What has slowly and painfully come to be revealed through the debriefing of those who have through great struggle re-emerged into the light of lawful day, is shocking beyond belief; that human beings in authority have done what has been done to these men is a sickening indictment of how the world has not matured, and not progressed. And yet crimes against humanity, and war crimes, are defined thus:-
"Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of the 12th August 1949, including
torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to
body or health, wilfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of
the right to a fair and regular trial; unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful
What of those who have perpetrated these crimes against humanity? Two issues need to concern us urgently in Britain. The visual images put out by the US military showed us in part what the US was doing and the seven year debate in the USA as to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield redefinition of torture and its abusive practices has been conducted in public. Whistleblowers in the USA are a protected species. But here, the part played by our Intelligence Services, and in turn our Foreign Office and our Home Office, has remained in large part secret. There are no dramatic visual images that tell us the reality. Yet they were there, in many cases it was they who told the Americans where to locate British nationals and British residents, it was they who provided information that could be and was used in conditions of torture, and it was and is they who have received the product.
The question of how far we will in this country ever properly know the extent of British participation deserves to be a burning issue; we should not take for granted that there will be judicial enquiries or court cases in which we, the public, will know what we need to know about the complicity of our government in crimes against humanity. There will be and is already a continuous assertion by the Government that any issue that relates to the Intelligence Services, and any issue that relates to the conduct of diplomatic relationships, should not see the light of day in normal courts, but should be confined to special courts, and/or the evidence should be heard in secret. This is not the way that the most basic principles of democratic responsibility and due process should be exercised in even the most normal of instances. In relation to issues of such moral seriousness and public importance as the issues raised here, in the wider interests of a healthy society nationally and internationally as a whole, we must not let that happen.
It is all too obvious that the reality of guarantees of human rights does not come from the top down, but has to be fought for, generation by generation, that they be observed, preserved, or, as is demanded now in this century, reinstated. We should not let the burden rest upon the victims themselves, whose accounts have been so carefully assembled here, to ensure that the secret state is held properly and publicly to account.
[Lord Bingham, House of Lords]
“No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State
where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of
being subjected to torture.”
[UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) Article 3]
“All you need to know is that there was a ‘before 9/11’ and there was an ‘after
9/11.’ After 9/11, the gloves came off.”
[Cofer Black, as Director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center]
“The sad fact is they [the British government] have acted duplicitously, immorally
and unlawfully. It is not just their uncritical acceptance of and obedience to
torturous conditions, regimes, and physical restraint or worse. They were there by
choice. These are the lessons of Nuremberg. You cannot simply be present in
these circumstances and escape your own role. The definition of torture under the
UN convention is the application of extreme mental or physical pressure by a state
on an individual for the purpose of obtaining information. Any complicity in that,
as well as direct application, is in breach of international law and is criminal by
definition. The paradox is that whilst the government is unperturbed in using that
information and depending upon it as reliable, it acknowledges too that
information obtained through torture and duress is abhorrent to the British way of
[Moazzam Begg, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo]
Over the past eight years, human rights watchdogs, researchers and lawyers recorded a disturbing number of cases involving individuals whose common experiences of detention without charge, illegal transportations to other states without recourse to due process, abuse and torture has pointed to a systematic violation of international laws. The evidence directly implicates the US administration who while denying involvement in torture, partly by redefining its meaning, has admitted that it is overseeing an ‘outsourcing’ process of intelligence gathering in which terrorist suspects benefit from being rendered or transferred to interrogator countries experienced and sympathetic to the cultural needs of the detainees. However, the role of British authorities in this programme has still to be fully revealed. On numerous occasions Government representatives have denied any involvement in the transfer of individuals (renditions) and torture. As the evidence continues to mount it has become apparent that an international chain of abuse links both the US and UK administrations to breaches of international human rights conventions.
After 9/11, under the slogan ‘War on Terror’, there were moves to prioritise national ‘security measures’ over human rights and civil liberties with the ratification of legislation such as the Patriot Act in the USA. Additionally, international alliances were forged involving countries which ranged from the expected, to the startling. A picture of systematic cooperation between the West, Eastern Europe, Asian sub-continent and the Middle East emerged which would allow terrorist suspects to be ‘fast-tracked’ and undergo a variety of legally questionable interrogation techniques, in order to crush the threat of global terrorism. Evidence is emerging that in waging this war fabricated accounts of terrorist acts produced through forced or extracted confessions have been used to justify a whole raft of anti-terror legislation, and the illegal actions which are described in the report below.
The Cageprisoners’ report entitled ‘Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture’ is an update of the report Fabricating Terrorism, released in 2006. The original report was compiled using evidence ranging from the testimonies of detainees, existing interviews with officials in the security services, and research from a number of other sources.
The updated report focuses on the British Government which projects itself as a leader in the field of human rights, in recent years ratifying the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2003, questioning whether its commitment to human rights is as strong as its commitment to the USA, and in the process challenging official government denials in regard to rendition and torture.
One of the key features of Fabricating Terrorism II, is the case of Farid Hilali. The case demonstrates that the UK security/intelligence officials were complicit in the rendition and torture of individuals as early as two years prior to 9/11. This fact suggests that the unlawful activities of the UK authorities are systematic, rather than rare abuses.
Below there are 28 case studies mostly detailing the experiences of British citizens and British residents granted asylum which illustrate the manner in which they have passed through a subterranean system of kidnappings, ghosted to ‘black sites’, suffering abuse and torture. Due to the constraints of space and time these cases represent a much larger number of cases, often undocumented. They illustrate issues of illegality that stem from current British policy on detentions in the ‘War on Terror’. We hope this report helps illuminate a path along which all the other detentions are discovered so that the true extent of British involvement in such practices can be highlighted.
Summary of ‘Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture’
1.1 The Findings of the Report
• The report has found systematic violations of international law perpetrated by the British authorities in relation to a) illegal Rendition or ‘Torture’ flights which have been, and are using British airspace and airport facilities, and b) the role of the intelligence services in gaining information knowingly obtained from torture, and from passing on ‘intelligence’ of a dubious nature to other countries’ intelligence services which forms a basis for the detention, abuse and torture of detainees.
• The British government have abrogated responsibilities towards British citizens and especially British residents granted asylum alike, affording them no or minimal protection or representation against the illegal actions of foreign governments.
• Senior members of the British Government and authorities supplied misinformation to Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the general public regarding the British Government’s involvement in rendition and torture.
1.2 The Consequences of British Complicity in Rendition and Torture
• The knowledge of Britain’s involvements in rendition and torture tarnishes Britain’s reputation as a supporter of human rights worldwide.
• When the British government is unable to confront and fully investigate evidence of torture eye-witnessed by British citizens and residents, it must throw into doubt Britain’s policy of returning suspects to countries of origin through the international non-torture agreements, called inappropriately, Diplomatic Assurances and also the Memorandum of Understanding which have been signed by countries such as Libya and Jordan.
• The role of the security services is also called into question by a) supplying questionable or downright false evidence which has led to cases of kidnapping, illegal detention and torture b) using intelligence which has been gained from interviews where torture has been taken place and c) maintaining a presence at interrogations where torture has been known to be used. All of these actions are illegal under international law with evidence extracted from torture impermissible in a court of law. Although no evidence has been uncovered of the British Security Services directly torturing any suspect themselves, they are unequivocally guilty of facilitating the rendition of suspects to States who will torture those individuals often on the bequest and instruction of the British authorities. Not exactly a clean pair of hands.
In order to prevent the continuation of the British Government’s policies on rendition and torture we have published ‘Fabricating Terrorism: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture’ alerting British citizens that these dangerous policies are being carried out in their name. The onus is on the British public themselves to stop these acts continuing and to bring to account those responsible.
“You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other
by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the
first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second.”
[Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince]
Asim Qureshi – Senior Researcher