THOUSANDS of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have been secretly detained by British armed forces and handed over to the United States for torture, from 2001 up to the present day, a press conference called by the Stop the War Coalition was told yesterday.
The revelations were made by ex-SAS British soldier, Ben Griffin, who quit the army after serving as part of the special forces who operated like ‘the secret police of Baghdad’, following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Griffin said secret Guantanamo Bay-style torture camps existed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations across the world – like the infamous Abu Ghraib – and are still being used now.
They also include the island of Diego Garcia, a US military base, where – despite government ministers’ claims to have no knowledge of it – such a prison has existed since ‘the 1980s’.
Griffin said: ‘Our government would have us believe that our involvement in the process known as Extraordinary Rendition is limited to two occasions on which planes carrying detainees landed to refuel on the British Indian Ocean Territory, Diego Garcia.
‘David Miliband has stated that the British government expects the government of the United States to “seek permission to render detainees via UK territory and airspace, including Overseas Territories; that we will grant that permission only if we are satisfied that the rendition would accord with UK law and our international obligations; and how we understand our obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.” ’
But Griffin then said: ‘The use of British Territory and airspace pales into insignificance in light of the fact that it has been British soldiers detaining the victims of Extraordinary Rendition in the first place.’
He continued: ‘Since the invasion of Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001 UKSF (UK Special Forces) has operated within a joint US/UK Task Force.
‘This Task Force has been responsible for the detention of hundreds if not thousands of individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq.
‘Individuals detained by British soldiers within this Task force have ended up in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Bagram Theatre Internment Facility, Balad Special Force Base, Camp Nama at Baghdad International Airport and Abu Ghraib Prison.
‘Whilst the government has stated its desire that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp be closed, it has remained silent over these other secretive prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘These secretive prisons are part of a global network in which individuals face torture and are held indefinitely without charge.
‘All of this is in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions, International Law and the UN Convention Against Torture.’
Griffin added: ‘Early involvement of UK Special Forces in the process of Extraordinary Rendition centres around operations carried out in Afghanistan in late 2001.
‘Of note is an incident at the Qalai Janghi fortress, near Marzar-i-Sharif.
‘UKSF fought alongside their US counterparts to put down a bloody revolt by captured Taleban fighters (in which around 400 people are estimated to have been killed).
‘The surviving Taleban fighters were then rendered to Guantanamo Bay.’
Griffin said: ‘After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 this joint US/UK task force appeared.
‘Its primary mission was to kill or capture high value targets.
‘Individuals detained by this Task Force often included non-combatants caught up in the search for high value targets.
‘The use of secret detention centres within Iraq has negated the need to use Guantanamo Bay whilst allowing similar practice to go unnoticed.
‘During my time as member of the US/UK Task Force, three soldiers recounted to me an incident in which they witnessed the brutal interrogation of two detainees.
‘Partial drowning and an electric cattle prod were used during this interrogation and this amounted to torture.
‘It was the widely held assumption that this would be the fate of any individuals handed over to our American colleagues.’
Griffin said the government had sought to create an impression that British forces in Iraq would ‘somehow act as a brake on the Americans’.
But he said that: ‘In my experience, if anything, the opposite has been true and British soldiers have become more like their American counterparts.’
‘Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett, David Miliband, Geoff Hoon, Des Browne, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown: in their respective positions over the last five years, they must know that British soldiers have been operating within this joint US/UK task force.
‘They must have been briefed on the actions of this unit,’ said Griffin, adding: ‘Whilst the majority of British Forces have been withdrawn from Iraq, UKSF remain within the US/UK Task Force. . .
‘I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured.’