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Government loses torture appeal

By the BBC

The foreign secretary has lost an Appeal Court bid to stop the disclosure of secret information relating to the alleged torture of a UK resident.

Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed says UK authorities knew he was tortured at the behest of US authorities during seven years of captivity.

Judges ruled redacted paragraphs, which say his treatment was "cruel, inhuman and degrading", should be released.

David Miliband said the ruling was "not evidence that the system is broken".

The judgement was delivered by the three most senior Court of Appeal judges in England and Wales.

Commenting on the case, the prime minister's spokesman said the government stood firmly against torture and cruel and inhumane treatment.

National security

The key details are contained in a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told their British intelligence officials about Mr Mohamed's treatment in 2002. These paragraphs have now been published on the Foreign Office website.
“ No-one likes to lose a case ”
Foreign Secretary David Miliband

Following the ruling, Mr Miliband gave a statement to the House of Commons, saying he accepted the court's decision, but that the government's objection had never been about the seven paragraphs specifically.

"We have fought this case and brought the appeal to defend a principle we believe is fundamental to our national security - that intelligence shared with us will be protected by us," he said.

"No-one likes to lose a case, but the force of the judgement is that it firmly recognises that principle."

He added: "This judgement is not evidence that the system is broken, rather it is evidence that the system is working and the full force of the law is available when citizens believe they have just cause."

BBC home affairs reporter Dominic Casciani said the seven paragraphs provided details of what London learnt about Mr Mohamed's treatment in 2002.

At the time he was being held by Pakistani interrogators at the behest of the US, who suspected him of having received firearms and explosives training from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Dominic Casciani, BBC home affairs reporter This battle was about the control principle - that the UK does not have permission to reveal any intelligence that the US passes on in confidence.

But that position in relation to Binyam Mohamed's treatment was fatally undermined by two factors.

Firstly, the courts held that the secret seven paragraphs related to potentially criminal ill-treatment, rather than critical matters of national security.

The Lord Chief Justice makes plain in his judgement that he might have thought differently if the material had been genuinely secret.

Secondly, the Obama White House has been busy declassifying material and memos that covered what was done in America's name after 9/11.

Lawyers in this case now have a new question: What were the rules in 2002 for British intelligence officers who discovered a terrorism suspect was being ill-treated elsewhere?

The prime minister says the revised rules will be published soon but the old ones will remain secret.

The summary says that Mr Mohamed was intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation during his initial period of captivity.

Along with the sleep deprivation, it says the interrogators subjected him to threats and inducements, including playing on his fears that he would be passed on to another country.

London learnt that the stress brought on by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled during his interviews and that Mr Mohamed was eventually placed on suicide watch.

The judgement continued: "We regret to have to include that the reports provided to the security service made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

"The treatment reported, if it had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom would clearly have been in breach of [a ban on torture].

"Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could be readily contented to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of BM by the United States authorities."

Life in London

Last year, the High Court ruled that the seven paragraphs should be published as the risk to national security was "not a serious one" and there was "overwhelming" public interest in disclosing the material.

However, the summary was kept secret to allow the foreign secretary to appeal on the grounds that the UK's intelligence relationship with with US could be irrevocably damaged.

# Detained in Pakistan in 2002, questioned there by MI5 officer
# Transferred to Morocco, claims he was tortured in US custody and asked questions supplied by MI5
# Later interned in Guantanamo Bay and eventually released in 2009

Mr Mohamed, a 31-year-old Ethiopian granted refugee status in Britain in 1994, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 over a visa irregularity and was handed over to US officials. He was secretly flown to Morocco in 2002.

There, he says he was tortured while interrogators asked him about his life in London - questions, he says, could only have come only from British intelligence officers.

Mr Mohamed was sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, run by the US in Cuba, in 2004.

He was held there until his release without charges in February 2009, when he returned to the UK.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International UK said it welcomed the court's decision as "another step toward accountability and transparency", but that a full public inquiry was needed into allegations of British complicity in torture.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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