The Irish Anti-War Movement

News of Binyam Mohamed / guantanamo / extraordinary rendition


Binyam Mohamed:

Newspaper reports in the Observer and The Daily Mail on 1 February reported that Binyam, who had been on hunger strike since the beginning of 2009, was visited in the last week of January by his military lawyer, Yvonne Bradley, who reported that he was “just skin and bones” and that if no action was taken soon, Binyam was likely to leave Guantánamo Bay in a coffin. 



Binyam Mohamed:

Newspaper reports in the Observer and The Daily Mail on 1 February reported that Binyam, who had been on hunger strike since the beginning of 2009, was visited in the last week of January by his military lawyer, Yvonne Bradley, who reported that he was “just skin and bones” and that if no action was taken soon, Binyam was likely to leave Guantánamo Bay in a coffin. 


On 4 February, the High Court handed down a judgment in the expedited judicial review for Binyam Mohamed to force the Foreign Office (FCO) to disclose a series of 42 documents it has in its possession that prove his whereabouts in 2002-2004 after being kidnapped in Pakistan by the CIA. The judges stated that they could not force the FCO to disclose these documents as they had been informed that if it did so, the US had threatened to cease sharing intelligence with the UK, thereby threatening national security. In the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary later played down claims of a US threat and conceded that he had not asked the new administration if it held a different view, in spite of having only met Secretary of State Hilary Clinton a few days earlier.

The judges in the case had wanted the information to be made public in this case, which they had previously described as “deeply disturbing”, in the interests of safeguarding the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability. Following his admission in Parliament that he had misled both the High Court and fellow MPs, MPs called on the Foreign Secretary to disclose the information, but he has refused to do so. Lawyers acting on behalf of Binyam Mohamed have since applied to have the case reopened and the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has reopened its investigation into British involvement in Binyam’s torture and rendition. While, to date, these documents have not been made public, there is no longer any doubt as to the involvement of the UK and the US in Binyam’s torture and rendition with each country hiding behind the other and the excuse of national security to hide its guilt and wrongdoing. Both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have since stated that the UK does not condone or support torture, yet refuses to release this information or press the US to allow it to do so.


Binyam’s military lawyer Yvonne Bradley started a visit to the UK on 8 February to meet high level officials, to discuss his treatment at Guantánamo Bay and to press the British government to do more to have him released. In the following days, Ms. Bradley met officials at the FCO, other politicians and Binyam’s lawyers. She urged the British government to act to have Binyam released.


With mounting pressure on both the British and American governments to release Binyam Mohamed and evidence of their complicity in his rendition, a senior interrogator at Guantánamo Bay who had also met him at Bagram stated in a signed affidavit submitted to an American court that Binyam Mohamed had not been tortured but had cooperated with interrogators and had volunteered information about his involvement in terrorism. He also alleged that he had not been mistreated.


A delegation from the government, including British doctors, flew out to the US to talk to American officials to secure his release. They met Binyam Mohamed on 15 February and stated that he was fit to fly back to the UK. Binyam Mohamed ended his hunger strike shortly before being visited by the British delegation.


Also on 15 February, the Guardian newspaper reported that the FCO had actually asked the US State Department to write the letter to it that stated that it would cease sharing intelligence if the names and details in the documents were disclosed. The letter, received by the FCO in August 2008, was solicited so that it would not have to disclose the documents.


Binyam Mohamed’s case was the first to be considered when the new US president started considering the case of each Guantánamo detainee individually on 17 February. He was cleared for immediate release.


Binyam Mohamed returned to the UK on 23 February. He was flown into RAF Northolt where he was met by his sister. He was questioned by immigration officials for a few hours before being released. Binyam is currently regaining his strength and readjusting to life outside of Guantánamo Bay. Binyam released a statement upon his return through his lawyers.



Last year, the government handed over Binyam’s case for investigation to the Attorney General and calls have been made recently for criminal charges to be brought in relation to British agents involved in his rendition. As well as criminal charges, it is important that a public independent enquiry is held separately into exactly what the British government knew about Binyam’s ordeal and how it was involved.


Two further British residents remain at Guantánamo Bay: 42 year old south London Saudi resident Shaker Aamer, who has a seven year son he has never met, and Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian resident from Bournemouth, who has been free to leave Guantánamo Bay for over two years, but has remained there as the British government has refused to accept him and he fears further torture if returned to Algeria. The American government is refusing to return Shaker Aamer, citing security reasons which the British government has not disclosed even to his family. Recent allegations concerning British involvement in his rendition and presence during interrogations involving torture have very recently come to light and may explain why Britain is reluctant to explain why Mr. Aamer is still in Guantánamo over 18 months since it asked for his release.


Guantánamo Bay:

On 4 February, the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority of 542 to 55 votes (51 abstentions) to call on Member States to offer homes to detainees released from Guantánamo Bay if asked to do so by President Obama.


Over one-fifth (approximately 50) detainees are currently on hunger strike and most are being force fed by being strapped down and having tubes inserted up through their noses.


Conditions at the detention camp have reportedly not improved under the Obama Presidency. The regular abuse, including beatings, of detainees continues.


On 18 February, an appeal judge ruled that 17 Uighur detainees, who a district court judge had ruled to be released into the US mainland in late 2008, must remain at Guantánamo Bay. The ruling stated that the original judge had gone too far and that the detainees, who remain at Guantánamo Bay as it is unsafe for them to return to their native China, had no constitutional right to be released immediately. China has recently asked for them to be returned. The Uighurs are an oppressed Muslim minority in China.


Extraordinary Rendition:

On 9 February, an appeal case was brought before a California judge in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concerning the involvement of Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan in planning itineraries for rendition flights around the world. The case was brought on behalf of five victims, including British residents Binyam Mohamed and Bisher Al-Rawi. The original case was thrown out of court when the American government invoked the state secrets privilege, which was much used by the Bush administration, and claimed that the case could damage international relations. The privilege was invoked again by the Department of Justice in this appeal in spite of President Obama’s apparent break with the policies and practices of his predecessor.


On 21 February, it was reported that President Obama has decided to keep with another Bush tradition by refusing to allow the 600+ detainees held at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan to have the right to a trial, leaving the so-called “terror suspects” in legal limbo. He signed a decree to this effect. Most of the detainees who have been or are held at Guantánamo Bay passed through Bagram and many reported that the torture and conditions of detention were far worse there than at Guantánamo Bay. Torture, including sensory deprivation, at the base came to light in 2002 with the death of two Afghan detainees, the story of one of whom was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.


Bagram is twice the size of Guantánamo Bay and there are currently plans worth 60 million dollar by the US military to increase its size and prisoner capacity. The US Justice Department claims that Bagram is in a war zone because it is in Afghanistan and is thus subject to different rules. Only the Red Cross has been given access to detainees. While President Obama has pledged to close Guantánamo Bay and other CIA prisons, he has not set a date for this to happen and appears instead to be perpetuating his predecessor’s legacy. Although it is reported that currently the majority of detainees at Bagram are Afghans, there is very little information about the conditions in which they are held and recent allegations of a hidden network of underground cells there has emerged. Closing Guantánamo Bay must not give the Obama administration an opportunity to push extraordinary rendition and the US network of secret torture prisons off the radar or underground. The new administration is not apologetic or regretful of what has happened over the past seven years and has yet to show that it has actually broken with the practices of its predecessor.


In February, further allegations and admissions have emerged about British involvement in torture and rendition. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report to be published in March will report that MI5 has been knowingly involved in the torture of British and foreign nationals in Pakistan over several years. On 26 February, Defence Minister John Hutton admitted that British troops in Iraq handed over two Pakistani nationals allegedly suspected of involvement in terrorism to American troops in 2004. The two men were then rendered to Afghanistan. The MoD alleges that it did not previously know what had become of the men and denies knowing that they had been tortured. Torture is an implicit factor in extraordinary rendition and the government could not have been ignorant of this. Further erroneous reports by the British press claim that rendition victims are sent to countries “where the use of torture is legal”. Torture is banned absolutely under international law and thus cannot be legal anywhere under any circumstance, whether or not sanctioned by the laws of a country or how a country may choose to define their conduct.


Throughout February, calls have been growing from MPs and NGOs for an independent enquiry into Britain’s full role in extraordinary rendition. The government first admitted its involvement in the process over a year ago when David Miliband informed parliament that it had been misled by former Foreign Secretaries who had denied British involvement in rendition flights: two flights had stopped and refuelled en route to Guantánamo Bay on the island of Diego Garcia, under British administration, in the Indian Ocean.

calls for an independent public enquiry into the full extent of British involvement in extraordinary rendition.

This is in the interest of national security as otherwise we cannot assume that British involvement in torture and rendition is not ongoing and will not occur in the future. Secret evidence obtained through the use of torture and secrecy to cover government misconduct has no place in a state that is transparent and upholds the rule of law. The British government owes this both to the victims and survivors of extraordinary rendition as well as to the people of the United Kingdom.


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