Posts Tagged ‘British government’

High Court rejects Gaza war crimes case

July 28, 2009
Morning Star Online/UK, Monday 27 July 2009
A Palestinian boy holds up a Hamas flag on a destroyed house in Jebaliya, northern Gaza

A Palestinian boy holds up a Hamas flag on a destroyed house in Jebaliya, northern Gaza

The High Court has thrown out a legal bid by a Palestinian human rights group to hold the British government to account for its “complicity” in Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Ramallah-based Al-Haq accused the government of failing in its international legal obligations to stop “aid and trade” with Israel, including supplying arms, following Israeli incursions into Gaza in December and January which led to the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians.

Continued >>


British Weapons Inspector Dr Kelly Was Writing Book On Govt Secrets Before Mysterious Death

July 7, 2009


Daily Express/UK, July 5,  2009

Story ImageDr David Kelly

He was intending to reveal that he warned Prime Minister Tony Blair there were no weapons of mass destruction anywhere in Iraq weeks before the ­British and American invasion.

He had several discussions with a publisher in Oxford and was seeking advice on how far he could go without breaking the law on secrets.

Following his death, his computers were seized and it is still not known if any rough draft was discovered by investigators and, if so, what happened to the material.

Dr Kelly was also intending to lift the lid on a potentially bigger scandal, his own secret dealings in germ warfare with the apartheid regime in South Africa.

US television investigators have spent four years preparing a 90-minute documentary, Anthrax War, suggesting there is a global black market in anthrax and exposing the mystery “suicides” of five government germ warfare scientists from around the world.

“He wanted his story to come out”

Director Bob Coen said: ‘‘The deeper you look into the murky world of governments and germ warfare, the more worrying it becomes.

“We have proved there is a black ­market in anthrax. David Kelly was of particular interest to us because he was a world expert on anthrax and he was involved in some degree with assisting the secret germ warfare programme in apartheid South Africa.”

Dr Kelly was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home on July 17 2003. His apparent suicide came two days after he was interrogated in the ­Commons over his behind-the-scenes role in exposing the flaws in the “sexed-up” Number 10 dossier which justified Britain going to war with Iraq.

Conspiracy theorists have claimed he was murdered.

British author Gordon Thomas said last night: ‘‘I knew David Kelly very well and he called me because he was working on a book.

“He told me he had warned Tony Blair there were no weapons of mass destruction. I advised him that as he had signed the Official Secrets Act life could get ­difficult for him.

“I gained the impression that he was prepared to take the flak as he wanted his story to come out.”

Anthrax War will be screened ­privately in London on July 17, the sixth anniversary of Dr Kelly’s death.

Dr Barnsby’s letters to Gordon Brown and David Cameron

May 13, 2009

The Barnsby Blog, May 13, 2009

The following message has been emailed to  Gordon Brown today:

Dear Gordon,

When are you going to stop supporting the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere?

When are you going to oppose the daily slaughter of innocent civilians and our own troops?

When are you going to cease to be a party to Torture supported by and initiated by your own government?

And when are you going to understand that ending the wars will release such a flood of money that the Economic Slump we are currently suffering from would disappear overnight?

George Barnsby


A second message was sent today to David Cameron:

Dear David

When are you going to stop supporting the wars in Iraq and  Afghanistan and elsewhere and making yourself an accessory to the Torture sanctioned by the Brown government?

And when are you going to understand that ending these wars will release such a flood of money that the Economic Slump we are suffering from would disappear overnight?

And when are you going to end your hypocrisy of pretending to be a democrat when you do not reply to my correspondence?

A reply to this email is requested.

George Barnsby

Britain Tries to Block CIA Rendition Case

May 5, 2009
by William Fisher |,  May 05, 2009

British High Court judges are expected to rule this week on whether a document by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency can be publicly disclosed, thus opening the courthouse door to a lawsuit charging that the British government was complicit in facilitating the rendition of a British resident by the CIA, which tortured and secretly imprisoned him at Guantánamo Bay.

Lawyers acting for David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, last week made a last-ditch attempt to block the release of the CIA information, which reportedly shows what British authorities knew about the mistreatment of British resident Binyam Mohamed.

The information is a seven-paragraph summary of CIA documents, described earlier by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones as containing nothing which could “possibly be described as ‘highly sensitive classified U.S. intelligence.’”

In a ruling earlier this year, the High Court judges said: “Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials … relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.”

However, David Mackie, a senior government lawyer, told the two judges that Miliband had been told by Obama administration officials that the disclosure of the seven paragraphs “could likely result in serious damage to UK and U.S. national security.”

The claim was made despite Obama’s recent decision to release detailed information about CIA interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.

Lawyers for Mohamed say Obama’s action means it is highly unlikely that the president would object to the disclosure of the CIA summary.

This latest move in the long-running case in the High Court comes as a federal appeals court in the U.S. gave the legal green light to a case brought there by five men including Mohamed and another British resident, Bisher al-Rawi, who say they were tortured under the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.

The five former Guantánamo Bay detainees are suing Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan for allegedly providing flights to secret prisons overseas, where the abuse is said to have happened.

In what may become a landmark decision, a federal appeals court recently ruled that the “state secrets privilege” – routinely used by the government to block lawsuits against its officials – can only be used to contest specific evidence, but not to dismiss an entire suit.

The ruling, which was hailed by human rights advocates, came in connection with a lawsuit against a company known as Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the government’s “extraordinary rendition” program during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

“This is a tremendous step forward,” said Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the Britain-based legal charity Reprieve, referring to the decision in the U.S. case.

“Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi [another plaintiff] and perhaps many others are one step closer to making the CEOs of these companies stop and think before they commit criminal acts for profit,” he told IPS.

Reprieve’s renditions investigator Clara Gutteridge said: “It is inconceivable that Jeppesen acted alone. People in the highest echelons of the U.S. – and in some cases the UK– governments have authorized illegal rendition flights and must also be held accountable.”

The U.S. suit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the rendition program by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly “disappear” the five men to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. Jeppesen is a subsidiary of aerospace giant Boeing. The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

During the Bush administration, the government intervened when the case first came before a lower court in 2007, successfully asserting the “state secrets” privilege to have the case thrown out in February 2008. On appeal, the administration of President Barack Obama followed the same road as its predecessor. The appeals court has now reversed that decision.

But lawyers for the men who brought the case also sounded a note of caution. “This historic decision marks the beginning, not the end, of this litigation,” Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, told IPS. Wizner argued the case for the plaintiffs.

The U.S. appeals court ruling means that the government can assert the “state secrets” privilege for specific pieces of evidence, but not to end a case before it begins.

That means that the privilege is primarily an evidentiary privilege, a definition civil libertarians have long sought. The State Secrets Protection Act, now pending in Congress, would turn that definition into law.

The Obama administration now has three options. It can do nothing, which will mean the case will finally go before a U.S. court. It can ask the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case. Or it can appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

If the case goes to trial, the government can still argue that disclosing anything about Jeppesen’s relationship with the United States government would jeopardize national security secrets. But now it can no longer simply “assert” that privilege; it will have to convince a judge by arguing the point in court.

(Inter Press Service)

UN Condemns Britain’s Role in Torture Cases

March 11, 2009

Calls for investigation over Government’s involvement in US rendition programme

by Robert Verkaik | The Independent, UK, March 10, 2009

Britain was condemned last night for its complicity in the American programme of rendition and alleged torture of hundreds of terror suspects, in a highly critical United Nations report.

[Binyam Mohamed, a British resident, returned to the UK after being held captive in the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for four years (PA)]Binyam Mohamed, a British resident, returned to the UK after being held captive in the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for four years (PA)

The UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin said the US was only able to create its system for moving terror suspects around foreign jails because of the co-operation of allies, naming the UK alongside Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Canada and Georgia.The report led to a clamour of calls for a full and independent investigation into the Government’s involvement in the detention and movement of suspects since the start of the “war on terror” eight years ago.

Mr Scheinin’s findings follow accusations made by British resident Binyam Mohamed, who claims to have evidence of MI5 telegrams sent to the CIA, which he says were used to direct his alleged torture during his 18-month detention in Morocco, before he was sent to the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Some individuals faced “prolonged and secret detention” and practices which breached bans on torture and other forms of ill treatment, the report says.

“Evidence proves that Australian, British and US intelligence personnel have themselves interviewed detainees who were held incommunicado by the Pakistani secret intelligence service … where they were being tortured,” the report concludes. “UK intelligence personnel, for instance, conducted or witnessed just over 2,000 interviews in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq.”

Mr Scheinin says countries are “responsible” if they help other states carry out human rights violations.

“Grave human rights violations by states such as torture, enforced disappearances or arbitrary detention should place serious constraints on policies of co-operation by states, including by their intelligence agencies, with states that are known to violate human rights,” he said. “The prohibition against torture is an absolute and peremptory norm of international law. States must not aid or assist in the commission of acts of torture … including by relying on intelligence information obtained through torture,”

The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Ed Davey, called on the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, to make a decision now on whether to ask the police to investigate Mr Mohamed’s allegations. He added: “It is shameful that we now seem to be reliant on outside organisations to uphold the rule of law in our own country.”

The Conservative national security spokeswoman, Baroness Neville-Jones of Hutton Roof, said: “Constant allegations which are not answered are damaging the good name of this country and undermining the credibility of the Government’s position that it neither practises nor condones torture.”

Along with Romania, Poland, Germany and Italy, Britain is accused of using laws designed to protect national security to “conceal illegal acts from oversight bodies or judicial authorities, or to protect itself from criticism, embarrassment and – most importantly – liability”.

The Foreign Office said: “We unreservedly condemn any practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’ to torture. We have always condemned torture. The UK Government, including its intelligence and security agencies, never uses torture for any purpose, including obtaining information. Nor would we instigate action by others to do so.”

UK Defence Seretary: We did hand over terror suspects for rendition

February 27, 2009

Defence Secretary sorry for misleading statements made by ministers

By Kim Sengupta

The Independent, uk, Friday, 27 February 2009

Defence Secretary John Hutton speaking in the House of Commons yesterdayDefence Secretary John Hutton speaking in the House of Commons yesterday

The British Government admitted for the first time yesterday that it had been involved in “extraordinary rendition”. The Defence Secretary John Hutton disclosed that terror suspects handed over to the US in Iraq were flown out of the country for interrogation.

Contradicting previous insistences by the Government that it had no played no part in the controversial practice, John Hutton revealed that details of the cases were known by officials and detailed in documents sent to two cabinet members at the time – Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The prisoners, two men of Pakistani origin who were members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba group, which is said to be affiliated to al-Qa’ida, were captured by SAS troops serving near Baghdad in February 2004. They were handed over to US custody and flown to Afghanistan within the next few months. Among other inmates who passed through the prison was Binyam Mohammed, the UK citizen recently freed from Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Hutton apologised to the Commons “unreservedly” for misleading statements made by the Government in the past, adding “in retrospect, it is clear to me that the transfer to Afghanistan of these two individuals should have been questioned at the time”.

Yesterday, Mr Clarke said he had nothing to add. A spokesman for Mr Straw said “passing references” were made to the cases in documents but he “was not alerted to the specific cases at the time”.

There were immediate calls for an inquiry. The former shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the case was the “latest in a series of issues where the Government has been less than straightforward with regard to allegations of torture”.

A fellow Tory MP, Crispin Blunt, asked why the transfer had not been more fully investigated in 2004, adding: “It is at the very least unfortunate that both officials and ministers overlooked the significance of these cases, not least since the issue of rendition was already highly controversial … The country is owed an account of what happened – nothing does more to undermine our fight against terrorism and violence [than] if we depart from the rule of law and the values we seek to defend.”

Last night, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Ludford – who led an EU-wide inquiry into rendition in 2007 – said the admission was “another breach in the wall of denials and cover-ups”. She said there was further evidence of 170 stopovers at UK airports by CIA-operated aircraft flying to or from countries where prisoners could be tortured.

The Defence Secretary said the two men continue to be held in Afghanistan as “unlawful enemy combatants” and their status is reviewed on a regular basis. There was no “substantial evidence” he continued, that they had been mistreated or subjected to abuse.

However, a report released by Human Rights Watch in 2004 accused American forces in Afghanistan of inflicting “illegal and abusive treatment” on inmates. Members of the US Congress also alleged mistreatment, with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy saying some inmates had died. The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a formal complaint to the US in 2007.

Mr Hutton told MPs there had been a number of other errors in previous statements to the Commons, including the number of prisoners held by the UK in Iraq, where ministers “overstated by approximately 1,000 the numbers of detainees held by UK forces”.

Guantánamo: we need the truth

February 26, 2009

Without transparency about Binyam Mohamed’s torture, the damage done will linger for years after the camp’s closure

With a stoic grace, Binyam Mohamed has described his return to the UK today after seven long years of detention in Guantánamo Bay as “more in sadness than in anger”.

I have met that sense of emptiness and loss before. I have worked with two constituents who returned to the UK after a long incarceration in Guantánamo. In both cases the men had been illegally taken, in the process known as extraordinary rendition, by the CIA from an African country; and in both cases there were allegations of torture and degrading treatment. The journey to rebuild a life and to reconnect with family has been long, slow and fraught with pain. How do you come to terms with the lost years, the shame of allegations you cannot refute, or to witnessing humanity at its very darkest? Binyam Mohamed will need his friends and family around him, and the time and space to move on. It will therefore fall to others to ask the vital questions he is too weary to ask for himself.

We must not be squeamish or turn a blind eye to what has happened to him. Over seven years he has been shackled and blindfolded, flown to dark prisons across the world and kept incommunicado. He has made allegations of systematic torture, and says he had up to 20 or 30 cuts made into his penis and genitalia, with chemicals poured on the wounds for extra pain. In Guantánamo, reports suggest he was routinely humiliated and abused, resulting in long periods on hunger strike in protest. In all this time, Mohamed was never charged with a crime.

We might have expected the government to protect a UK resident from such barbaric treatment. Instead, their fingerprints are all over his case file.

Torture is wrong, pure and simple. Civilised and democratic governments, including Britain, should have absolutely no role in a practice that is both ineffective and inhumane, and there is no excuse to put our so-called special relationship with the US before the rule of law. It is not enough to simply speak out against torture: the foreign secretary has a duty to help root out and end such practices.

We cannot stamp out torture unless we know why and how it was allowed to happen in the first place. Barack Obama’s commitment to close Guantánamo is a huge leap forward, but we need a full investigation to make sure that such fundamental basic principles can never be flouted again. Without this openness and transparency, the damage done by Guantánamo will linger on long after the detention camp is closed.

The Labour government should be standing up to the United States, not colluding in a cover-up. If British residents have been subjected to torture, and if our own government have turned a blind eye, then we have a right to know. If the British government is sitting on vital evidence then it should immediately release it to the public.

Binyam Mohamed has said that, when he asked a camp guard why he was being tortured, the guard replied, “It’s just to degrade you, so when you leave here, you’ll have the scars and you’ll never forget.”

We should not forget either. The wounds and scars inflicted on Mohamed are not just a personal tragedy for him, they also represent a vicious assault on the values and humanity of our country. Labour’s already bruised and battered human rights record lies in tatters. President Obama has promised a fresh start but, before the slate can be wiped clean, we have to be told the truth.

Sarah Teather is Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Guantánamo Bay

How Bush Threatened Britain

February 8, 2009

Andrew Sullivan | The Atlantic, February 6, 2009

In order to prevent any details of its torture record being publicly disseminated, the Bush administration threatened the British government with withdrawal of intelligence sharing if they allowed a court to publish the redacted evidence. Foreign secretary David Miliband denied this on Wednesday, but the letters from the US have been released by Channel 4 News. And their message is unmistakable. The first letter:

“I write with respect to proceedings … regarding Mr Binyam Mohamed,” the letter said. “We note the classified documents identified in your letters of June 16 and August 1, 2008, to the acting general counsel of the Department of Defence … the public disclosure of these documents or of the information contained therein is likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm … intelligence information sharing arrangements between our two governments.”

The second:

“Ordering the disclosure of the US intelligence information now would have only the marginal effects of serious and lasting damage to the US-UK intelligence sharing relationship, and thus the national security of the UK …”

That is a threat to hurt the security of a very close ally unless the British government intervenes into a court process to suppress evidence of US torture. In a critical test of the Obama administration, the demand that such evidence be suppressed was reiterated. (I don’t know by whom. Panetta isn’t in place yet. Brennan? Clinton?) And that’s how illegal torture spreads throughout a legal and military system to undermine alliances as well as the rule of law. The poison of Cheney is still in the system. And it will be for a long time. That was the point: the crimes and blunders they committed were such that their successors find themselves, willy nilly, implicated in them.

Israel’s onslaught on Gaza is a crime that cannot succeed

December 31, 2008

The US-backed attempt to bring Hamas to heel by overwhelming force is in fact more likely to boost the movement’s appeal

Israel’s decision to launch its devastating attack on Gaza on a Saturday was a “stroke of brilliance”, the country’s biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot crowed: “the element of surprise increased the number of people who were killed”. The daily Ma’ariv agreed: “We left them in shock and awe”.

Of the ferocity of the assault on one of the most overcrowded and destitute corners of the earth, there is at least no question. In the bloodiest onslaught on blockaded Gaza since it was captured and occupied by Israel 41 years ago, at least 310 people were killed and more than a thousand reported injured in the first 48 hours alone.

As well as scores of ordinary police officers incinerated in a passing-out parade, at least 56 civilians were said by the UN to have died as Israel used American-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters to attack a string of civilian targets it linked to Hamas, including a mosque, private homes and the Islamic university. Hamas military and political facilities were mostly deserted, while police stations in residential areas were teeming as they were pulverised.

As Israeli journalist Amos Harel wrote in Ha’aretz at the weekend, “little or no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming innocent civilians”, as in US operations in Iraq. Among those killed in the first wave of strikes were eight teenage students waiting for a bus and four girls from the same family in Jabaliya, aged one to 12 years old.

Anyone who doubts the impact of these atrocities among Arabs and Muslims worldwide should switch on the satellite television stations that are watched avidly across the Middle East and which – unlike their western counterparts – do not habitually sanitise the barbarity meted out in the name of multiple wars on terror.

Then, having seen a child dying in her parent’s arms live on TV, consider what sort of western response there would have been to an attack on Israel, or the US or Britain for that matter, which left more than 300 dead in a couple of days.

You can be certain it would be met with the most sweeping condemnation, that the US president-elect would do a great deal more than “monitor” the situation and the British prime minister go much further than simply call for “restraint” on both sides.

But that is in fact all they did do, though the British government has since joined the call for a ceasefire. There has, of course, been no western denunciation of the Israeli slaughter – such aerial destruction is, after all, routinely called in by the US and Britain in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza are held responsible for what has been visited upon them. How could any government not respond with overwhelming force to the constant firing of rockets into its territory, the Israelis demand, echoed by western governments and media.

But that is to turn reality on its head. Like the West Bank, the Gaza Strip has been – and continues to be – illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. Despite the withdrawal of troops and settlements three years ago, Israel maintains complete control of the territory by sea, air and land. And since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel has punished its 1.5 million people with an inhuman blockade of essential supplies, backed by the US and the European Union.

Like any occupied people, the Palestinians have the right to resist, whether they choose to exercise it or not. But there is no right of defence for an illegal occupation – there is an obligation to withdraw comprehensively. During the last seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by mostly homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the world. And while no rockets are fired from the West Bank, 45 Palestinians have died there at Israel’s hands this year alone. The issue is of course not just the vast disparity in weapons and power, but that one side is the occupier, the other the occupied.

Hamas is likewise blamed for last month’s breakdown of the six-month tahdi’a, or lull. But, in a weary reprise of past ceasefires, it was in fact sunk by Israel’s assassination of six Hamas fighters in Gaza on 5 November and its refusal to lift its siege of the embattled territory as expected under an Egyptian-brokered deal. The truth is that Israel and its western sponsors have set their face against an accommodation with the Palestinians’ democratic choice and have instead thrown their political weight, cash and arms behind a sustained attempt to overthrow it.

The complete failure of that approach has brought us to this week’s horrific pass. Israeli leaders believe they can bomb Hamas into submission with a “decisive blow” that will establish a “new security environment” – and boost their electoral fortunes in the process before Barack Obama comes to office.

But as with Israel’s disastrous assault on Lebanon two years ago – or its earlier siege of Yasser Arafat’s PLO in Beirut in 1982 – it is a strategy that cannot succeed. Even more than Hezbollah, Hamas’s appeal among Palestinians and beyond doesn’t derive from its puny infrastructure, or even its Islamist ideology, but its spirit of resistance to decades of injustice. So long as it remains standing in the face of this onslaught, its influence will only be strengthened. And if it is not with rockets, its retaliation is bound to take other forms, as Hamas’s leader Khalid Mish’al made clear at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the US and Israeli-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has been further diminished by being seen as having colluded in the Israeli assault on his own people – as has the already rock-bottom credibility of the Egyptian regime. What is now taking place in the Palestinian territories is a futile crime in which the US and its allies are deeply complicit – and unless Obama is prepared to change course, it is likely to have bitter consequences that will touch us all.