Mon, Apr 06, 2009 - Page 6 News List

UK probes ‘torture’ against terror suspects

STRAPPADO Suspects say they were tortured by MI5, which allegedly tied their hands behind their backs and then suspended them from their arms, dislocating their shoulders

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Scotland Yard is examining allegations that terror suspects, including UK citizens, were tortured with the complicity of MI5, the British security service, and MI6, the secret intelligence service, officers said.

The London Metropolitan Police — known as the Met — has received detailed evidence relating to the abuse of detainees involving UK intelligence agents, raising the possibility that its criminal inquiry into the alleged mistreatment of Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed could be widened to include more than two dozen torture cases.

A 55-page dossier submitted by lawyers to the Met last week includes claims of UK involvement in 29 cases, including Mohamed’s, of mistreatment or torture against UK citizens or residents. Each is supported by testimony from victims, dates, locations and in some cases, details of the UK intelligence officers who questioned them.

Last week Vera Baird, the solicitor general, told the British parliament: “If there are more [cases] , they will be looked at with the utmost care, with a view to ensuring that, if there is possible criminality, the police will investigate.”

Former shadow home secretary David Davis said: “The police will have no choice but to investigate all these cases.”

Compiled over four years by lawyers acting for UK monitoring group Cageprisoner, the dossier corroborates claims that Britain was involved in a systemic international torture policy, with one case predating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, going back as far as 1999. Six countries are named as being complicit with the UK, including Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Four cases relate to Kenya and the most — seven — involve Pakistan.

The claims come days after the Met was summoned by the ­attorney-general, Patricia Scotland, to examine allegations that MI5 colluded in the torture of Mohamed by feeding the CIA questions while he was held in a secret prison. Details of another 28 cases, which Cageprisoner said were equally compelling, would heighten calls for a judicial inquiry.

A Met source confirmed they were “considering the contents” of the report while they waited for Scotland to forward documentary evidence into Mohamed’s case. He said the investigation into Mohamed had yet to start, and it was theoretically possible detectives could examine torture complicity allegations as part of a broader inquiry.

Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce said the true nature of British involvement was becoming a “burning issue” and it was vital the “state is held properly and publicly to account.”

“It was they [the British] who provided information that could be and was used in conditions of torture, and it was and is they who have received the product,” she said.

A spokesman for Cageprisoner said Scotland would also be asked to investigate alleged MI5 complicity in the questioning of men who said they were tortured, the majority while in US custody abroad.

It comes as MPs prepare the most comprehensive examination of Britain’s role in human rights abuses, focusing on claims of complicity in torture and concern that officials have contravened international law.

Cases in the report include details of UK intelligence officers involved in their questioning, such as their physical description and names. Examples of maltreatment include death threats, ferocious beatings and established torture techniques such as strappado, in which the victims’ hands are tied behind their back and they are then suspended in the air by a rope attached to their wrists, which typically dislocates both arms.

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