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‘Terror’ cover for attacks on civil liberties

This article is over 12 years, 10 months old
The "war on terror" has meant the worst abuses of civil liberties and human rights in generations.
Issue 2268

The “war on terror” has meant the worst abuses of civil liberties and human rights in generations.

The British and US governments introduced detention without trial, and have been complicit in torture, illegal kidnap, deportations—known as rendition—and networks of secret prisons across the world.

“Anti-terror” laws

People can now be stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act with no reason given. The act has led to Muslims in particular being harassed in the streets.

It also made legal the detention of terror suspects without trial. It brought us control orders—long-term house arrest and monitoring, isolating suspects from the outside world.

Babar Ahmad has been held without trial since 2004. He has never seen the case against him.

Guantanamo Bay

The US set up this prison camp in territory it controls in Cuba so it could avoid giving detainees legal rights. Over 170 people have been held there, and around 50 remain to this day.

Those taken to Guantanamo who lived in Britain included Binyam Mohamed and Moazzam Begg, who were arrested separately in Pakistan. Moazzam was held in Guantanamo for two years and Binyam for five.

Shaker Aamer, a London resident, is still held. Landmark legal cases have helped to highlight the constant interrogation and torture prisoners there face, with no legal recourse.


Terror suspects have been arrested and flown to authoritarian regimes to be “interrogated”. This has become known as “extraordinary rendition”.

US and British intelligence agents fed the torturers questions to ask prisoners.

Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer, said, “If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear… you send them to Egypt.”

Rendition became a multi-million dollar business, as was revealed last week by a legal dispute between two aviation companies in the US.

Torture in Iraq

The photographs of the torture of Iraqi detainees by British and US troops at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other prisons in Iraq, have become lasting images of the occupation.

Detainees were deprived of sleep, electrocuted, sexually and physically abused—and threatened with death. It is still unclear how many Iraqis died this way. Many have disappeared.

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