YESTERDAY the Reprieve charity reported that: ‘Previously secret Government memos prove Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered the Foreign Office to violate its legal obligation to assist British citizens in trouble abroad – bowing to pressure from President George W Bush.
‘Documents released last night in the Binyam Mohamed civil court case reveal that then Prime Minister Tony Blair personally overruled the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s demand for consular access to British “ghost” prisoners.
‘Bowing to US pressure, the Blair Government ordered the Foreign Office (FCO) to violate its international law obligations under the Vienna Convention, which requires the UK to provide consular assistance to British nationals around the world.
‘In a January 10 2002 telegram from the FCO, officials made clear that the Blair Government wanted British nationals taken to lawless detention in Guantánamo Bay: “we accept that the transfer of UK nationals held by US forces in Afghanistan to the US base in Guantánamo is the best way to meet our counter-terrorism objective by ensuring that they are securely held.”
‘However, the FCO wanted to ensure the right of consular access to monitor the British nationals’ wellbeing:
‘An FCO official recognised in an August 22 2002 email that “we are going to be open to charges of concealed extradition” and that as a result of direct interference by Number 10 “we broke our policy” on consular access by failing to help Martin Mubanga. Mubanga, who was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing after years in lawless detention without charge, was rendered first to Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo because Number 10 specifically refused to allow him to come home.
‘Referring to the UK’s obligations towards British citizens, the FCO official notes in another undated 2002 message “the basic tenet that any British national, no matter what they are alleged to have done, has a right to consular assistance” but complained that “instructions from London were unequivocal. We should not accept responsibility for or take custody of [Mubanga]. This was subsequently reinforced by the message from No 10 that under no circumstances should Mubanga be allowed to return to the UK. ***
And it became clear that if we requested consular access […REDACTED…] thereby de facto acknowledging him as a UK national, he would have been handed over to us. This would have gone against all other instructions from London.” Again, he notes, “our hands were tied by policy directed from London.”
‘Divisions between the FCO and 10 Downing Street surface again on August 13 2002 when an FCO note states “we were clearly instructed by […REDACTED…] London to take no responsibility for him, though Consular Division wanted us to seek consular access.” Indeed, at a February 26 2002 interdepartmental meeting, it was “agreed that UK should be in no hurry to take back the detainees though FCO was quiet on the point.” While there were problems of “public presentation” in the face of the much-criticised military commissions, spinning these problems was deemed by the Blair Government to be “preferable to those associated with the detainees being released in the UK”.’
The previously secret documents, can be found on Reprieve’s website.
They were shown to the court in heavily redacted form as part of the civil proceedings in the Binyam Mohamed civil case: Al Rawi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Others. They also indicate that other British Government acts in the ‘War on Terror’, including assisting US rendition of prisoners in Iraq, were unlawful.
Blair as Premier organised the operation to lie Britain into a war on Iraq, during which countless innocent people were murdered. Now we know he instructed the Foreign Secretary to act illegally and to refuse to defend British citizens abroad, and to collaborate with them being sent to the G Bay US concentration camp.
He must stand trial and pay for his crimes.