Britain did know CIA tortured suspect

Judges order publication of secret court papers on treatment of Binyam Mohamed
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Indy Politics

Ministers were facing demands last night to hold a public inquiry into revelations that the security services knew a terror suspect from Britain had been tortured by the CIA.

Senior judges ordered the Government to publish previously secret parts of a court document that showed Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, had been shackled, threatened and continuously deprived of sleep by his interrogators.

But it emerged yesterday that the judges had cut out even more damning parts of the judgment which said that M15 operated in a culture of suppression and disregard for human rights. The cuts were requested by lawyers for David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary.

The judgment was published after Mr Miliband suffered a humiliating rebuff to his attempts to censor the court papers detailing the treatment meted out to Mr Mohamed while he was held by the Americans in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary argued that disclosing the details would undermine the trust between Britain and America over sharing of intelligence material crucial to the "war on terror".

But the Court of Appeal dismissed his argument. Upholding a previous court ruling, it ordered that the information should be published on the grounds that it had already emerged in an American court.

Delivering the ruling, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said publishing the material would "not do the slightest damage to the public interest".

The previously redacted seven paragraphs were a summary by British judges of the intelligence received about the treatment of Mr Mohamed, who was referred to in the court papers as BM.

They said he had been "intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation" and that the "significant mental stress and suffering" caused by this treatment was "increased by him being shackled in his interviews".

Mr Mohammed, who is 31, is an Ethiopian who was granted refugee status in Britain in 1994. He was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan on suspicion of being involved with terrorism and questioned by US and UK agents. He was "rendered" to Morocco and Afghanistan and sent to the Guantanamo Bay two years later.

He was released from the detention camp last year and, on his return to Britain, launched a legal action against the Government, claiming that UK officers were complicit in his ill-treatment. Jacqui Smith, when she was Home Secretary, referred the claims to police.

The court papers disclosed yesterday confirmed that he had endured brutal treatment and made plain that details were passed to MI5. They said: "We regret to have to conclude that the reports provided to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment."

They added: "It could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities."

Mr Miliband conceded defeat after the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against an earlier court ruling that summaries of information received by the British security services from US intelligence should be disclosed. He authorised the publication of the contentious paragraphs on the Foreign Office website.

But it also emerged that ministers launched a successful last-minute attempt to remove some of the most damning comments about MI5 from the paperwork. A letter from Jonathan Sumption QC, for the Government, called for a paragraph warning that the security services did not have a culture of respecting human rights or of renouncing "coercive interrogation techniques" to be erased.

His letter showed that the judges had originally intended to complain that MI5 had "deliberately misled" the Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary body charged with overseeing its work.

They said the criticism particularly applied to an MI5 officer, known as witness B, who gave evidence in the Mohamed case. The words were taken out after Mr Sumption's complaint.

Mr Miliband told the Commons in an emergency statement that the Court of Appeal had upheld the principle that intelligence information should be shared between Britain and the US. But it had ruled that the secret evidence in Mr Mohamed's case could be disclosed as the information had already emerged in the US, the Foreign Secretary said.

He stressed that the treatment had not been carried out by British officers and ran contrary to this country's principles. He said allegations of MI5 collusion in the interrogation were already been investigated by police.

Opposition MPs, as well as human rights groups, demanded a full judicial inquiry into the case, with as much evidence as possible heard in public. But Mr Miliband insisted that the proper course of action was for the allegations to be considered by the courts.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "Anyone who has followed this case closely ... will recognise that knowledge of the American use of torture remained in the secret service but was almost certainly passed on to the highest levels of Government."

Timeline: An eight-year cover-up

*April 2002 Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national with permission to live in Britain, is detained by US forces in Pakistan.

*July 2002 "Rendered" to Morocco.

*Jan 2004 Moved to Afghanistan.

*September 2004 Transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

*November 2005 Charged with plotting attacks against buildings in the US. Charges later dropped.

*February 2008 Released, and returns to Britain, pictured below.

*May 2008 Brings proceedings against the UK Government calling for British papers that might assist in the defence of his case before a US military commission.

*August 2008 Divisional court passes the original judgment on the Mohamed case. It includes seven paragraphs detailing his brutal treatment.

*May 2009 Mr Miliband goes to the high court to block the release of information contained in a CIA document about British knowledge of Mr Mohamed's treatment.

*July 2009 Scotland Yard begins investigation into allegations of MI5 complicity in his alleged torture.

*October 2009 High Court orders publication of US information. It says Mr Miliband acted against the rule of law by trying to censor the evidence.

*November 2009 High Court dismisses the Foreign Secretary's assertion that releasing the details would harm Britain's relations with the US .

*December 2009 Mr Miliband appeals. Foreign Office lawyers accuse judges in previous rulings of damaging Britain's interests.

*December 2009 Previously secret American papers show a US judge concluded there was "credible" evidence Mr Mohamed was tortured.

*Yesterday Court of Appeal dismisses Mr Miliband's arguments. The Foreign Secretary complies and publishes the secret court papers.

Official secrets : What the Foreign Office knew

Here we reveal the paragraphs that were originally concealed in the court document – and our Law Editor Robert Verkaik analyses what they say about the involvement of MI5 in the torture of Binyam Mohamed

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

Robert Verkaik writes: Neither Britain nor America have ever accepted that Binyam Mohamed was unlawfully treated. But here it is in back and white. Forcing a detainee to go without sleep is outlawed under the Geneva Conventions and is a form of "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment".

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and "disappearing" were played upon.

RV: The CIA officers waited until Binyam Mohamed's mental strength was so weakend by the sleep deprivation that he would be vulnerable to pyschological torture. Specifically they threatened him with rendition to countries where he knew torture could be used against him.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews.

viii) It was clear, not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

RV: It is clear that the judges who read the full secret reports were struck by the fact that the conditions of his detention were so harsh that even his captors were concerned about Binyam Mohamed's mental health.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provided to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

RV: This is the killer paragraph. For years the Government has maintained that if Binyam Mohamed was being tortured, MI5 and MI6 knew nothing about this. But the judges say that the CIA reports which were being read in London would have left the British secret services in no doubt about the interrogation.

x) The treatment reported, if it had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.

RV: The judges are making it very clear that MI6 would have known what was happening to Mr Mohamed amounted to torture under UK and US law. That raises questions about who else knew about this. Did the head of MI5 tell Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, what was being done? Was the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, aware?