04-12-2006, 01:54 PM
by Victoria Brittain
Fabricating Terrorism: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture
This report for CagePrisoners, written and researched by a lawyer with the help of various human rights groups and activists, is the first systematic attempt to pull together the evidence of many Muslim men and boys with British links, arrested in numerous countries as part of the US and UK “war on terror.” In the detail lies a chilling story of incompetence, prejudice, and injustice, which should have an impact on the MPs and civil servants who have the power to force a change in practices which are eating at British society.
The nearly 200 sources given for the report are both these men themselves and their lawyers, and media. It is the firsthand stories, few of which have been in the media except in a sketchy way, which reveal the depths of terror which these men have been subjected to.
In recent weeks the practice of rendition has finally come under some serious media scrutiny in the UK, and has been taken up by a Parliamentary Group – not before time as it has been public knowledge for more than two years. This report has done much of the parliamentary group’s work for them, most importantly in drawing the direct link between rendition and torture. In the overwhelming majority of the cases studied, rendition led directly to torture.
US officials have recently attempted to normalise the use of rendition, as a practice that is not new, but just routine security, more necessary after September 11 2001. These were attempts to minimise the shock and revulsion felt by so many people as it was revealed in a handful of high profile cases – such as the two Egyptians taken from Sweden to Cairo, the Syrian taken from a US airport to Syria, the German taken from Macedonia to Afghanistan - that it is the US government practice to kidnap people and fly them to various countries in order for them to be tortured. There has been public outrage at these cases, but not enough to force the apologies and compensation which are due. There are too many, many more known cases which have not made these headlines, and are conveniently forgotten by the authorities.
In the ten case studies here of British citizens and residents taken to Guantanamo Bay, UK intelligence officers, from either MI5 or MI6, were directly involved in the arrests, and/or the interrogations of the men before they were flown to, variously, Morocco and Afghanistan, as a way station for physical and psychological torture.
In another three cases detailed, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Farid Hilali, and Ahmad al Iraqi, British officials have been present or have themselves interrogated men tortured in Pakistan, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
These are very serious charges against the security services’ mode of operation and can not be dismissed as routine security precautions. This paper spells out with admirable clarity the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act of 1988, which under Article 3 establish that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” There is no convincing way of arguing, as the Home Secretary has attempted to do, that the UK government, its intelligence services, and the individuals involved in these arrests and interrogations, were acting within the law. This paper revisits the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for the definition of torture, including the routine humiliation of a person, and finds that practices at Guantanamo certainly meet the criteria. Although the Blair government in recent weeks, under increasing pressure from public opinion, says it wants to see Guantanamo closed, this report shows how much more the government needs to do to change its attitudes and practices which have crushed so many families, and brought fear into many British communities.
Another theme which emerges from this report, and which has previously not been paid the attention it merits, is the systematic attempts to get almost all these young men to work for the security services in return for being got out of jail, or for regularising their immigration status. The serious lack of intelligence about terrorist plans inside the UK was demonstrated on July 7 2005, but random fishing expeditions among Muslim men, vulnerable because they are in Guantanamo or other prisons where they have been tortured and terrorised, is not going to solve this kind of problem within British society.
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