Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The multinational enterprise of torture

Here is the full text of the intervention from maverick Tory MP David Davis in the House of Commons today concerning the statement from High Court judges that the US had threatened to break off counterterrorism cooperation with the UK if documents relating to torture allegations by Binyam Mohamed were released.


David Davis: On a point of order [during debate on the Police Grant Report], Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the debate, but it is on a matter of the utmost national importance.

I would like to raise the issue of a judgment made at 1.45 pm today by Lord Justice Thomas in the case of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident currently being held at Guantanamo Bay who has made an accusation of British involvement in torture inflicted on him while being held in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco. The ruling implies that torture has taken place in the Mohamed case and that British agencies may have been complicit—but, most important of all, that the United States Government have threatened our High Court that if it releases this information the US Government will withdraw their intelligence co-operation with the United Kingdom on matters of security. The judge has ruled that there is a strong public interest that this information is put in the public domain even though it is politically embarrassing.

To quote directly from the judgment—I will make this as brief as possible, Madam Deputy Speaker—

“It is plainly right that the details of the admissions in relation to the treatment of Binyam Mohamed as reported by officials of the United States Government should be brought into the public domain…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. We had no reason…to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports.”

Another part of the report goes on to say that the Foreign Secretary has confirmed that this threat will still remain under President Obama’s new Government.

Madam Deputy Speaker, can I request that you make representations, preferably to the Foreign Secretary, or to the Home Secretary, to come to this House today to make an urgent statement on the involvement of British agencies in torture overseas, and on the right of the United States Government to block a British court from disclosing information given to it?

Patrick Mercer: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On this alleged piece of bribery, bullying or whatever it is that has just been discussed, at the same time that a statement is made by a Cabinet Minister, may we also have a thorough understanding of what the American regime would like us to do with non-British detainees in the former Guantanamo Bay prison?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I have to inform the House that those are not points of order for the Chair.

[Here's David Miliband's response]

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