Police have been called in to investigate the claims of torture by Binyam Mohamed and determine whether any MI5 officer was complicit in the torture. This is entirely appropriate and as I have mentioned before, there should be no place in civilised society for methods of interrogation which are not only medieval but quite simply counter productive.
The return of Binyam Mohammed from Guantanamo has highlighted the futility of indefinite detention without trial and engaging in acts of torture to extract information. Here was a man picked up in Pakistan having gone to Afghanistan who did not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why he was there and who thereafter was accused of allegedly meeting and being involved with extremists.
Mr Mohammed’s travels and activities were suspicious but the fact that he was held without trial and tortured have ensured that his actions have become almost irrelevant. He has not been charged on his return as there was no chance of any conviction based on evidence obtained under torture. The US authorities in an almost blasé manner released him and we have a situation now where people are raising questions as to why an alleged extremist is allowed into this country. That question will never be satisfactorily answered as once a person is tortured and detained without trial, he simply cannot be charged and tried as there is no chance of having a fair.
If we assume that this man is dangerous as the US authorities have one for the past seven years, then security of this country has undoubtedly been compromised by the behaviour of US authorities, and if allegations are true by the complicity in torture of some UK intelligence personnel. If Mr Mohammed is innocent which I believe he is – if only on the presumption that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, then he has been treated in an appallingly shabby and abusive way which does nothing to enhance the democratic cause around the world – if democracies behave like dictatorial regimes when their security is threatened, then one can only imagine how dictators respond when they are threatened. And how can we lecture others on human rights abuses when we have cases like Mr Mohammed’s?
Guantanamo is a black mark on the free world and the sooner its inmates are tried fairly or released the sooner we can claim the moral high ground in the battle against extremism.
I’m finding it very difficult to believe that the US would threaten to stop sharing intelligence with the UK if details of Binyam Mohamed having allegedly been tortured are made public. The Foreign Secretary must clarify whether he informed the Judges in the Binyam Mohamed case that they should refrain from disclosing any facts relating to the alleged torture, and if true who from the US government communicated this threat to him.
Any form of torture should be unreservedly condemned. We cannot have any moral authority and lecture others on convictions obtained after torture has been used let alone indefinite detention without trial based on evidence obtained under torture. If what has been alleged is true, the Foreign Secretary should firmly stand up to the Americans and dismiss any interference in the administration of justice in the UK courts. He should remind them of what President Obama said in his inauguration speech:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.’
Anyone from the UK involved in any torture should be prosecuted and brought to justice as should those in the US. After all, if members of the armed forces are held to account for irresponsible and abusive conduct, members of the intelligence services should not be allowed to do as they please under the pretext of gathering intelligence in the war on terror.