Socialist Worker

British state is complicit in Guantanamo torture

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2116

Evidence at the High Court last week has revealed that once again the British government has being lying over the use of torture, and has been illegally kidnapping people as part of the 'war on terror'.

The government has repeatedly insisted that the security service agencies don't 'participate in, encourage or condone the use of torture'.

Yet the High Court has held that the MI5 British security services actively colluded with US intelligence in their use of torture to extract a confession from a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay.

Lord Justice Thomas and Justice Lloyd Jones concluded that MI5's role in the case of Binyam Mohamed was 'far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing'.

Despite all the evidence from MI5 officers being heard in secret, the court heard in public session how Mohamed, an Ethiopian asylum seeker who had been given leave to remain in London, was arrested for a visa violation in Pakistan and was denied a lawyer.

After being interrogated by an MI5 agent there, he was secretly rendered to Morocco on a CIA plane.

In Morocco his captors tortured him, stripping him naked and cutting him with a scalpel on his chest and penis. After 18 months he was transferred to what is known as the 'Dark Prison' in Afghanistan – a secret prison run by the CIA.

Binyam Mohamed is the last British resident being held at Guantanamo Bay. He faces the death penalty when tried by a US military commission on the basis of a confession extracted through that torture.

He has described the Afghan secret prison: 'It was pitch black, no lights on in the rooms for most of the time. They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen.

'My wrists and hands had gone numb. At one point, I was chained to the rails for a fortnight. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.'

His interrogators asked him questions about his life in London – details of which could only have been provided by British intelligence. Mohamed's lawyers said that he had confessed 'to anything those inflicting that treatment on him wanted him to say'.

This is not an isolated incident. The Labour government allowed the island of Diego Garcia to be used as a secret prison and an airport for extraordinary rendition flights.

Both MI5 and MI6 have been involved in the torture and interrogation of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay.

The law lords have told New Labour foreign secretary David Miliband to share evidence of the extraordinary rendition and torture. Miliband is set this week to decide whether 'national security' will prevent him from doing so.


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Tue 26 Aug 2008, 20:58 BST
Issue No. 2116
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