Sat, Feb 18, 2006 - Page 6 News List

UK judge slams US over prisoner torture claims

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A British judge on Thursday delivered a stinging attack on the US, saying its idea of what constituted torture was out of step with that of "most civilised nations".

The criticism, directed at the Bush administration's approach to human rights, was made by Justice Collins during a hearing in the High Court in London over the refusal by British ministers to request the release of three British residents held at Guantanamo Bay.

The judge said: "America's idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations".

He made his comments, he said, after learning of the UN report that said Guantanamo should be shut down without delay because torture was still being carried out there.

The Bush administration has defined torture in narrow terms, referring to intense physical injury and organ failure.

Controversy about the definition goes to the heart of allegations that the US has secretly used Britain to transport detainees to interrogation centers in countries where torture is practised, in the practice known as "extraordinary rendition".

UK government ministers have relied on US assurances which senior British lawyers have repeatedly questioned.

In a judgment handed down by the UK's most senior judges, the Law Lords, last year, Lord Bingham referred to US techniques, including sensory deprivation and inducing a perception of suffocation, which, he said, would be defined as torture in British law.

Justice Collins said that three British residents in Guantanamo could now seek a court order requiring UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, to petition for their release.

The case, brought by Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, and Omar Deghayes, and members of their families living in Britain, could be heard as early as next week.

Responding to the judge's remarks about the US definition of torture, Rabinder Singh QC, counsel for the three detainees and their families, said Britain and the European court of human rights would "undoubtedly condemn" many of the practices at Guantanamo.

Al-Rawi is an Iraqi who has lived in the UK since 1985. His business partner, el-Banna, is a Jordanian refugee, and Omar Deghayes is Libyan refugee.

The judge made clear that in his ruling he had taken into account the principle of respect for family life enshrined in the European human rights convention.

There are eight British residents in Guantanamo.

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