Socialist Worker

Britain’s cover-up of torture is unravelling

by Anindya Bhattacharyya and Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2143

There were more revelations this week about the British government’s complicity in the torture of suspects as part of the “war on terror”.

Azhar Khan, a 26 year old from Slough, Berkshire, was detained in Egypt in July last year. During his detention he was handcuffed, forced to stand naked with a hood over his head, beaten, subjected to electric shocks and interrogated.

During his interrogation, Azhar said he could hear other inmates who were also being tortured. He heard a man with a British accent asking questions.

The foreign office has been forced to admit that it made no complaints to the Egyptian government about how Azhar, a British citizen, had been treated.

Foreign office officials also admitted that the government had failed to take any action over other British nationals who had been tortured abroad. The countries involved in the allegations include Pakistan, Bangladesh and Syria.

Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed was freed last month after seven years of detention without trial.

On his return to his home in Britain, Binyam said that MI5 had been complicit in the torture he suffered at the hands of secret police in Morocco and Pakistan.

An MI5 agent visited Binyam while he was being tortured in Pakistan, and worked with his US interrogators.

This shocking case has led to widespread condemnation of both the British and US governments.

Katherine O’Shea works for the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents Binyam.

She told Socialist Worker, “This case shows the difference between the British government’s professed values and what actually goes on in its name.

“It professes to condemn torture. But it became clear that MI5 has been complicit in torture.

“When the MI5 agent visited Binyam in Pakistan, it was clear that he was being illegally held incommunicado for the purpose of unlawful interrogation.

“Nothing was done to help him. MI5 even supplied his interrogators with information and questions.

“The experience has been devastating for Binyam. He says that he doesn’t have normal feelings anymore. The worst point was when he found out about Britain’s involvement.

“Unfortunately, Binyam’s case is one of many. George Bush and Tony Blair’s reaction to 9/11 was catastrophic in terms of human rights.

“There have been more cases of rendition and more people have disappeared. Powerful governments have trampled on people’s hard-won rights.

“Governments can use the fear of another 9/11 to scare people into accepting extreme policies, such as rendition and torture.

“But as more information has come out about these practices, ordinary people are finding them unacceptable.

“Reprieve would like to see new laws that force governments to prosecute if they find evidence of torture, regardless of national security concerns.

“We also want a full, independent inquiry into Binyam’s case. People should write to their MPs to demand this and send messages of support for Binyam to [email protected]

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Tue 17 Mar 2009, 18:45 GMT
Issue No. 2143
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