On International Day Against Torture last Thursday, legal charity Reprieve renewed its call for the release of torture victim Binyam Mohamed from US concentration camp Guantanamo Bay.
June 26 marked the 21st anniversary of the day that the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force.
Since 1998, it has been marked by the UN as the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture.
Reprieve said: ‘On the tenth anniversary of the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, there is, sadly, still no evidence that many of the countries who signed up to the UN Convention have turned their backs on the use of torture.
‘In the last six years, since the US administration announced the start of its “War on Terror,” the United States has employed torture in its worldwide network of secret prisons, including Guantanamo, and has been involved in the “extraordinary rendition” of hundreds of prisoners to face torture either in its own secret CIA-run prisons, or in third countries where proxy torturers have done its dirty work on its behalf.
‘In this, the United States has had the active support – or the tacit consent – of numerous other countries, including the UK.
‘Reprieve, the legal action charity, today adds its voice to those demanding an absolute prohibition on the use of torture, and calls the American and British governments to account for their involvement in the rendition and torture of Londoner and Reprieve client Binyam Mohamed, who was seized in Pakistan in April 2002 and sent to Morocco, where he endured 18 months of torture at the hands of the US administration’s proxy torturers, which included regularly having his genitals cut with a razor blade.
‘Even after this gruesome ordeal came to an end, Mr Mohamed endured a further nine months of torture and abuse in Afghanistan, in the CIA-run “Dark Prison” in Kabul, and the US military prison at Bagram airbase, before he was finally transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004.
‘He now faces trial by Military Commission, an unjust process described by Lord Steyn as a “kangaroo court,” in which confessions obtained through torture may, at the discretion of the government-appointed judge, be admitted as evidence.’
Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, said: ‘The entire case against Binyam Mohamed is derived from the fruits of torture.
‘On the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, the US and UK governments should send out a clear message about their commitment to an absolute prohibition on the use of torture by releasing Mr. Mohamed immediately.’
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has accused European governments of complicity and inaction over US-led rendition and secret detention, and has published a new report on European renditions and a ‘Six-point Plan’ for their prevention.
The report focuses on a number of notorious rendition cases, one of whom is Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national and UK resident, rendered in 2002, allegedly tortured in Morocco and now detained for nearly fours years without trial at Guantanamo Bay.
Mohamed’s US military lawyer is extremely concerned for his physical and mental health and Amnesty International has written to the UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband seeking his urgent intervention.
In particular, Amnesty is urging that Miliband request Binyam Mohamed’s immediate transfer from the harsh environment of Guantanamo’s “Camp 5” to a less oppressive camp at Guantanamo.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: ‘From all accounts Binyam Mohamed is in a desperate state and we’re asking Mr Miliband to use his influence with the American authorities to seek Binyam’s immediate transfer to a less harsh environment.
‘Guantanamo is built on an entire network of rendition and secret detention – it’s yet another example of how everything about Guantanamo is a travesty of justice.
‘European governments have played a disreputable role in rendition and they are still in a state of denial about this. It’s time for proper investigations and for the full renditions story to come out.’
Amnesty’s report criticises European nations for providing a ‘helping hand’ in the detention of individuals who were then transferred without due process into the hands of the CIA or other US agents.
Alongside cases involving Sweden, Germany, Italy, Macedonia and Bosnia, the report raises questions about the UK’s role in the detention and later transfer of UK national Martin Mubanga, UK residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, as well as Binyam Mohamed.
All were handed over to the US in third countries (ie neither the UK nor the US) and all were subsequently taken to Guantanamo.
Amnesty’s report is particularly scathing about the lack of action taken by European governments since the issue of renditions has been made public.
To bridge what it sees as an ‘accountability gap’, the organisation is urging all European countries to adopt its Six-point Plan on renditions.
This would see governments condemning the practice, initiating independent investigations, ensuring oversight of intelligence agencies, refusing to assist in improper transfers, bringing perpetrators to justice, and providing reparation for past victims.
Amnesty is also recommending that all governments establish the requirement that any aircraft seeking permission to travel across or land in European territory must indicate whether it is carrying any passengers who are deprived of their liberty, giving their status and the legal basis for their transfer.
Amnesty is also calling on the UK government to sign and ratify the UN Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
This would provide important protections against some of the worst abuses of rendition and secret detention. Amnesty is concerned that the UK is fast being left behind by other European states that have already taken this important step.