In the Guardian: The global reach of Britain’s torture policy


For the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Outsourcing torture to foreign climes” is an article I wrote following up on Ian Cobain’s article in today’s Guardian exposing the story of Jamil Rahman, a British citizen, raised in south Wales, whose claims of abuse in Bangladeshi custody while British intelligence officers stepped out of the room provide what appears to be the clearest example to date of close cooperation on the ground (rather than from a safe distance) between the UK intelligence services and proxy abusers or torturers.

In the article, I also look at other examples of British involvement in torture in other countries, focusing on the case of Binyam Mohamed, and the recent revelation of the existence of a British spy, Informant A, who visited Mohamed while he was held in Morocco, and the many cases in Pakistan, which Ian Cobain has reported in detail over the last year.

After a close reading of the government’s approach to “intelligence possibly derived through torture” (as discussed in the FCO’s most recent annual report — PDF, p. 16), I reach a rather unnerving conclusion about where, exactly, this “intelligence” was produced in the first place: essentially, through British involvement in the process, and not, as might be expected, from interrogations by brutal regimes with which the British government had no direct involvement.

The case of Jamil Rahman, who is starting civil proceedings against home secretary Jacqui Smith, confirms that we desperately need a proper investigation of the UK government’s complicity in the use of torture, to close a loophole that, with each passing day, seems only to demonstrate that, when it comes to manipulating the absolute prohibition of the use of torture, the British government was as enthusiastically lawless as the government of George W. Bush.

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.

4 Responses

  1. Connie L. Nash says...

    Like a contagious disease of the worst possible kind. Andy, have your UK psychologists also been involved as our APA has? I’d like to see more in the common media about such stories like that of Mitchell Jessen & Associates: How a Team of Psychologists in Spokane, WA helped develop the CIA’s torture techniques.

    Recently as I stood in our peace gathering, a friend who had been in prison for her stand against torture at the formerly called famous US School – SOA said that every torture method used at GTMO was taught at SOA. So I wonder how it’s able to stay so completely out of the news?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Connie,
    That’s an interesting question about the use of psychologists, and it makes me realize that I haven’t looked into how psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical personnel have been used in British prisons since December 2001, when foreign nationals were first imprisoned without charge or trial, and how they have been used in recent years — after that regime was ruled illegal by the Law Lords — on those held in prison without charge or trial facing deportation, even though the incidence of mental illness brought on by arbitrary detention has been very high.

  3. Richard Paxson says...

    Amy Goodman ( & the daily news show) has reported on the involvement of psychologists regularly over the past 3 or so years. Transcripts of her shows, and Amy herself, are a great place to begin researching this important topic!

  4. Connie L. Nash says...

    Thanks for the reminder about Amy Goodman’s work on this – has she also covered UK? I will check.

    JUST IN: Obama Orders Reviews of Government Secrecy: Congressional Quarterly Midday Report and (or just put oneheartforpeace in google search)

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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