How I (Almost) Made Miliband Admit the Truth about Torture; UNITED STANCE: David Miliband with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

How I (Almost) Made Miliband Admit the Truth about Torture; UNITED STANCE: David Miliband with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday


Byline: DAVID ROSE

By DAVID ROSE WHOSE SUBMISSION PLAYED A KEY PART IN LAST WEEK'S RULING ON GUANTANAMO INMATE BINYAM MOHAMED

IF FOREIGN SECRETARY David Miliband feels uncomfortable today, I am proud to claim a little credit. Last week, he performed some amazing linguistic acrobatics to justify his continued cover-up of the torture of a UK resident, Binyam Mohamed. Part of the reason he had to was a High Court submission, written last November by me.

Looking back at what I wrote, I see that one of the reasons I urged their Lordships to make the details of Mr Mohamed's treatment public was that British and American officials have concealed the truth about our governments' responsibility for using torture so many times before.

Alas. Despite the political storm that broke around the case last week, for the moment, nothing has changed. Mr Mohamed, 32, is an Ethiopian former student who was captured in Pakistan in 2002. A victim of America's 'extraordinary rendition' policy, which saw him flown in secret to Morocco, Afghanistan and finally Guantanamo Bay, he has always said he was tortured, with the knowledge and connivance of British and US officials.

It is likely he will soon be back in London, where he lived for seven years. Meanwhile, in the High Court last week, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Hughes issued an extraordinary ruling.

In an earlier judgment, they had written a seven-paragraph summary of what happened to Mr Mohamed, based on admissions by US intelligence officials - admissions that amounted, the judges said, to evidence that he was arguably tortured and at the very least subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

But thanks to arguments by Mr Miliband's lawyers, these paragraphs had been 'redacted' - censored. Towards the end of last year, the court asked the media to make submissions as to whether this was justified. Some papers and broadcasters went to the expense of instructing a QC.

Having covered Guantanamo for the past six years, and recently written an article on Mr Mohamed for Vanity Fair, I composed my own submission. In it, I commented on Mr Miliband's argument that publication would damage Britain's intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States.

'Here the situation has changed significantly,' I wrote, 'with the election of a US President avowedly determined to eschew torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and to close Guantanamo Bay. The administration of Barack Obama is unlikely to protest at further confirmation that its predecessor saw the inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees as acceptable.'

It is these sentences, to which the judges referred directly in their ruling last week, that have caused all the trouble.

According to the judges, all the other issues in the case - including the need to preserve the rule of law in democracies and to bring evidence of crimes such as torture to light - went in favour of publication.

However, they went on, the Foreign Secretary had told them that the administration of President Bush had made a grave and explicit ' threat' - a word they used explicit 'threat' - a word they used eight times - to stop sharing intelligence with Britain if the court allowed disclosure.

Having read my submission, the judges had asked Mr Miliband's lawyers whether this was still the case under Mr Obama.

In reply, they said, the Foreign Secretary had insisted I was wrong, claiming the election made no difference and, in the end, Wednesday's judgment turned on this point. The judges felt seeking to influence our courts in this way was deeply inappropriate but they could not allow national security to be jeopardised.

ACCORDING to the Government, they added, nothing had changed even after Mr Obama's orders of January 22 to close Guantanamo and ban torture. …

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