The BRITISH government is to pay millions of pounds in compensation to around a dozen British torture victims and former Guantanamo Bay detainees, it was announced yesterday.
The payments are being made in order to avoid the exposure of thousands of documents in open court, giving details of how Britain co-operated with the US on the so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’ of British citizens to secret torture sites around the world.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke made a statement in the House of Commons at 3.30 yesterday afternoon.
Some of the men, who are all British citizens or residents, were detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.
At least six of them alleged UK forces were complicit in their torture before they arrived at Guantanamo.
Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed and Martin Mubanga were among those who had begun High Court cases against the government, accusing UK intelligence agencies and three government departments of being complicit in their torture.
In May, the Court of Appeal ruled against the government’s attempt to rely on ‘secret evidence’ to defend itself against the six cases.
Then, in July, the High Court ordered the release of some of the 500,000 documents relating to the case.
Binyam Mohamed’s solicitor, Sapna Malik, refused to comment on reports that her client will receive more than £1m in compensation.
She said: ‘I can’t confirm any details about the settlement package. All I can say is that the claims have been settled and the terms are confidential.’
She added: ‘Our client was horrendously treated over a period of almost seven years, with a significant degree of collusion from the security services in the UK.’
Binyam Mohamed, from west London, was held in Pakistan in 2002 before US agencies moved him to Morocco, where he was severely tortured, before he was sent on to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
It later emerged that a British intelligence officer visited him in detention in Pakistan and that the CIA had told London what mistreatment he had suffered.
Mohamed, aged 32, had stated that his torturers in Morocco had asked questions supplied by MI5.
He was released in 2009, when allegations of British involvement in torture returned to prominence.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said of the payments: ‘It’s not very palatable but there is a price to be paid for lawlessness and torture in freedom’s name.
‘There are torture victims who were entitled to expect protection from their country.
‘The government now accepts that torture is never justified and we were all let down – let’s learn all the lessons and move on.’