Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

UK complained to US about terror suspect torture, says ex-MI5 boss

March 10, 2010

Waterboarding of 9/11 suspect was ‘concealed’
Manningham-Buller criticises Bush staff

Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian/UK, March 10, 2010
Manningham Buller

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller criticised George Bush and his administration, for torture of terror suspects Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

The government protested to the US over the torture of terror suspects, the former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller revealed last night.

She also said the Americans concealed from Britain the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 2001 attacks.

“The Americans were very keen that people like us did not discover what they were doing,” Lady Manningham-Buller told a meeting at the House of Lords.

Continues >>

Advertisements

Reprieve: Tell us the truth about torture

February 24, 2010

Morning Star Online, February 23, 2010

by Paddy McGuffin
The legal charity will launch a court  bid to uncover interrogation guidance

The legal charity will launch a court bid to uncover interrogation guidance

Human rights group Reprieve has launched a legal challenge aimed at forcing the government to publish its guidance to MI5 and MI6 agents on interrogation practices.

Reprieve and Leigh Day & Co solicitors announced they are seeking a judicial review of the code of practice used by British intelligence services at a press conference in London.

The application states that there is “compelling evidence” demonstrating that, since at least 2002, “UK intelligence personnel have been engaged in activities amounting to complicity in torture” and that “the inevitable inference is that such activities have been in conformity with unlawful promulgated policies and guidance.”

Continues >>

‘The UK is not a banana republic’

December 18, 2009
By Daud Abdullah, Al Jazeera, Dec 18, 2009


More than half of the 1,400 Gazans killed during Operation Cast Lead were civilians  [GALLO/GETTY]

David Miliband, the UK’s foreign secretary, has apologised to his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, after the humiliation and embarrassment caused by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister.The arrest warrant was issued over Livni’s suspected war crimes role during Israel’s war on Gaza, but was later withdrawn after she cancelled her visit to London.

Miliband also promised to begin work immediately to change UK laws to ensure that no such warrants would be issued for Israeli officials in the future. As an added sweetener to the act of contrition, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, also personally called Livni to assure her she would always be welcomed to visit the UK.

All of this is easier said than done. Already there is a huge outcry in Britain over the mere thought of changing UK laws or reneging on treaty obligations simply to protect Israeli officials involved in the serial breach of international law.

In their deluded fantasy the Israelis claim that the judicial order in London will seriously impair bi-lateral relations between London and Tel Aviv, jeopardise the Middle East peace process and undermine Britain’s image in the region.

Historic Middle East role

Human rights groups have accused Livni of crimes against humanity

What a gross distortion. Britain’s historic relationship and role in the Middle East is unquestioned. Even though it has on many occasions acted against the national interests of the people of the region and the Palestinians in particular, it would be wishful thinking to suggest that it could be excluded from future negotiations.Instead of being eternally grateful to Britain for creating their state in Palestine, Israeli officials are today attempting to bite the very hand that fed them.

To claim that Britain is in trouble or would be the loser because of the court order is disingenuous. Actually, the only losers are those who planned, commissioned and executed the war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.

They are the ones in hot water, so to speak, and the greatest service Brown could make on behalf of universal jurisdiction is to leave them to stew in it.

These sentiments were expressed by his former cabinet colleague Clare Short, a member of the Labour Party and an independent MP, while addressing a conference organised by the Palestinian Return Centre, in London.

A former minister for international development, Short said the crimes committed in Gaza during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last year marked a defining moment in the conflict. She criticised how Israel has undermined the international system by its cavalier breach of conventions and established norms in an apparent attempt to tell the world that there are special laws for certain states and that it is a state above the law.

She derided the hypocrisy of those who seek to prosecute Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, while at the same time they refuse and obstruct efforts to investigated and prosecute Israeli criminals.

Violations of international law

The groveling apology to Israel, after the British ambassador was summoned for a reprimand by the Israeli foreign ministry, is the type of reaction expected from a banana republic, not from Great Britain.

Should the foreign secretary entertain Lieberman, a Jewish settler himself and a resident of Nokdim, a West Bank settlement considered illegal under international law? What a contradiction.

The official policy of the UK government is that all settlements in the lands occupied in 1967 are illegal and violate UN Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is poignant to point out that Livni’s father and mother were regarded as “terrorists” by the British Mandate authorities in Palestine in the 1940s and were both captured and locked up. Under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Britain still has an obligation to “to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts”.

What is at stake in this imbroglio is the independence of the British judiciary, an institution that for hundreds of years has been a source of national pride and emulated by many nations.

It is for this reason there is anger and outrage over the government’s declared intent to succumb to Israel. The implication, of course, is the fear that in future Britain would not be able to lay any claim to be a bastion and guardian of international law. The rhetoric of ‘rule of law’ will run hollow if there was any change of the law for no other reason except to protect war criminals who happen to be members of the club.

Compelling evidence

Palestinians run for cover after an Israeli air raid struck a UN school in Gaza [AFP]

It must be recalled that these laws came into being because of the Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity. Only last month there was great satisfaction and hubris when John Demjanjuk was brought before a German court more than 60 years after allegedly committing his crimes.The message was clear: that war crimes and crimes against humanity are so repugnant that they must not go unpunished.

The case against the Israeli minister and her accomplices was made not by Richard Goldstone only.

A number of independent reports including the report of Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza to the Arab League, the Martin Commission report to the UN secretary-general on attacks on UN premises, and reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights and the National Lawyers Guild, all support the conclusion that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by the Israeli military in its Operation Cast Lead.

It was because of this compelling evidence that a British judge issued the warrant for Livni’s arrest. To present the matter as if it were a malicious witch hunt is simply beside the point. Surely it would be a travesty of justice if what occurred in Gaza was not investigated and prosecuted.

Peace in the region has remained elusive precisely because of this failure to be even-handed in the application of international law, always at the expense of Palestinian rights.

If Palestinians do not have recourse to the law, one wonders what other options are left to them when their legitimate grievances are ignored.

Daud Abdullah is the director of the Middle East Monitor, an independent media research institution founded in the United Kingdom to foster a fair and accurate coverage in the Western media of Middle Eastern issues and in particular the Palestine Question.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

The international league of war criminals

December 17, 2009

Chris Marsden, wsws.org, Dec 17, 2009

The issuing of a British arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister and current leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni is only the latest event confirming an international body of legal opinion that Israel should be tried for war crimes over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Livni was a member of the war cabinet during Operation Cast Lead, the offensive against Gaza between December 27, 2008 and January 18 this year. Some 1,400 Palestinians—the majority of them civilians, including 400 women and children—were killed, at least 5,000 people were injured, and 21,000 homes and other vital infrastructure were destroyed.

Continued >>

Blair sold Iraq on WMD, but only regime change adds up

December 15, 2009

The PM seems to have deployed arguments as they suited him. Our weapons inspections were telling another story

Before the Iraq war was launched in March 2003 the world was given the impression by the US and Britain that the goal was to eradicate weapons of mass destruction. Recent comments by Tony Blair suggest, however, that regime change was the essential aim. He would have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein even if he had known that there were no WMD, he said, but he would obviously have had to “deploy” different arguments. Must we not conclude that the WMD arguments were “deployed” mainly as the best way of selling the war? Blair’s comments do not exclude a strong – but mistaken – belief in the existence of WMD even when the invasion was launched. However, given that hundreds of inspections had found no WMD and important evidence had fallen apart, such a belief would have been based on a lack of critical thinking.

How could the issue of – non-existent – WMD mislead the world for more than 10 years? At the end of the Gulf war in 1991 the UN security council ordered Iraq to declare all WMD and destroy them under international supervision. However, Iraq chose to destroy much material without any inspection, giving rise to suspicions that weapons had been squirrelled away. These were nurtured by the frequent Iraqi refusals throughout the 90s to let UN inspectors enter sites and by evasive and erroneous responses to inspectors’ inquiries.

What other reason could there have been than to prevent inspectors getting evidence of existing weapons? It is possible that Saddam wanted to create the – false – impression that he still had WMD. What seems more likely to me, however, was a sense of hurt pride, a wish to defy and the knowledge that some of the inspectors worked directly for western intelligence – perhaps even passed information about suitable military targets.

Only in September 2002, when the US had already moved troops to Kuwait, did Iraq say it was to accept the inspection that the UN demanded. By that time a new US national security strategy declared that it could take armed (pre-emptive or preventive) action without UN authorisation; many in the Bush administration saw UN involvement as a potential impediment.

Many are convinced that the American and UK military plans moved on autopilot, and the inspections were a charade. I am sure that many in the Bush team felt that way. It seems likely that British and American leaders expected that UN inspections would again be obstructed or that Iraqi violation of the draconian new resolution 1441 would persuade the security council to authorise military action to remove the regime. For my part, I tended to think of the war preparations rather as a train moving slowly to the front and helping to make Iraq co-operative. If something removed or reduced the weapons issue, the train, I thought, might stop.

For the UK to join the US on an unpredictable UN line was a gamble – and in the end it failed. Inspections did not turn up any “smoking guns” and gradually undermined some of the evidence that had been invoked. Iraq became more co-operative and showed no defiance that could prompt the authorising of armed force. Thus, while the train of war moved on, the UN path pointed less and less to an authorisation of war.

What could the UK have done to avoid this development? It could have made a condition of its participation in the enterprise that the movement of the military train be synchronised with the movement on the UN path. With inspections just starting in the autumn of 2002 the military train should have moved very slowly. We have heard that Karl Rove had said that the autumn of 2003 was the latest time for invasion. Why so fast then in 2002? As the then German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said: what was the sense of demanding UN inspections for two and a half years and then let them work only for a few months? Of course, if regime change – and not WMD – was the main aim, the steady speed becomes logical.

The responsibility for launching the war must be judged against the knowledge that the allies had when they actually started it. The UK should have recognised that no smoking gun had been found at any time, and that in the months before the invasion evidence of WMD was beginning to unravel. As we have heard recently: out of 19 Iraqi sites suspected by the UK – and suggested to the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission for inspection (Unmovic) – 10 were actually inspected, and while “interesting”, none turned up any WMD. This warning that sources were not reliable seems to have been ignored. Intelligence organisations seem to have been 100% convinced of the existence of WMD but to have had 0% knowledge where they were. Worse still: the uranium contract between Iraq and Niger that George Bush had given prominence in his 2002 state of the union message was found by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be a forgery.

The absence of convincing evidence of WMD did not stop the train to war. It arrived at the front before the weather got too hot and the soldiers got impatient waiting for action. The factual reports of the IAEA and Unmovic did, however, have the result that a majority on the security council wanted more inspections and were unconvinced about the existence of WMD.

At the end the UK tried desperately to get some kind of authorisation from the security council as a legal basis for armed action – but failed. Confirming the fears of Dick Cheney, President Bush’s vice-president, the UN and inspections became an impediment – not to armed action, but to legitimacy.

Unlike the US, the UK and perhaps other members of the alliance were not ready to claim a right to preventive war against Iraq regardless of security council authorisation. In these circumstances they developed and advanced the argument that the war was authorised by the council under a series of earlier resolutions. As Condoleezza Rice put it, the alliance action “upheld the authority of the council”. It was irrelevant to this argument that China, France, Germany and Russia explicitly opposed the action and that a majority on the council declined to give the requested green light for the armed action. If hypocrisy is the compliment that virtue pays to vice then strained legal arguments are the compliments that violators of UN rules pay to the UN charter.

United Kingdom: Stand up for Palestinians and be counted

September 15, 2009
Morning Star Online, September 14,  2009
by Hugh Lanning

At this year’s TUC conference, delegates will have an opportunity to regain the leading role that trade unions played in confronting apartheid South Africa by adopting practical solidarity with Palestinians.

In the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza, unions passed a wave of motions calling for solidarity action.

The Fire Brigades Union, which is moving the motion at Congress, voted to support and promote throughout the trade union and labour movement a campaign to boycott Israeli goods, disinvest from Israeli institutions and impose sanctions against Israel.

Continues >>

Half of All the Fruit & Veg You Buy is Contaminated

August 3, 2009
by Rob Edwards | The Sunday Herald/UK, Aug. 2, 2009

Almost Half of the fresh fruit and veg sold across the UK is contaminated with toxic pesticides, according to the latest scientific surveys for the government.

Nearly every orange, 94% of pineapples and 90% of pears sampled were laced with traces of chemicals used to kill bugs. High proportions of apples, grapes and tomatoes were also tainted, as were parsnips, melons and cucumbers.

Continues >>

Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims

May 21, 2009

‘Work for us or we will say you are a terrorist’

By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor | The Independent, UK, May 21, 2009

Mohamed Aden, 25, who was approached by a fake postman

TERI PENGILLEY

Mohamed Aden, 25, who was approached by a fake postman

Five Muslim community workers have accused MI5 of waging a campaign of blackmail and harassment in an attempt to recruit them as informants.

The men claim they were given a choice of working for the Security Service or face detention and harassment in the UK and overseas.

They have made official complaints to the police, to the body which oversees the work of the Security Service and to their local MP Frank Dobson. Now they have decided to speak publicly about their experiences in the hope that publicity will stop similar tactics being used in the future.

Intelligence gathered by informers is crucial to stopping further terror outrages, but the men’s allegations raise concerns about the coercion of young Muslim men by the Security Service and the damage this does to the gathering of information in the future.

Three of the men say they were detained at foreign airports on the orders of MI5 after leaving Britain on family holidays last year.

After they were sent back to the UK, they were interviewed by MI5 officers who, they say, falsely accused them of links to Islamic extremism. On each occasion the agents said they would lift the travel restrictions and threat of detention in return for their co-operation. When the men refused some of them received what they say were intimidating phone calls and threats.

Two other Muslim men say they were approached by MI5 at their homes after police officers posed as postmen. Each of the five men, aged between 19 and 25, was warned that if he did not help the security services he would be considered a terror suspect. A sixth man was held by MI5 for three hours after returning from his honeymoon in Saudi Arabia. He too claims he was threatened with travel restrictions if he tried to leave the UK.

An agent who gave her name as Katherine is alleged to have made direct threats to Adydarus Elmi, a 25-year-old cinema worker from north London. In one telephone call she rang him at 7am to congratulate him on the birth of his baby girl. His wife was still seven months’ pregnant and the couple had expressly told the hospital that they did not want to know the sex of their child.

Mr Elmi further alleges: “Katherine tried to threaten me by saying, and it still runs through my mind now: ‘Remember, this won’t be the last time we ever meet.’ And then during our last conversation she explained: ‘If you do not want anything to happen to your family you will co-operate.'”

Madhi Hashi, a 19-year-old care worker from Camden, claims he was held for 16 hours in a cell in Djibouti airport on the orders of MI5. He alleges that when he was returned to the UK on 9 April this year he was met by an MI5 agent who told him his terror suspect status would remain until he agreed to work for the Security Service. He alleges that he was to be given the job of informing on his friends by encouraging them to talk about jihad.

Mohamed Nur, 25, a community youth worker from north London, claims he was threatened by the Security Service after an agent gained access to his home accompanied by a police officer posing as a postman.

“The MI5 agent said, ‘Mohamed if you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you try to travel to that you are a suspected terrorist.'”

Mohamed Aden, 25, a community youth worker from Camden, was also approached by someone disguised as a postman in August last year. He alleges an agent told him: “We’re going to make your travelling harder for you if you don’t co-operate.”

None of the six men, who work with disadvantaged youths at the Kentish Town Community Organisation (KTCO), has ever been arrested for terrorism or a terrorism-related offence.

They have repeatedly complained about their treatment to the police and to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which oversees the work of the Security Services.

In a letter to Lord Justice Mummery, who heads the tribunal, Sharhabeel Lone, the chairman of the KTCO, said: “The only thing these young people have in common is that they studied Arabic abroad and are of Somali origin. They are not involved in any terrorist activity whatsoever, nor have they ever been, and the security services are well aware of this.”

Mr Sharhabeel added: “These incidents smack of racism, Islamophobia and all that undermines social cohesion. Threatening British citizens, harassing them in their own country, alienating young people who have committed no crime other than practising a particular faith and being a different colour is a recipe for disaster.

“These disgraceful incidents have undermined 10 years of hard work and severely impacted social cohesion in Camden. Targeting young people that are role models for all young people in our country in such a disparaging way demonstrates a total lack of understanding of on-the-ground reality and can only be counter-productive.

“When people are terrorised by the very same body that is meant to protect them, sowing fear, suspicion and division, we are on a slippery slope to an Orwellian society.”

Frank Dobson said: “To identify real suspects from the Muslim communities MI5 must use informers. But it seems that from what I have seen some of their methods may be counter-productive.”

Last night MI5 and the police refused to discuss the men’s complaints with The Independent. But on its website, MI5 says it is untrue that the Security Service harasses Muslims.

The organisation says: “We do not investigate any individuals on the grounds of ethnicity or religious beliefs. Countering the threat from international terrorists, including those who claim to be acting for Islam, is the Security Service’s highest priority.

“We know that attacks are being considered and planned for the UK by al-Qai’da and associated networks. International terrorists in this country threaten us directly through violence and indirectly through supporting violence overseas.”

It adds: “Muslims are often themselves the victims of this violence – the series of terrorist attacks in Casablanca in May 2003 and Riyadh in May and November 2003 illustrate this.

“The service also employs staff of all religions, including Muslims. We are committed to recruiting a diverse range of staff from all backgrounds so that we can benefit from their different perspectives and experience.”

MI5 and me: Three statements

Mahdi Hashi: ‘I told him: this is blackmail’

Last month, 19-year-old Mahdi Hashi arrived at Gatwick airport to take a plane to visit his sick grandmother in Djibouti, but as he was checking in he was stopped by two plainclothes officers. One of the officers identified himself as Richard and said he was working for MI5.

Mr Hashi said: “He warned me not to get on the flight. He said ‘Whatever happens to you outside the UK is not our responsibility’. I was absolutely shocked.” The agent handed Mr Hashi a piece of paper with his name and telephone contact details and asked him to call him.

“The whole time he tried to make it seem like he was looking after me. And just before I left them at my boarding gate I remember ‘Richard’ telling me ‘It’s your choice, mate, to get on that flight but I advise you not to,’ and then he winked at me.”

When Mr Hashi arrived at Djibouti airport he was stopped at passport control. He was then held in a room for 16 hours before being deported back to the UK. He claims the Somali security officers told him that their orders came from London. More than 24 hours after he first left the UK he arrived back at Heathrow and was detained again.

“I was taken to pick up my luggage and then into a very discreet room. ‘Richard’ walked in with a Costa bag with food which he said was for me, my breakfast. He said it was them who sent me back because I was a terror suspect.” Mr Hashi, a volunteer youth leader at Kentish Town Community Organisation in north London, alleges that the officer made it clear that his “suspect” status and travel restrictions would only be lifted if he agreed to co-operate with MI5. “I told him ‘This is blatant blackmail’; he said ‘No, it’s just proving your innocence. By co-operating with us we know you’re not guilty.’

“He said I could go and that he’d like to meet me another time, preferably after [May] Monday Bank Holiday. I looked at him and said ‘I don’t ever want to see you or hear from you again. You’ve ruined my holiday, upset my family, and you nearly gave my sick grandmother in Somalia a heart attack’.”

Adydarus Elmi: ‘MI5 agent threatened my family’

When the 23-year-old cinema worker from north London arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport with his pregnant wife, they were separated, questioned and deported back to Britain.

Three days later Mr Elmi was contacted on his mobile phone and asked to attend Charing Cross police station to discuss problems he was having with his travel documents. “I met a man and a woman,” he said. “She said her name was Katherine and that she worked for MI5. I didn’t know what MI5 was.”

For two-and-a-half hours Mr Elmi faced questions. “I felt I was being lured into working for MI5.” The contact did not stop there. Over the following weeks he claims “Katherine” harassed him with dozens of phone calls.

“She would regularly call my mother’s home asking to speak to me,” he said. “And she would constantly call my mobile.”

In one disturbing call the agent telephoned his home at 7am to congratulate him on the birth of his baby girl. His wife was still seven months pregnant and the couple had expressly told the hospital that they did not want to know the sex of their child.

“Katherine tried to threaten me by saying – and it still runs through my mind now – ‘Remember, this won’t be the last time we ever meet”, and then during our last conversation explained: ‘If you do not want anything to happen to your family you will co-operate’.”

Mohamed Nur

Mohamed Nur, 25, first came into contact with MI5 early one morning in August 2008 when his doorbell rang. Looking through his spyhole in Camden, north London, he saw a man with a red bag who said he was a postman.

When Mr Nur opened the door the man told him that he was in fact a policeman and that he and his colleague wanted to talk to him. When they sat down the second man produced ID and said that he worked for MI5.

The agent told Mr Nur that they suspected him of being an Islamic extremist. “I immediately said ‘And where did you get such an idea?’ He replied, ‘I am not permitted to discuss our sources’. I said that I have never done anything extreme.”

Mr Nur claims he was then threatened by the officer. “The MI5 agent said, ‘Mohamed, if you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you try to travel to that you are a suspected terrorist’.”

They asked him what travel plans he had. Mr Nur said he might visit Sweden next year for a football tournament. The agent told him he would contact him within the next three days.

“I am not interested in meeting you ever.” Mr Nur replied. As they left, the agent said to at least consider the approach, as it was in his best interests.

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 | Antiwar.com,  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)


%d bloggers like this: