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RENDERED SPEECHLESS

24-02-2009

The return to UK soil of Binyan Mohamed closes a disgraceful chapter in British history, with MI5 apparently complicit in the torture of a British resident. Dr David Nicholl, who has highlighted his case on The Stirrer welcomes his return.

The return of Binyam Mohamed to the UK is to be welcomed.

I first wrote about his case in 2007 and the details of his torture raise troubling aspects of the role of MI5 agents in his interrogations in Pakistan and Morocco with credible reports of torture including the use of a razor blade to his penis.

After being arrested in Pakistan in 2002, he spent a total of 18 months in a secret prison in Morocco, where at various points during his numerous interrogations he would have a scalpel or razor taken to his chest wall and penis as part of the interrogation process.

I’ll spare you the details, although they are described at length in his lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith’s book “Bad Men” . There is no doubt in my mind having read Clive’s testimony that what Binyam went through was torture, that he was illegally held and that British agents were directly complicit in his detention.

All of these are breaches of international law and there should be a full and thorough investigation. Further than that, it is now clear that Guantanamo is quite literally the tip of the iceberg with an excess of 20,000 individuals being held ‘incommunicado’ a variety of secret prisons according to human rights groups from analysis of the Pentagon’s own records.

These prisons are largely in Afghanistan and Iraq but stretching to Diego Garcia, are connected by the CIAs “extraordinary rendition” programme of secret flights. All of this is in complete breach of international law, but it does raise one specific question can “ extraordinary rendition” ever be justified?

I would argue that there can be limited reasons for its use. All countries have legitimate reasons to protect their citizens and uphold the law.

However with the best will in the world, not all nations have the rule of law nor extradition treaties to bring suspects to trial. So if the authorities were aware of an Al Qaeda suspect in Somalia or some other lawless state, it would be entirely reasonable to perform an “extraordinary rendition”- but only if this meant bringing the suspect into the law so that a trial could establish his guilt or innocence. This did not happen in Binyam’s case - far from it.

You may think I’m just legally nit-picking but it is the difference between the state legitimately investigating crime and state-sponsored kidnapping.

Many years ago, the Israeli secret service tracked down the Nazi War criminal, Adolf Eichmann, to Argentina and performed an “extraordinary rendition”. Likewise when the French tracked the terrorist Carlos the Jackal to Sudan, he was ‘rendered’ to France where he was found guilty of terrorism and remains in prison.

The point is in both the Eichmann and the Jackal case that although a rendition was performed, a proper court case took place and they were found guilty.

In the Binyam Mohamed case, he was rendered but instead of a court case, he faced torture and abandonment with the complicity of the UK government. He is now free as an innocent man.

Although the current UK and US governments were instrumental in his release, there have to be significant questions about what previous foreign ministers and Tony Blair knew about his torture and illegal detention. The government line of “the UK government does not torture” is looking increasingly like empty rhetoric.

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