As an American, I am disappointed in this decision. As a four-year resident of Britain, I hope we can learn from the cautionary tale unfolding across the Atlantic.
The decision was made on a six to five vote in the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals – about as close as you can get, and of those, the crucial sixth vote agreed with the dissent on many key points. By most accounts, this brings the case to the end of the line. The Ninth Circuit was Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi and the other rendition victims' best chance for redress. There will be an appeal, yes; but the plaintiffs' prospects on review in the Supreme Court, tilting ever more to the right, are dim.
In short, the CIA's victims seem doomed never to have their day in US court. Need it really be said how shameful that is? Rendition involved some of the most shocking violations of the entire war on terror. It bears repeating not just that men were tortured, but that evidence later proved that they were innocent – that the government made grievous mistakes in detaining many of them at all.
Faced with these facts, the US court has basically punted, effectively saying 'let the politicians sort it out'. But let us be candid: no branch of the US government wants to take a clear look at rendition's ugly past. (What this says about rendition in the present, a tactic President Obama has explicitly kept in his pocket, is a more troubling question still.) There is currently zero political will in America in favour of an inquiry, or a settlement to CIA torture victims. It took decades for payments to be made to the Latin Americans of Japanese descent sent to internment camps during the Second World War. Binyam and Bisher shouldn't have to wait until their sunset years for redress and an apology.
What does all this mean for us in Britain? As I say, I hope it is a lesson. These issues are not merely a matter for British judges, although one notes that they certainly did not deprive Binyam Mohamed of his day in court. There can be no healing, and no learning, if we seek to bury the past. The Jeppesen case reminds us why the inquiry announced by William Hague is so important – and why it must be thorough, scrupulous, and fair.
The author is Reprieve's legal directorReuse content