Paragraph on Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed becomes focus of torture row

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The Independent Online

At the centre of the latest twist in the long-running case of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed lay just one paragraph.

Paragraph 168 - a small part of a written judgment totalling 296 paragraphs - attracted what the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge described as "huge public attention".



Today's hearing at the Court of Appeal in London resulted in publication of that draft paragraph, written by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger.



In his original version of paragraph 168, which led to the letter to the court from the Government's QC, Lord Neuberger said evidence in the case showed that "at least some" security services officials "appear to have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques".



He said it was germane that the SyS (security services) were making it clear in March 2005, through a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee, that "they operated a culture that respected human rights and that coercive interrogation techniques were alien to the Services' general ethics, methodology and training".



They "denied that [they] knew of any ill-treatment of detainees interviewed by them whilst detained by or on behalf of the [US] Government".



But Lord Neuberger added: "Yet that does not seem to be true: as the evidence in this case showed, at least some SyS officials appear to have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques, and indeed when it comes to frankness about the UK's involvement with the mistreatment of Mr Mohammed by US officials."



He went on: "I have in mind in particular witness B, but it appears likely that there were others. The good faith of the Foreign Secretary is not in question, but he prepared the certificates (for public interest immunity) partly, possibly largely, on the basis of information and advice provided by SyS personnel.



"Regrettably, but inevitably, this must raise the question whether any statement in the certificates on an issue concerning such mistreatment can be relied on, especially when the issue is whether contemporaneous communications to the SyS about such mistreatment should be revealed publicly.



"Not only is there an obvious reason for distrusting any UK Government assurance, based on SyS advice and information, because of previous 'form', but the Foreign Office and the SyS have an interest in the suppression of such information."



As well as making public this draft of paragraph 168, the court today also published a "final" version of 168 - the wording of which is similar to the original, but with some modifications.



The amendments made it clear that Lord Neuberger's observations "relate to the facts of this case" and deleted the reference to the Foreign Office "which was not really justified".



In the new paragraph 168, the judge's initial wording relating to the security services making clear that they operated a culture respecting human rights and the denial that they knew of any ill-treatment of detainees remained the same as the original draft.



But the next part was amended to read: "Yet, in this case, that does not seem to have been true: as the evidence showed, some Security Services officials appear to have a dubious record relating to actual involvement, and frankness about any such involvement, with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed when he was held at the behest of US officials."



He reiterates that the good faith of the Foreign Secretary was not in question.

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