Amnesty International today called on the government of the UK to give the lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, a former UK resident imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, information which it holds and which might help him to show that he has been a victim of torture and other ill-treatment in the US-led programme of renditions and secret detention.
“Providing this information would be a first step towards accountability for the UK’s involvement in the US programme of rendition and secret detention, and in the torture and other ill-treatment of terrorist suspects,” said Halya Gowan, a spokesperson on Europe at Amnesty International.
Binyam Mohamed was arrested at Karachi airport in April 2002 and handed over into US custody three months later. In July 2002, he was transferred on a CIA-registered plane to Morocco, where he was held for about 18 months and allegedly tortured, including by having his penis cut by a razor blade. He was allegedly subjected to further torture after his further rendition to the “dark prison” in Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2004. After five months, he was transferred to the US airbase in Bagram, and suffered further alleged ill-treatment there, before being transferred in mid-September 2004 to Guantánamo where he has remained ever since.
“Statements that Binyam Mohamed made in the course of his unlawful detention will form the basis of charges against him if he is tried before a Military Commission at Guantánamo Bay – a trial which would be unfair, and could involve charges which could be punishable by death. Any information which the UK authorities have which relates to violations of his human rights or could help Binyam Mohamed’s defence should be disclosed to his lawyers without any further delay”, said Halya Gowan.
Following last week’s ruling by the High Court of England and Wales that the UK had a duty to disclose this information to lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, today the High Court postponed its decision on an application made by the UK Foreign Secretary to be allowed to withhold this information. The Foreign Secretary claimed that its disclosure would damage the UK’s intelligence-sharing arrangements with the USA, and thus threaten the UK’s national security. The Foreign Secretary has been given another week to provide the court with a fuller explanation for continuing to withhold this information.
Binyam Mohamed’s lawyers need the information now, before a decision is taken about whether he should be tried by a Military Commission in the USA. It is essential to their claim that the information on which the charges against him are based was improperly obtained.
Recent revelations of secret detainee transfers through Diego Garcia, and around the UK’s involvement in the rendition and secret detention of UK residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, show that the UK can no longer hide its involvement in these human rights violations.
“Secrecy with the excuse of protecting diplomatic relations can no longer be used to justify the failure to investigate the involvement of UK agents in human rights violations,” Halya Gowan said.
Amnesty International calls on the UK authorities to instigate without further delay a genuinely independent and impartial public inquiry into all allegations of UK involvement in the renditions programme.
BACKGROUND Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national, claims that he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Guantánamo and that statements he made – which, as the High Court accepted, will form the basis of evidence against him if he is tried by a Military Commission – were the products of his unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment.
In August 2007, after a sustained campaign by human rights activists and lawyers in the UK, the UK government requested the release from Guantánamo Bay and return to the UK of a number of former UK residents, including Binyam Mohamed. Although three men were returned in December 2007, the US authorities refused the request for the release and return of Binyam Mohamed. The UK authorities say that they are continuing to request the release and return of Binyam Mohamed.
The UK government has disclosed the information that it holds about Binyam Mohamed to the US authorities; and the US authorities have given the UK a promise that this information will be given to Binyam Mohamed’s military lawyer in the event that his case should be sent for trial before a Military Commission. But to date neither the UK nor the US has disclosed that information, which is relevant to the rendition of Binyam Mohamed and his subsequent treatment in detention, to his lawyers.
Amnesty International believes that the Military Commission procedures at Guantánamo Bay are fundamentally unfair, and has called for the Military Commission system to be abandoned, and for all those still held at Guantánamo Bay to be released or given a genuinely fair trial before federal civilian courts without delay.