U.N. castigates Britain on torture
In a report made public today in The Guardian, a U.N. watchdog castigates Britain for its role in facilitating the United States’ torture of detainees in secret prisons: The Special Rapporteur remains deeply troubled that the United States has created a comprehensive system of extraordinary renditions, prolonged and secret detention, and practices that violate ...
The Special Rapporteur remains deeply troubled that the United States has created a comprehensive system of extraordinary renditions, prolonged and secret detention, and practices that violate the prohibition against torture and other forms of ill-treatment. This system required an international web of exchange of information and has created a corrupted body of information which was shared systematically with partners in the war on terror through intelligence cooperation, thereby corrupting the institutional culture of the legal and institutional systems of recipient States.
While this system was devised and put in place by the United States, it was only possible through collaboration from many other States. There exist consistent, credible reports suggesting that at least until May 2007 a number of States facilitated extraordinary renditions in various ways. States such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, Indonesia, Kenya, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have provided intelligence or have conducted the initial seizure of an individual before he was transferred to (mostly unacknowledged) detention centres in Afghanistan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Thailand, Uzbekistan, or to one of the CIA covert detention centres, often referred to as “black sites”. In many cases, the receiving States reportedly engaged in torture and other forms of ill-treatment of these detainees.
The special rapporteur, Martin Scheinen, states that British intelligence officers interviewed detainees in “so-called safe houses where they were being tortured” and that they “conducted or witnessed just over 2,000 interviews in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq.” He calls for whistle-blower protections and the revision of numerous policies to safe-guard human rights. The revelations aren’t that revelatory, given past reports on the participation of European countries in rendition and “enhanced interrogation.” But the tone’s especially fire-and-brimstone in this iteration.
And, the report comes as concern over the Britain’ss collusion in the mistreatment of detainees comes to a fever pitch. Last month, Binyam Mohammed, a British national arrested in Pakistan, returned to the U.K. after seven years of detention. He told papers, “Mentally right now, the result of my experience is that I feel emotionally dead….When I realised that the British were co-operating with the people torturing me, I felt completely naked. They sold me out.”
Additionally, members of parliament are calling for the government to release classified documents which detail its cooperation and participation with U.S. interrogators. And the country is considering accepting more prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, to hasten its closure.
All in all, it’s an issue that’s received an extraordinary amount of attention and garnered extraordinary public debate in Great Britain — even more so than in the United States. And it isn’t good news for poor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, just coming off the worst week ever.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
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