Friday, March 27, 2009

Justice for Binyam Mohamed?

In 2002, Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan when he was attempting to return home to the UK after a visit to Afghanistan. He was beaten by Pakistani authorities, hung from straps, and threatened with execution, before being rendered by the US to Morocco. There, he was tortured by having his penis and chest cut with scalpels. And all the while, he was asked questions clearly supplied by British authorities.

Now, the UK's Attorney-General has ordered an investigation into his torture, to find who in MI5 colluded in it and whether they should face criminal charges. It's good news, but at the same time, I am deeply cynical about the chances of success. The British establishment protects its own and holds itself accountable to no-one, especially the law. While MI5 has reportedly promised its full cooperation, in practice they will stonewall and deny investigators access to crucial evidence on spurious "security" grounds. And by making it a criminal investigation, the government has ensured that the focus will be very much on the individual agents at the bottom (who they can spin as "bad apples"), and ignore their suited superiors who ordered and sanctioned this collusion, or the politicians who made the decision to cooperate and collude with the US in torture and rendition, regardless of UK or international law. In short, its not enough. In addition to the criminal investigation, we need a Parliamentary inquiry to ensure that the actions of those at the top are laid bare and that they too can be held accountable.