Officers of the British Security Service, MI5, are being accused of “outsourcing” the torture of British citizens to a notorious Pakistani intelligence agency in an attempt to obtain information about terrorist plots and to secure convictions against al-Qaida suspects. A committee of MPs heard testimoney this week, in regards to the allegations that British security services colluded in the torture of terrorism suspects. The committee will deliver its findings later this month.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights were presented with evidence from, amongst others, the Guardian newspaper and campaign group Human Rights Watch. Andrew Dismore, chair of the JCHR, said: “The fact that we are holding this hearing underlines the seriousness of these allegations.” Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, stated: “What is most disturbing about these accounts is that the British government knew full well the techniques the ISI and Pakistani law enforcement agencies use in interrogations, particularly in terror investigations.”
The claims, which were first reported in theGuardian in April last year, relate to a number of suspects arrested in Pakistan at the request of British authorities between 2003 and 2007. The British citizens, who had been detained in Pakistan during British-led counter-terrorism operations and held illegally for several months without access to a lawyer or court. The men say they were repeatedly tortured by agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), before being questioned by MI5.
The accusation that MI5 is at the very least turning a blind eye to the torture of British citizens – and may have actually colluded in their torture – is to surface in a number of forthcoming court cases, including an appeal lodged by a man from Luton after he was convicted of terrorism offences. The alleged victim, Salahuddin Amin, told the Old Bailey last year that he was interviewed by two MI5 officers several times in 10 months, in between being whipped, beaten with sticks, suspended from his wrists and threatened with an electric drill. His interrogation was coordinated with the questioning of several associates at Paddington Green police station, west London, and the questioning of a further suspect in Canada.
A second man, Rangzieb Ahmed, from Manchester, says that in 2006 he was beaten, whipped, deprived of sleep at the Rawalpindi centre. He alleged that on the fourth day he was hooded and bound and taken to a place where he was questioned by two MI5 officers. No attempt was made to extradite any of the men to be questioned by police officers in the UK, and they received no assistance from British consular officials. They were eventually arrested on arrival in Britain after being placed aboard aircraft and flown in without extradition hearings.
Tayab Ali, a London-based lawyer for two of the men, commented: “I am left with no doubt that, at the very worst, the British Security Service instigates the illegal detention and torture of British citizens, and at the very best turns a blind eye to torture.” Labour MP John McDonnell said: “I believe that there is now sufficient evidence from this and other cases to demonstrate that British officials outsourced the torture of British nationals to a Pakistani intelligence agency “.
Asked about the allegations, MI5 asked the Home Office to issue a statement which said: “The government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice worldwide.” “All Security Service staff have an awareness of the Human Rights Act 1998, and are fully committed to complying with the requirements of the law when working in the UK and overseas”.
This follows a number of allegations of collusion in torture leveled at the British government, since British soldiers were accused of torturing Iraqi prisoners. It was revealed last year that two US government ‘rendition planes’ refuelled on the British territory of Diego Garcia, despite numerous government assurances that this was not the case. Also, after a seven-month investigation, Dick Marty of the Council of Europe accused the UK of not only offering logistical support to the CIA operation but also providing information that was used during the torture of a terrorism suspect in Morocco. Last week it was disclosed that eight men freed from US custody at GuantÃ¡namo Bay had issued writs against MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, alleging they were complicit in their illegal detention and subsequent abuse.
The hearing is part of the JCHR’s ongoing inquiry into the UN charter against torture. If the MPs decide the issues need further investigation they can hold further hearings, calling more witnesses, and may produce a written report.
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This post was written by Christopher Vasey