Binyam Mohamed hearing on torture evidence – Monday 10:30, Royal Courts of Justice, London

July 25, 2008

This Monday, 28 July, Binyam will at last have his day in court – and a chance to obtain evidence of his torture in the possession of the UK government.

Yesterday, on July 24, Binyam Mohamed spent his 30th birthday in Guantánamo Bay, with little cause for celebration. Binyam has now spent one fifth of his life in illegal US detention.

Binyam is a British resident who has spent the last the last four years in Guantánamo Bay and before that suffered two years of torture having been rendered to Morocco and the “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan by the CIA. Binyam has been tortured in unspeakable ways. In Morocco, amongst other horrors, he regularly had a razorblade taken to his genitals.

Binyam now faces the prospect of a politically motivated, unfair military commission at Guantánamo. These military tribunals have been condemned uniformly by international authorities as a violation of human rights.

The UK government holds evidence of Binyam’s CIA torture in Morocco which is crucial to his defence. Despite this, the UK government has said that it will not provide this information. It refuses to help him prove either that he was tortured or that he is innocent of the charges. Monday’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice relates to Mr. Mohamed’s request for a judicial review of that decision.

The litigation:

We know that the British government has various pieces of evidence key to Binyam’s defence. British agents met with Binyam when he was arrested in Pakistan, interviewed him for three hours, and apparently told the US that he was a “nobody” (Binyam was a janitor from Kensington). UK agents also told Binyam that he was going to be rendered by the US to a foreign country. When Binyam was duly sent to Morocco for 18 months of torture, the UK provided background information to the US that was used to manipulate him in his torture sessions.

With the assistance of the law firm Leigh Day, Binyam has sued the UK government for the evidence in its possession that would help prove that he was rendered by the CIA to the torture chambers of Morocco.The government’s lawyers replied that “evidence held by the UK government that US and Moroccan authorities engaged in torture or rendition cannot be obtained” by Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers to help defend him. Why not? We are not told.

The government lawyers went on to write that “the UK is under no obligation under international law to assist foreign courts or tribunals in ensuring that torture evidence is not admitted” against Binyam in Guantánamo. Again, why not?

Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: “The British citizen used to have an absolute right to remain silent in the face of a criminal accusation. Two decades ago, the British government abolished this right. Surely, no official can be allowed to remain silent when asked to explain why the government wants to cover up evidence that could help bring justice to a Londoner held in Guantánamo Bay?

“No matter what the technical arguments that can be made in favour of an injustice, surely the just course of action is obvious here. We do not ask anyone merely to accept Binyam’s claims, but we do ask that he be given an open trial in which to present them to a fair jury, and that he be allowed access to the evidence with which to prove his case. “

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For further information, please contact Clare Algar at Reprieve’s Press Office on 020 7427 1085 or email: clare.algar@reprieve.org.uk.

Note for editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve lawyers currently represent over thirty prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve lawyers have represented Mr. Mohamed since 2005.

For more details about Reprieve, visit: www.reprieve.org.uk