|It was reported yesterday that the government will announce plans to pay compensation to former Guantanamo detainees as a settlement between government lawyers and lawyers representing the men. |
From the Guardian:
“Ministers appear to have decided on the advice of the security services that they could not afford to risk the exposure of thousands of documents in open court on how Britain co-operated with the US on the so-called extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects.”
“The government will announce simply that the payments are to be made and that it is in the national interest that the cases are not brought to court so as to protect the security services' methods from scrutiny.”
“Cameron acted after the high court ruled confidential documents would have to be released in any court hearings. Vetting such documents, possibly as many as 50,000, would take huge amounts of time for MI5 and MI6, Cameron said.”
“Today's payments will clear the way for an independent inquiry into British involvement in torture and the degree to which MI6 knowingly took information extracted by torture by the Americans.”
“Explaining the decision to open talks, Cameron told MPs on 6 July: ‘Our services are paralysed by paperwork as they try to defend themselves in lengthy court cases with uncertain rules. Our reputation as a country that believes in human rights, justice, fairness and the rule of law – indeed, much of what the services exist to protect – risks being tarnished.’”
Among the documents that the settlement has reportedly stopped from being disclosed are documents showing that former ministers, including Tony Blair and Jack straw, were “closely involved in the decision-making process that led to suspects being abducted and ‘rendered’ to Guantanamo.”
Damaging documents have already emerged that Tony Blair had ignored warnings as early as 2002 that British citizens were being tortured.
The settlement will be followed by a government green paper, to be published next summer, which will “contain specific proposals designed to prevent the courts from releasing the kind of information that has emerged from recent Guantanamo cases in the English courts.”
One such case was the disclosure of CIA information held by MI5 and MI6 relation to Binyam Mohamed who was tortured and then detained in Guantanamo. It is reported that justice secretary, Ken Clarke, commented that the new proposals “will absolutely eliminate [the possibility of] the process happening again.”
One editorial in the Guardian today warned that the new proposals, which would apply to criminal cases and inquests too (such as the current inquest in to the 7/7 bombings), would “place the detailed anti-terrorist work of the intelligence and security services much further beyond legal scrutiny than it currently is.”
The editorial stated: “serious liberals, who recognise that national security has a place within the rule of law, must examine the green paper next year with care to ensure the compromises it proposes are compatible with law and freedom.”
The government has reportedly insisted that the settlement of the cases of these 16 men means they have drawn a line under the “legacy of complicity in rendition and torture that it had inherited from the Labour administration.”
However, as is pointed out by the Guardian, this is not the only case that alleges British officials’ complicity in torture. There are ongoing proceedings on behalf of UK citizens alleging MI5 collusion in their torture. Add to this the independent inquiry now being held in to allegations of the unlawful killing and mutilation of 20 Iraqi prisoners at the hands of British troops, as well as an investigation in to whether British military interrogators were responsible for war crimes.
The settlement means that an inquiry will now be carried out, which will examine British complicity in torture. The specific terms of the inquiry are yet to be determined. It is to be chaired Sir Peter Gibson, former senior court of appeal judge and currently the statutory commissioner for the intelligence services and is due to report by the end of next year. However, this inquiry will have to wait for a Metropolitan Police decision on another case of alleged unlawful treatment of detainees, which will determine whether to recommend criminal charges against officers from MI5 and MI6.
Patrick O’Flynn, writing in the Daily Express, in the meantime, has taken issue with “taxpayers’ cash” being used to settle the cases of the 16 men, who he calls a “motley crew.”
“The payments are being made over alleged mistreatment by other countries in other countries.”
The DE article relating to the story states that the payouts have come “without evidence being shown to the British public that Britain condoned or was complicit in what happened” to these men.
Perhaps the DE and its writers should read Human Rights Watch’s report, Cruel Britannia, which details the involvement of the British government in the cases of Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, ZZ (name withheld), Rangzieb Ahmed and Rashid Rauf (to name some examples).
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