Britain must hold ‘torture’ inquiry

British MPs say UK must hold inquiry over torture claims against security services.

Binyam Mohamed was arrested as he tried to fly back to the UK from Karachi in Pakistan in 2002

The British government must investigate claims its agents were complicit in the torture of “terrorism” suspects overseas, a parliamentary committee has said.

The MPs said that government had not sufficiently addressed its alleged involvement in the torture and called for an independent inquiry.

Binyam Mohamed was tortured. In prison he was beaten, he was scalded and his penis was slashed with a scalpel.  

A British resident, he was arrested as he tried to fly back to the UK from Karachi in Pakistan in 2002. 

In depth

Britain’s ‘wall of secrecy’

The authorities in Washington accused the Islam-convert of planning a series of explosions in the United States and of being a hand picked al-Qaeda operative, whose UK residency was a massive bonus to its operations. 

Mohamed was flown to a ‘secret’ prison in Morocco where he was held for eighteen months, during that time he was asked many questions about his UK links; who he knew, where he went. 

The questions he believed were being supplied by Britain’s security services.

He was eventually moved to Guantanamo Bay, the US detention camp in Cuba.

No charges were ever brought against him. And when he eventually arrived back in the UK, he issued a statement saying that during all his time in detention “the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence”.

‘Disturbing’ allegations

Now a British parliamentary committee on human rights says this is only one of a “disturbing” number of credible allegations that British agents were involved in the mistreatment of alleged “terrorist” suspects.

Andrew Dismore says Britian must ‘take the moral high ground’

Andrew Dismore is the member of parliament who chairs the committee. 

He told me it was an independent inquiry that was looking into the claims: “There have been fifteen different allegations concerning the activities of British agents overseas, but none of them have been proven, none of them have been tested. 

“The government says ‘we don’t do torture’ but no one is alleging that MI5 or MI6 [the internal and external security services] agents are applying the thumbscrews, the blowtorch or pulling out fingernails. The question is, are we complicit?

“Are we supplying questions that should be asked to people under torture or are we questioning people immediately after they have been tortured, or are we arranging for people to be arrested who will then be subject to torture?
“These are breaches of our obligations to the United Nations Convention against Torture”.

Awkward questions

The British government signed that convention more than 20 years ago, but there is a frustration among the committee that senior politicians refused to give evidence to them.

Britain’s foreign minister refused to appear before the committee [EPA]

Both the interior and foreign minister, as well as the head of MI5, gave written statements, rather than face awkward questions at the hands of their fellow politician.

The government issued a statement. The choice of words in the blanket denial is interesting. 

It says: “The government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice worldwide.”

There is no denial of complicity. There is no denial that it provided questions for security services in other countries where the laws are perhaps not so clear cut. 

Ahmed Ghappour works for Reprieve, a UK-based charity that campaigns for prisoners it believes are held wrongfully or illegally around the world.

He believes the British government is involved in a cover-up which will eventually be found out.

“No-one wants to admit a wrongdoing especially when the wrongdoing is so big it is in breech of UK law and international law,” Ghappour says.

“Eventually everything will come out.”

Moral argument

There are those who argue that if the torture stops “terrorist” attacks and save lives then it is justified.

Dismore is worried by that view, he says: “In the end you have to care about this. It’s like the man who downloads child pornography day after day. He’s not taking the pictures. He’s not hurting the child himself.

“But he’s creating a market for that appalling crime and what we have here is potentially the creation of a market for information if we do not draw a very clear line and say ‘We are not going to do this’.

“We have to take the moral high ground.”

The British government says there’s simply no need for a full inquiry into the allegations of complicity in torture. 

Such a flat refusal is unlikely to be accepted by those who believe it has something to hide.

Source : Al Jazeera


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