Britain has been complicit in the human rights abuses committed by US authorities at Guantanamo Bay prison camp, according to a report released today.
Drawing on exhaustive interviews with detainees and evidence from security services, the dossier gives the complete picture of the British government's co- operation with the US over a camp it now says should be closed.
The report, Fabricating Terrorism - British Complicity in Renditions and Terror, is a scathing indictment of the British government's "systematic violations of international law" over its co-operation with the US authorities in the detention of British citizens and residents at the US-run facility in Cuba. The research, compiled by the human rights group Cage Prisoners, plots British involvement in the cases of 13 current or former Guantanamo detainees - either British citizens or residents.
All the detainees in the report consistently testified that UK authorities were aware of their plight and unwilling to intervene despite the knowledge that they were either at risk of torture or said they had been tortured.
There is no suggestion British authorities played any part in torturing the detainees but the report does argue consistent co-operation between the US and UK has led to an "international chain of abuse" that flies in the face of the British government projecting itself as a leader in the field of human rights.
One of the most serious cases surrounds the rendition, imprisonment and alleged torture of Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi, an Ethiopian national with British residency, who was arrested in April 2002 as he tried to leave Pakistan. Benyam was later "rendered" to Morocco and Afghanistan before arriving in Guantanamo in September 2004. Mr al-Habashi claims that, while in a secret detention facility south of the Moroccan capital Rabat, he was brutally tortured by his interrogators as they asked questions that could only have been supplied by the British.
In December last year, Jack Straw was forced to admit that MI6 had interrogated Mr al-Habashi in Pakistan before he was sent to Morocco but insisted the security services "did not observe any abuse".
Clive Stafford Smith, Mr al-Habashi's lawyer, argues that the nature of his client's imprisonment in Morocco makes the British government complicit in his torture. "The British government was complicit in some of the abuses that took place against Benyam ... to the extent that the Government told the Moroccans information that they would use against him in the torture sessions." Now on hunger strike, Mr al-Habashi is one of 10 Guantanamo detainees waiting to be tried by a US Military Commission.
Two British residents, Omar Deghayes and Shaker Aamer, both still incarcerated in Guantanamo also say they were questioned by British authorities before their rendition and imprisonment in Guantanamo. Similarly, many of those who have since been released without charge also accuse London of knowing well in advance that they were being transported to Cuba.
The latest findings show mounting evidence of consistent involvement and presence of UK officials in run up to the transfer of many British citizens and residents to Guantanamo. "In nearly every single case," the report says, "British intelligence was fully aware of the status of these individuals and still allowed for their transfer."
Geoffrey Bindman, the chairman of the British Institute of Human Rights, argues that each case study shows a worrying level of UK collusion. "If substantiated," he writes in the report's forward, "they demonstrate an intolerable level of collaboration and collusion between the UK and US authorities in the abuses which have taken place at Guantanamo and elsewhere through the 'outsourcing' of torture.
"They also demonstrate a pathetic reluctance on the part of the UK government to stand up for the rights of its citizens and permanent residents against illegal and unacceptable treatment."
The government has argued it is unable to intervene on behalf of those British residents still left in Guantanamo such as Mr Deghayes and Mr Aamer because they do not hold British passports.
Asim Qureshi of Cage Prisoners said he hoped the report would help alert British citizens to the dangerous policies that are being carried out in their name. "Rendition and torture do not help build security but instead only compromise the standing and security of the British Government in the international community."
Rendered to Guantanamo?
* BINYAM MOHAMMED AL-HABASHI
Visited by MI6 agents while in prison in Karachi who told him he would be moved to Morocco. Upon arrival, MI5 agents supplied interrogators with information to ease the extraction of confessions. He remains in Guantanamo Bay.
* JAMAL AL-HARITH
Fell into the hands of US forces while imprisoned by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite promises to help establish his innocence, the British Embassy in Kabul permitted his rendition to Guantanamo Bay.
* JAMIL EL BANNA,
Picked up by authorities in the Gambia on the advice of the British and subsequently rendered to Guantanamo. Still imprisoned.
* MOAZZAM BEGG
Regularly questioned by British authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who allowed rendition.
* MARTIN MUBANGA
British intelligence supplied evidence leading to his arrest in Lusaka. Questioned regularly by British agents. MI5 still allowed US forces to render him to Guantanamo.
* OMAR DEGHAYES
Interrogated by a British officer by the name of "Andrew" in Pakistan, who promised to return him home if he co-operated. Despite complying, he was sent to Guantanamo, where he remains.
* RICHARD BELMAR
Held in Pakistan where requests from the British Consulate to visit him fell on deaf ears. By the time access was granted, Belmar was on his way to Guantanamo. M15 had been permitted full access from day one.
* THE TIPTON THREE: SHAFIQ RASUL, RHUHEL AHMED, ASIF IQBAL
Held by US forces in Afghanistan, where they were questioned by British officials before being rendered.
* SHAKER AAMER
Interrogated by MI5 and MI6 in Kandahar. On hunger strike in Guantanamo.
* TAREK DERGOUL
Questioned in Afghanistan by British forces. Believing they intended to help, he complied. He was rendered to Guantanamo.
Source: Fabricating Terrorism British Complicity in Renditions and Torture by Cage Prisoners.Reuse content