Friday, November 15, 2013

More torture and rendition in the UK

Two weeks ago the UK news was full of the story of a terrorism suspect who had cut off his tracking tag, disguised himself as a woman and gone on the run, in violation of his "control order". The initial focus was on the adequacy of the control order system and the dastardlyness of the assumed terrorist, but there's another more important aspect to it: Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed had been rendered to the UK and was in the country against his will:

Mohamed was in Britain against his will: he had been forced aboard an aircraft in Somaliland, the breakaway territory in northern Somalia, and flown to the UK in March 2011 in an operation that his lawyers say amounted to little more than an act of rendition. He and a second man had been detained in Somaliland two months earlier and allegedly suffered severe mistreatment while they were being interrogated. Since then, evidence has emerged that the British government had a hand in their detention, and may have supplied many of the questions.

As a consequence, the coalition government is now facing, for the first time, serious allegations of complicity in rendition and torture. The men's accusations, if true, would appear to flatly contradict the assurances given by the heads of the three main intelligence agencies when they stepped out of the shadows for the first time last week, telling the intelligence and security committee they have learned a great deal since 9/11, and that "at this stage" their officers could not possibly become complicit in torture. However, the public may never learn whether the allegations are true or not: when Mohamed and the second man decided to sue the British government for damages, lawyers representing the intelligence agencies called upon the secret justice provisions of the highly controversial Justice and Security Act.

It is the first time that the government has resorted to these provisions since the act became law earlier this year. As a consequence of this move, any evidence that the government itself possesses that supports the allegations is unlikely ever to see the light of day. Instead, any such evidence will be heard by the court in secret, and part of the court's final judgment will also remain concealed.

Wouldn't you run from someone who had kidnapped and tortured you? But when its a state of course they get to define it as a "crime".

Meanwhile, the use of the Justice and Security Act provisions should fill us all with disquiet. These are not designed to ensure that cases against the British government receive a fair hearing on their merits; instead they aim at allowing the government to present "evidence" which cannot be challenged, and bully judges into accepting it in secret. The result is not justice, but a kangaroo court - and not accountability, but impunity. Judgements of such a system can have no credibility. Instead, the natural conclusion is that the government is in fact guilty, and has manipulated the system to avoid being held accountable for its crimes.