after his “rendition” by American forces in Pakistan, New Labour’s complicity in his torture has become blindingly clear.
In past years, rogue soldiers, lawyers and whistleblowers have gone public to detail kidnapping, interrogation, physical and mental torture carried out in secret prisons around the world – and how European governments have connived in “rendering” suspects from country to country in their “war on terror”.
What has been less widely known is the connivance of the British secret services and government in these illegal acts of barbarity. But now the evidence is pouring in thick and fast and New Labour will have trouble wriggling out, even though Foreign Secretary David Miliband claims that the UK does not condone torture.
Clive Stafford Smith, the courageous lawyer who has represented Binyam, notes: “The fact that British intelligence was being used by torturers doesn’t in itself prove that the British knew torture was going on. But, given what we now know, they are at best pleading guilty to an unbelievable lack of curiosity”.
Stafford Smith says that the UK government is suppressing evidence of torture. “Every essential of Binyam’s story [torture in Pakistan at the behest of the US authorities, rendering to Morocco and more torture, imprisonment in Bagram air base, Afghanistan, isolation in Gitmo, etc] has been corroborated,” Stafford-Smith says. “We have slowly dragged the torture documentation from unwilling governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet virtually none of these documents have been made public.”
A month after Mohamed’s seizure on April 10, 2002, a British agent came to see him in Pakistan, allowed in by his American captors. The agent B encouraged Binyam to co-operate with his captors, and assured him that the British would look into his case. What Mohamed did not know was that the Americans had already shared a number of documents with the British. “These included admissions by American agents that they were torturing Binyam. Yet Agent B did not even ask him how he was being treated. Binyam was then rendered to Morocco,” says Stafford Smith.
“He told me that his darkest point came one morning in Morocco. For the four months after Agent B’s visit, he waited for the British cavalry to appear. It was a mirage. Marwan, his Moroccan torturer, came into the interrogation room with questions and photographs that had clearly been provided by the British.”
Stafford-Smith’s account is powerfully corroborated by the respected US organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW). Despite detailing its concerns to the UK government as far back as last October, HRW has received no response. New Labour was clearly in a crisis at that time, as the attorney general had to decide whether there was to be an investigation into the treatment of Mohamed by British spooks.
HRW investigator, Ali Dayan Hasan led an investigation based in Pakistan, the results of which will be published in March. Sources within the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) provided “confirmation and information” that British agents colluded in the interrogation of terror suspects. These were not maverick elements, Hasan says, but “a significant number of UK agents”. He has collected evidence that M15 questioned at least 10 British citizens after they had been tortured by Pakistani intelligence agents. The HRW cites the case of Rangzieb Ahmed from Rochdale who had three of the fingernails of his left hand removed. Ahmed was later convicted of being a member of al-Qaida at Manchester Crown Court without the jury being told about this.
Despite the phasing out of Guantanamo, there are still 1,100 prisoners being held beyond the rule of law in Bagram air base in Afghanistand, where they have no human rights whatsoever, a position confirmed by the Obama administration at the weekend. Thousands more languish in secret prisons in Iraq, Dijoubti, on prison ships, or are held by US proxies in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. Voiceless human beings, rendered, tortured and victims of the Anglo-American “war on terror”.
A World to Win secretary