British Government seeks to cover up evidence of rendition to torture in the case of Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, ghost prisoner rendered through Diego Garcia

March 4, 2010

The Government today asked two High Court Judges to allow them to cover up evidence of torture even more thoroughly than they did in the case of Binyam Mohamed. 

During the hearing for The Queen on the application of Madni v Secretary Of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs before Lord Justice Toulson and Mr Justice Owen, it emerged that:

1) The Government wants to submit secret evidence to the judges. However, while normally the victim of wrongdoing (here, Mr Madni) would have his own ‘Special Advocate’ to review secret evidence, the government wants a ‘friend of the court’ to discuss the secret evidence with the judges, without any input from Mr Madni or the public.

UPDATE: during the hearing the Government backed down on this point and allowed Mr Madni a ‘Special Advocate’ 

2) No evidence from the Security Services would be submitted to Mr Madni or to the public. Indeed, neither would all the relevant evidence be submitted to the Court – only that which the Director General of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) thinks is ‘necessary’ for the court to consider.

3) After months of stonewalling, the Government requested a timetable for the case that would – conveniently – push any major rulings past any May election. (“The substantive hearing shall be listed on the first available date after 7 June 2010, with a time estimate of 5 days” – with the election due on or before 3 June 2010)

Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: 

“The Government just does not get it. After weeks of being told not to cover up evidence of torture in the Binyam Mohamed case, they are trying to create new rules to cover up even more of their complicity in crime. So much for ‘transparency’. Again, we know the British were mixed up in the wrongdoing in Diego Garcia. Why not just admit the truth, and work on rules to make sure it never happens again?”

Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni was rendered via Diego Garcia for 92 days of torture in Egypt in 2002. Diego Garcia, part of the British Indian Ocean Territories, is British territory. Mr Madni was subsequently held (and abused) in Bagram and Guantánamo Bay. He was cleared of any wrong doing, and has now been returned to Pakistan, where he is unable to walk unaided and continues to suffer debilitative psychological scarring from his ordeal. The Government’s handling of the Diego Garcia renditions scandal so far has been consistently misleading, to both Parliament and the public. Reprieve and Leigh Day and Co. sent a letter before action to the British Government on 13 July 2009, demanding more information about crimes committed against Mr Madni. After receiving no satisfactory answer, we launched legal action. Documents submitted to court, including witness statements, are available at: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/muhammedsaadiqbalmadni

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

CASE BACKGROUND

Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and has been made available to the US for defence purposes since 1967. Since then, the only inhabitants have been UK and US military personnel and civilian contract employees.

In June 2004, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: “The United States have repeatedly assured us that no detainees have at any time passed through Diego Garcia or its territorial waters or have disembarked there and that the allegations to that effect are totally without foundation. The Government is satisfied that their assurances are correct.”

These assurances were false. In February 2008, David Miliband was forced to admit that on two separate occasions “a plane with a single detainee on board refuelled at the US facility in Diego Garcia”. Reprieve identified one of these detainees as Mr Madni.

Mr Madni has described how he was transported from Jakarta to Egypt tightly shackled in a “coffin-shaped wooden box”. After several hours in the air, his plane stopped at a location now believed to be Diego Garcia for refuelling. During the stopover, he was aware of people entering the plane and photographing him, as the camera flashes were partially visible through the hood that covered his face and head. After about 30 minutes the plane took off again.

In Cairo, Mr Madni was refused medical treatment despite the fact that he was bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears and there was blood in his urine as a result of his treatment in Indonesia. He was placed in an underground cell “smaller than a grave”, from which he was frequently removed to undergo intense interrogation sessions, at which US personnel were present. During these sessions he was given electric shocks, hung from metal hooks and beaten. On three occasions he was forced to drink tea laced with drugs that caused him to become extremely disorientated.

In Afghanistan, he was hung from the ceiling with his feet barely touching the ground for long periods. This is a torture technique known as the strappado, favoured by the Spanish Inquisition. He was regularly beaten and the Koran was desecrated in front of him.

At Guantánamo Mr Madni was subjected to sleep deprivation and a technique that the CIA calls the ‘frequent flyer programme’, in which a prisoner is moved from cell to cell every few hours. Medical treatment was still withheld as a reward for ‘cooperation’. Mr Madni, not being a member of any terrorist organizations and thus not in possession of significant information, was unable to ‘cooperate’ in this way.

As a result of his experiences in US secret prisons, Mr Madni is now mentally and physically debilitated. He is seeking the disclosure of material held by the Secretary of State or within his control that evidences his extraordinary rendition through Diego Garcia and that would assist him in identifying and bringing proceedings against those US (and, if applicable, UK) personnel involved in his detention unlawful rendition and torture.

Notes 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 Guantánamo 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.’