Monday, September 05, 2011

Another smoking gun

For the past five years, the UK's spies have been fighting a desperate rearguard action against mounting evidence that they are complicit in the overseas torture of terrorist suspects. Whenever new evidence has come to light, they have robotically repeated the same mantra: "the UK does not participate in, encourage or condone torture or inhumane treatment". Blair's "policy on liaison with overseas security and intelligence services in relation to detainees who may be subject to mistreatment" has already shown that to be bullshit, but the revolution in Libya has shown us new depths of depravity from the UK's spies. They weren't just exploiting foreign arrests, waiting outside the torture chambers for the beating and drilling to finish so they could ask questions now the suspect had been softened up - they had their own rendition program, and actively sent people to Libya to be tortured:

Evidence that British intelligence agencies mounted their own "rendition" operation in collaboration with Muammar Gaddafi's security services has emerged with the discovery of a cache of Libyan government papers in an abandoned office building in Tripoli.

A secret CIA document found among the haul shows that the British and Libyans worked together to arrange for a terrorism suspect to be removed from Hong Kong to Tripoli – along with his wife and children – despite the risk that they would be tortured. The wording of the document suggests the CIA was not involved in the planning of the rendition operation, but was eager to become engaged during its execution and offered financial support.

Other papers found in the building suggest MI6 enjoyed a far closer working relationship with Gaddafi's intelligence agencies than has been publicly known, and was involved in a number of US-led operations that also resulted in Islamists being consigned to Gaddafi's prisons.

One of those Islamists is now a senior commander in the transitional government's military. He was seized in Bangkok after MI6 tipped the CIA to his location, rendered to Libya, and tortured. During his torture, he was interrogated by British agents. He's now demanding an apology, and may pursue legal action. I wish him luck. While I don't approve of his politics, torture is wrong, and those responsible for it need to be held accountable. But civil action isn't enough - torture is illegal under both UK and international law and is rightly regarded as a crime against humanity. Those responsible for it, those who developed this policy and conspired to procure it, need to be prosecuted. And until they are, we should regard the UK as a rogue nation.