I'm provoked to post on the British Government's potential complicity in torture for quite selfish reasons. I don't subscribe to the human rights agenda and I don't have very strong feelings about detention at Guantanamo: both give me pause for thought but I wouldn't feel provoked into writing about them. I do think torture should be illegal always and anywhere (in any event, it hasn't been necessary in the securing of a number of significant convictions in the UK). But what really concerns me about these stories is that it concerns my government, the British government, on the one hand, and British residents and British citizens, on the other. If this isn't enough to alarm you, I'm not sure what would.
I also have to admit the element of hypocrisy enrages me: should our human rights-touting Labour government be involved in torture in any way, it would be beyond satire.
The picture is getting clearer. Due to a High Court ruling last week it looks as if information will be made public - subject to one more appeal that's apparently unlikely to succeed - that confirms Binyam Mohammed, a Guantanamo detainee who'd also been subject to extraordinary rendition, was tortured in ways far worse than being waterboarded. I blanched from including the full details in the title to this post: his genitals were sliced with a scalpel. This piece of extremely 'enhanced interrogation' was conducted whilst he was in American custody either directly with the CIA or indirectly via rendition to co-operative (and unscrupulous) foreign intelligence agencies.
The British government's position is that it doesn't engage in or condone torture. However, evidence is building that MI6 and MI5 have been making indirect but distinct use of torture by others: allegedly interviewing suspects following or during their torture by foreign agencies (see here); allegedly supplying questions to foreign agencies to be asked to prisoners who they must have known were going to be tortured (see here and here). It seems likely that Binyam Mohammed's case might fall into both these categories. There are other instances, in addition to the ones enumerated here: David Davis's Commons statement provides a summary. There's also an excellent recap of the Binyam case to date here (h/t Andrew Sullivan).
The Foreign Office has been trying to suppress the High Court's revelations throughout the course of this year. Understandably so, with regard of the self-preservation of its ministers, past and present. We could well be looking at a despicable crime walking arm-in-arm with a dark hypocrisy, all cloaked in a determined cover-up. This should be enough to bring down a government, and certainly more than enough to warrant the resignation of David Miliband.
We need a judicial review. But somehow I struggle to imagine justice being done: slipperiness has trumped accountability at almost every juncture in recent years.