Thursday, June 28, 2018

Up to their necks in torture

When news broke that the US had been systematically torturing people in its "war on terror", the British government vigorously denied that their spies had anything to do with it. Naturally, it was a lie:

British intelligence agencies were involved in the torture and kidnap of terrorism suspects after 9/11, according to two reports by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

The reports published on Thursday amount to one of the most damning indictments of UK intelligence, revealing links to torture and rendition were much more widespread than previously reported.


The report dealing with the treatment of detainees details a litany of cases of concern, saying: “We have found 13 incidents where UK personnel witnessed at first hand a detainee being mistreated by others, 25 where UK personnel were told by detainees that they had been mistreated by others and 128 incidents recorded where agency officers were told by foreign liaison services about instances of mistreatment. In some cases, these were correctly investigated but this was not consistent.”

It said in 232 cases UK personnel continued to supply questions or intelligence to other services despite knowledge or suspicion of mistreatment, as well as “198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from liaison services which had been obtained from detainees who knew they had been mistreated – or with no indication as to how the detainee had been treated but where we consider they should have suspected mistreatment”.

The committee found three individual cases where MI6 or MI5 made or offered to make a financial contribution to others to conduct a rendition operation. In 28 cases, the agencies either suggested, planned or agreed to rendition operations proposed by others. In a further 22 cases, MI6 or MI5 provided intelligence to enable a rendition operation to take place. In 23 cases they failed to take action to prevent rendition.

And its not just intelligence agents: in at least one case, then-Foreign secretary Jack Straw authorised funding for a rendition operation. But he is still claiming to know nothing - perhaps because he knows that that would constitute conspiracy to torture, a crime under UK and international law.

Many of these actions appear to be criminal. But naturally, no-one has been prosecuted. No-one has even lost their job over this - there has been no accountability whatsoever. The message from the British establishment is clear: their "opposition" to torture is just a show, a PR sham. When push comes to shove, they support torture, just as they did in their colonial wars, and just as they did in Ireland. But since the UK government has clearly failed to prosecute these international crimes, it falls to the international community to do it. The International Criminal Court should investigate, and the MI5 and MI6 agents who solicited torture, their bosses, and the Ministers ultimately responsible should all face trial in The Hague.