In the Guardian: Torture taints all our lives

31.3.09

For the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Torture taints all our lives” is an article I wrote following up on last Friday’s news that Britain’s Attorney General has instructed the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the claims by released Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed that MI5 agents had knowledge of his torture and provided information to his interrogators in Morocco.

I examine how the Bush administration’s post-9/11 policies infected the policies of its allies — particularly the UK, which appears to have raced to cement the “special relationship” by embracing the whole lawless “new paradigm” with particular enthusiasm — and I briefly mention recent allegations of British complicity in the use of torture in the interrogations of British nationals in Pakistan and Egypt before focusing on the baleful application of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” policies in the UK: the use of detention without charge or trial, the use of secret evidence, and the government’s attempts to break our commitment to the UN Convention Against Torture by returning foreign nationals to countries where they face the risk of torture.

I also mention the Parliamentary meeting chaired by Diane Abbott MP in the House of Commons yesterday, to discuss the use of secret evidence and evidence obtained through the use of torture. I’ll be writing much more about this subject for the rest of the week, as this fundamental erosion of due process, which is already leeching out from the secret terror courts into other areas of the law — where, to put it bluntly, the government will find it convenient not to have to reveal any information publicly — not only constitutes an unprecedented threat to the fundamental principles of open justice in this country, but is also shamefully underreported.

The reason that this is so important is simple, really: without open justice we allow our elected representatives to indulge some of their worst totalitarian tendencies, whether they mean to or not — and all, apparently, because our government refuses to follow the rest of the world in finding a way to use evidence obtained by the intelligence services in open court, without compromising its methods or sources. If you have any doubts about this, have a look at some of my most recent articles (linked below) for several examples of how this eight-year old system — conceived in panic, and sustained by its own skewed but unchallengeable logic — is fatally undermining our belief in justice and what should be our abhorrence towards the use of torture.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009).

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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