| ||Papers today report on the news that, within months of the “War on Terror”, Tony Blair and senior ministers in the Labour government knew of allegations that UK nationals were being tortured but brushed them aside in a bid to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US.|
The Guardian writes,
“The ‘war on terror’ had barely begun when senior ministers in the Labour government became aware that it was to be a harsh and brutal affair, involving fundamental breaches of international human rights law, it was revealed today.”
“While the heavily redacted documents – released in civil proceedings brought by six former Guantánamo inmates – betray British concern about American conduct, they also appear to show that diplomats, civil servants and government lawyers were anxious to find ways to remain, in the words of Tony Blair, ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’ with the US.”
Evidence emerged that “the government knew the US was mistreating and torturing UK nationals and residents in January 2002 and for years afterwards, but did not seriously protest about it. Other evidence, notably in the case of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, shows that MI5 co-operated with the CIA while that agency was indulging in mistreatment and torture.”
A Foreign Office note to Downing Street noted that, “this will continue to be a difficult issue to handle, both in procedural and legal terms with the US and in handling parliament and the media here", but that “the longer they could claim they were still waging a form of war, the longer they might be able to detain individuals without trial.”
“As long as the war against terrorism in the widest sense continued, the US/UK would have rights to continue to detain those they had been fighting against (even if the fighting in Afghanistan itself were over). [Redacted] conceded that the strength of such a case would depend on the plausibility of the argument that the war was continuing."
The document emerged as part of a bid by six former detainees to sue the British government for complicity in their treatment. They claim that MI5 and MI6 were guilty of aiding and abetting their unlawful imprisonment and extraordinary rendition to various locations, including Guantanamo Bay, where they were subjected to torture.
The Independent reports that “lawyers for the former detainees asked Mr Justice Silber, sitting at the High Court, to ensure that further secret documents be disclosed to the court without delay in accordance with the disclosure orders he had made in July.”
“Richard Hermer QC said there had also been a ‘deeply troubling’ failure by the security services and government departments to answer questions that went to the heart of the case.”
Human Rights Watch reported in June of UK government cooperation with foreign intelligence services in countries that routinely use torture. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s official human rights watchdog, has warned the government that its current guidance on torture may violate UK and international law and called for it to be amended in order that, in future, “the intelligence service itself and its individual officers do not unwittingly leave themselves open to costly and time consuming court action."
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