British court asks that President Obama reconsider his predecessor’s repeated ‘threats’ levelled against UK judges

February 4, 2009

Image of hands on wire

British court asks that President Obama reconsider his predecessor’s repeated “threats” levelled against the judges who considered allowing the public to learn the details of American torture of Binyam Mohamed.

In an extraordinary ruling, two British judges sitting on the case of Binyam Mohamed have revealed how the US government has “threatened” the British government with reprisals should the British reveal evidence that American agents were involved in his rendition and torture. The judges end the decision with a plea to President Obama to reconsider President Bush’s remarkable policy of retribution against anyone who might reveal American crimes:

If the information in the redacted paragraphs which we consider so important to the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability is to be put into the public domain, it must now be for the United States Government to consider changing its position or itself putting that information into the public domain.

Mohamed v. Secretary of State

No fewer than eight times, the judges refer to the American “threat” made against their closest ally, the British. Mohamed v. Secretary of State, at (62, 70, 73, 76, 76, 76, 77, 107). The British intelligence services have 42 documents that apparently demonstrate abuse of Binyam Mohamed a British resident.

“The US is under a legal duty to investigate the crime of torture, not to suppress evidence that it happened,” said Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith. “And the UK has a similar duty. For the Foreign Secretary to give in to these illegal demands by the Bush Administration is capitulation to blackmail, pure and simple. It is hardly Britain’s finest hour. As the judge’s say, it is up to President Obama to put his money where his mouth is. He must repudiate his predecessor’s reprehensible policy.”

Mr. Mohamed is a victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture. He was initially held illegally in Pakistan for four months, which is where a British intelligence agent interrogated him under circumstances later found to be illegal by the British court. He was rendered to Morocco by the CIA on July 21, 2002, where he was tortured for 18 months, with the British government supplying information and questions used by the Moroccan torturers. On January 21, 2004, he was rendered a second time, to the secret “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan, where his torture continued. Since September 2004, he has been held in Guantánamo Bay. He has never been tried for any crime.

“Binyam was tortured horribly in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan and it is clear from this case that the British security services were complicit in that torture,” said Clare Algar, the Executive Director of Reprieve.

“Today’s judgment notes the British Government has a duty to investigate and possibly prosecute the perpetrators. Unfortunately, it seems that this might be the only way of exposing the shadowy facts about kidnap and torture which the US continues to hide beneath the false front of national security.”

Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider added: “Secretive and lawless to the last, one of the final acts of the Bush administration was to try to bully its closest ally into sweeping Binyam Mohamed’s torture under the rug. This is repugnant to the principles of open justice on which both our societies were founded.”

“On Day One of his administration, President Obama declared his government would “operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government”. If this does not apply in the case of Mr. Mohamed’s torture, where does it apply?”

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact Clive Stafford Smith (07940 347125; clivess@mac.com); or Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office on 020 7427 1099.

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’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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