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Archive for April 2nd, 2009

David Davis on UK government complicity in torture

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From The Guardian

Last week, the attorney general referred the case of Binyam Mohamed to the police. This confirms what many of us already knew or suspected, that there is a prima facie case to answer that government agents colluded in the torture of one or several of the detainees picked up in Pakistan. It is important to understand what is meant by “colluded” in this case. It does not mean that British agents wielded the instruments of torture or were present when the pain was being inflicted. But neither does it simply mean negligence, as was suggested by one ill-informed, so-called security specialist on the BBC.

What has happened is that British agents have co-operated with foreign powers when they had good reason to believe that they were torturing British citizens or residents, providing information and questions to these foreign governments. This often involved getting the foreign agencies to put questions A, B and C under torture, so that once they had the answers, British agents could turn up and put the same questions without torture.

Pakistani intelligence service agents have told researchers that this procedure was followed with several different subjects and several different British agents. This is not about one “rogue agent”. It is systemic… It is inconceivable that the requirement for a foreign secretary’s warrant was not included in the standard operating procedure of the agencies involved. Given the severity of the laws against torture, both British and international, it is also inconceivable that it was not clear that the law was being broken.

So one of two things has happened. Either a foreign secretary has approved complicity in torture, in which case that foreign secretary should be on a criminal charge, or the system has suffered a massive breakdown, in which case heads should roll at the agency. But it is going to be difficult for the police, even with access to all the papers and all the British officers, to get to the core of the breakdown. Indeed, that is not their job. They will be looking, quite properly, to bring a criminal case against an individual.

Written by Richard Wilson

April 2, 2009 at 10:08 am