War on Torture?

Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm by

According to the news today, the United States was handed a “blow” to national intelligence and security forces. The BBC reported earlier that a court of appeals in England has handed down a decision to make public the torture record for a British citizen, Binyam Mohamed. Other than the fact that Mohamed is a British citizen, there is nothing unique about this case: like many other detainees, he was held for seven years at Guantánamo Bay without due process and withstood a multitude of torture techniques, as reported by the UN and detailed by Andy Worthington,

On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem and if resorted to in a widespread and systematic manner, secret detention might reach the threshold of a crime against humanity.

By all accounts, the court has now opened the flood gates for the US and UK to be inseparable when it comes to litigation, as both countries are apparently in collusion on torture and rendition practices. Dennis Blair, US Director of National Intelligence, has said, “The United States and the United Kingdom have a long history of close cooperation that relies on mutual respect for the handling of classified information.”  Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama administration, says, “We’re deeply disappointed with the court’s judgment because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations. As we warned, the court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward.”

We’ll see what they come up with going forward. According to the ACLU, this ruling sets into motion the opportunity for all people being held to have their day in court.

The suppression of government documents confirming Binyam Mohamed’s rendition and torture by the United States has never been about protecting secrets; it has always been about preventing legal accountability for torture. There is absolutely nothing in the newly released documents that was not already widely known. The British court’s ruling will further undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to use dubious claims of state secrets to prevent accountability for torturers and justice for victims. After today’s developments, it would be a farce if Binyam Mohamed and other victims of U.S. torture policies were denied their day in court.

This case joins a long line of foreign countries, namely countries in the EU, dealing “blows” to our national policies when it comes to torture. Most impressive was a decision handed down by an Italian court last November, which convicted 23 CIA operatives of extraordinary rendition. In April 2009, Speigel International investigated and reported evidence linking the CIA to a secret prison in Poland. And back in 2008, Spain was accused of assisting the US with flights to Guantánamo.

While these cases were all “blows” to our country’s world image, the judgment coming from an English court will most certainly send shock waves. This case bring this to light that the concerned citizens of our country are not alone in fighting against the war on terror. We, the people of this world, might even begin waging a war on torture!

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