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UK urged to examine torture claims
MI5 agents stood by as Pakistani agents beat and abused detainees, rights group says.
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2009 09:29 GMT

HRW says Britain put pressure on Pakistan to extract information from the suspects [GALLO/GETTY]

A human rights group has called on the UK government to investigate allegations that its agents were complicit in the torture of five British citizens between 2004 and 2007.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has told Al Jazeera that Pakistani security agents would severely beat prisoners, then pass them on to members of MI5 - Britain's internal security service - for questioning.

Ali Dayan Hasan, author of the group's report, told journalists on Tuesday that British intelligence and law enforcement officials had "colluded with and turned a blind eye to the use of torture on terrorism suspects in Pakistan".

The allegations centre around five men - all British citizens of Pakistani origin - who were held by Pakistan's intelligence agency on suspicion of planning bomb attacks.

The five include Rangzieb Ahmed from Manchester, who was later convicted by a British court on terrorism charges and was said to have been al Qaeda's top operative in Britain.

He has alleged his fingernails were pulled out by Pakistani agents before being questioned by British officials soon afterwards.

Beaten

Another suspect was Rashid Rauf from Birmingham who was wanted by Britain for his alleged part in a major bomb plot.

"The government rejects in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that a policy of complicity in torture has been in place"

UK government statement

He was apparently so badly beaten that a British intelligence official told HRW researchers he could never appear in court.

HRW said British authorities had put Pakistan under pressure to extract information from the suspects and was unconcerned about how the detainees were treated.

The group quoted two unnamed British government sources, as well as Pakistani military officials, to support its claims over the alleged mistreatment.

"British officials knew that Pakistani intelligence agencies routinely used torture, were aware of specific cases and did not intervene," the group's report said, listing allegations of prisoners being beaten, chained and injected with drugs.

Hasan told Al Jazeera that British agents colluded in multiple ways.

"They passed questions and lines of inquiry onto suspects while the suspects were in ISI [Pakistan's intelligence service] custody, and in the custody of other Pakistani intelligence agencies," he said.

"The ISI's reputation as an institution that tortures terrorism suspects is well established. The idea that they could not have known of these practices is laughable."

Government denial

In response to the report, Britain's foreign office said there was "no truth" in claims that it was "our policy to collude in, solicit, or even directly participate in abuses of prisoners.

"The government rejects in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that a policy of complicity in torture has been in place," a spokesman said.

Hasan criticised the government's response saying that the rights group, as well as the media, offered the British government specific allegations and cases and what they got in return was "a generic denial".

"We want to know what happened in [individual] cases," Hasan said.

"The government is stonewalling, we would like closure on this activity."

The report adds to growing calls in Britain for an investigation into such claims.

In August, a UK parliamentary committee on human rights called for an independent inquiry into claims of British complicity in torture.

Meanwhile, police are looking into claims from Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo detainee who says that the security service, MI5, was complicit in the "medieval" torture he suffered in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan.

Britain's foreign intelligence organisation, MI6, is also being investigated in a separate abuse case.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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