Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Office’

Miliband faces new ‘torture cover-up’ storm

February 16, 2009

Richard Norton-Taylor | The Guardian, Monday 16 February 2009

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, was last night facing fresh pressure over torture allegations after it was revealed that his officials asked the US for help in suppressing crucial evidence.

The Foreign Office solicited a letter from the US to back up its claim that if the evidence was disclosed, Washington could stop sharing intelligence with Britain. The claim persuaded two high court judges earlier this month to suppress what they called “powerful evidence” relating to the ill treatment of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident being held in Guantánamo Bay.

In response to the British request, John Bellinger, the state department’s chief legal adviser, said in a letter to the Foreign Office last August: “We want to affirm the public disclosure of these documents is likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing intelligence information-sharing arrangements between our two governments”.

In their judgment, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones made it clear that without Miliband’s claim about what they called the “gravity of the threat” from the US, they would have ordered the evidence to be revealed. Though the judges repeatedly used the word “threat”, Miliband subsequently denied the US had threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Britain.

Miliband’s denial last week led lawyers for Mohamed and the media, including the Guardian, to ask the judges to reopen the case on the grounds that the foreign secretary had fundamentally undermined his case. The judges agreed, against Foreign Office opposition, to reopen the case next month.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, the legal charity which represents Mohamed, said yesterday: “This just isn’t going to go away unless both the US and the UK stop trying to suppress evidence of torture”.

Musharraf may seek sanctuary in UK

August 21, 2008

Press TV, Thu, 21 Aug 2008 02:23:29 GMT

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf may seek sanctuary in Britain amid reports that London intervened to ensure a safe exit for him.

Reports have been circulating in recent days that President Pervez Musharraf will seek sanctuary in Britain, the Press TV correspondent in London reported on Thursday.

There are also rumors that the British government had encouraged the Pakistani government to reach a deal with Musharraf to resign in return for immunity.

The British Foreign Office denies the allegations but an official told our correspondent that should Musharraf choose to reside in Britain, there would be no obstacles.

Dilip Hiro, an expert in South Asia said any country that gives sanctuary to Musharraf would face difficulties because that country should pay millions of dollars for his safety.

The last time Musharraf came to the UK, protestors were angry with him over violating democracy in the elections.

Musharraf resigned on Monday after a televised speech, during which he defended his performance as president.

US ‘held suspects on British territory in 2006’

August 3, 2008

Terrorist suspects were held by the United States on the British territory of Diego Garcia as recently as 2006, according to senior intelligence sources. The claims, which undermine Foreign Office denials that the archipelago in the Indian Ocean has been used as a so-called ‘black site’ to facilitate extraordinary rendition, threaten to cause a diplomatic incident.

The government has repeatedly accepted US assurances that Diego Garcia has not been used to hold high-ranking members of al-Qaeda who have been flown to secret interrogation centres around the world in ‘ghost’ planes hired by the CIA. Interrogation techniques used on suspects are said to include ‘waterboarding’, a simulated drowning that Amnesty International claims is a form of torture. But now the government’s denials over Diego Garcia’s role in extraordinary rendition are crumbling. Senior American intelligence sources have claimed that the US has been holding terrorist suspects on the British territory as recently as two years ago.

The former intelligence officers unofficially told senior Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón that Mustafa Setmarian, a Spanish-based Syrian accused of running terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, was taken to Diego Garcia in late 2005 and held there for months. The Spanish are trying to locate and arrest Setmarian for separate terrorist offences.

It is thought that more than 10 high-ranking detainees have been held on Diego Garcia or on a US navy vessel within its harbour since 2002. The suggestion, if true, is acutely embarrassing for the British government which has admitted only that planes carrying al-Qaeda suspects landed on Diego Garcia on two occasions in 2002.

However, a former senior American official familiar with conversations in the White House has also told Time magazine that in the same year Diego Garcia was used to hold and interrogate at least one terrorist suspect.

The Council of Europe has also raised concerns that the UK territory has been used to house detainees. Earlier this year Manfred Novak, the United Nations special investigator on torture, told The Observer he had talked to detainees who had been held on the archipelago in 2002, but declined to name them.

The human rights group Reprieve said it believes most of high-level detainees captured by the US have been rendered through Diego Garcia at one time or another. These include Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi accused of being one of al-Qaeda’s top strategists, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly the mastermind behind 9/11.

‘We are confident high-value prisoners have been held on Diego Garcia for interrogation and possible torture,’ said a Reprieve spokeswoman. ‘We now have sources from the CIA, the UN, the Council of Europe and a Spanish judge who will confirm this.’

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