Guantanamo payouts: right decision, wrong reasons


1:30 pm - November 16th 2010

by Dave Osler    


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If anything, a million pounds is not compensation enough for seven years’ detention without trial in Morocco and Cuba, including subjection to starvation, sleep deprivation, regular beatings and having your penis mutilated with a scalpel. For that reason, Binyam Mohamed deserves the money.

Sure, the pay-off means that legitimate questions over whether he received paramilitary training in Afghanistan in 2001, and what he was doing when he tried to fly to the UK on a false passport before he was lifted in Karachi the following year, will now never be answered. It may be that Mr Mohamed is not a morally meritorious person.

But from a purely legal standpoint, charges against him of involvement in conspiracy to murder and to commit terrorism have been dropped, and the UK Court of Appeal has ruled that he was subjected to ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’ by the US authorities.

He was wrongly imprisoned for a long time, and was seriously mistreated in the process, and like anyone else in those circumstances, he is entitled to a decently-sized cheque.

Now Mohamed and a group of other former Guantanmo detainees – including Bisher al Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga – have reached an out of court settlement with the UK government.

The coalition is clearly keen to avoid a lengthy trial that would have seen the methodology of the security services come under judicial scrutiny. It will also have wanted to avoid the disclosure of secret documents under discovery.

Ostensibly, this is because such a step might prejudice the UK’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US. But as like as not, there was also a perceived risk unseemly revelations that could embarrass people on this side of the pond as well.

There will still be an independent inquiry, headed by Sir Peter Gibson, into claims that British intelligence was somehow complicit in the torture of these men, and what part rendition flights played in these cases. But independent inquiries headed by hand-picked Establishment worthies are rarely coruscating in their conclusions.

This is, in short, a deal that suits everybody. The government clearly has things that it wants to hide. It may be that some of those on the other side of these proceedings also prefer ready cash to cross-examination under oath.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


“The government clearly has things that it wants to hide. It may be that some of those on the other side of these proceedings also prefer ready cash to cross-examination under oath.”

A pithy and probably accurate summary.

I second cjcjc.

Good OP.

‘This is, in short, a deal that suits everybody. The government clearly has things that it wants to hide.’

To be accurate, its the previous government that has things to hide.

Yup, a good OP. But I’m not sure about the headline.

“The coalition is clearly keen to avoid a lengthy trial that would have seen the methodology of the security services come under judicial scrutiny. It will also have wanted to avoid the disclosure of secret documents under discovery.

Ostensibly, this is because such a step might prejudice the UK’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US. But as like as not, there was also a perceived risk unseemly revelations that could embarrass people on this side of the pond as well.

You can add to that the desire to avoid a socking great legal bill (and enormous time investment) on a case they were clearly advised was close to unwinnable. But conceding in a trial for reasons of national security, cost and practicality seems like perfectly reasonable grounds to me. What would you consider the right reasons to have been?

Shatterface,

I suspect that there is enough continuity of interest between governments on matters such as this that the current government is quite happy to hide most of the last government’s intelligence skeletons in a cupboard somewhere.

Although I can see this upsetting the Daily Mail, which has to be a good thing…

I suspect that there is enough continuity of interest between governments on matters such as this that the current government is quite happy to hide most of the last government’s intelligence skeletons in a cupboard somewhere.

Quite. There is a tacit convention that you don’t undercut or criticise the “security services” for political advantage, because (a) you might want them to do whatever it was they did for your predecessors and no government likes to give up any of its options, and (b) trying to fuck professional rat-fuckers is rarely a winning proposition.

I agree too, but it does make for painful listening on Talk Sport radio overnight, when all these northern truckers coming down the M1, ring in to the programme and start complaining that the likes of those poppy burners and jihadists who got caught in Afghanistan are taking the mick out of Britain.

As they’d read all about it here:
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3227535/Armistice-day-poppy-burner-is-only-16.html

ONE of the Muslim fanatics behind the Armistice Day poppy burning outrage is a 16-year-old, The Sun can reveal.
The boy, who cannot be named, once asked a teacher how he could obtain explosives, worships Osama Bin Laden and has posted an online video rant branding British soldiers “serial killers”.

Maybe I should just change my radio station.

There seems to be a breakdown of logic regarding this torture thing. The US claims to be against torture, but it is in favour of judicially gassing, electrocuting or poisoning people, which is surely worse than severely discomfiting them.

Similarly, when we are prepared to bomb, shoot and kill the enemy to help defend ourselves, why do we cavil at merely hurting him?

Don’t get me wrong. Like most people, I have an instinctive distaste for the idea of torture. But I enthusiastically incline towards torture of an individual as being preferable to the mass murder of our citizens. And if I received warning of 9/11, knowing that the information had been obtained by torture, I’d nevertheless feel bound to pass it on and prevent the bloodbath. Those fundamentally opposed to torture clearly couldn’t, not if they were being true to their principles.

The UK security services involvement with these individuals mistreatment is not proven.

I’d have rather seen it go to court with any sensitive areas held in closed session than this outcome.

Liberanos: harming people in war (or indeed, in any kind of self-defence) is very different from harming people when they’re safely in your custody. I agree the death penalty is an outlier there; I’m not sure how someone can rationally support the death penalty while opposing torture.

On the 9/11 point – it’s in no way a betrayal of anti-torture principles to use evidence that someone else, without your permission or knowledge, has obtained by torture in self-defence against an imminent threat. The correct thing to do would be to use the information in whatever ways are possible to thwart the attacks – then, after the attacks, to put the torturers on trial, punish them, and ensure that none of the torture-derived information was used when trying the terrorism suspects.

11. scandalousbill

John B,

” it’s in no way a betrayal of anti-torture principles to use evidence that someone else, without your permission or knowledge, has obtained by torture in self-defence against an imminent threat. The correct thing to do would be to use the information in whatever ways are possible to thwart the attacks – then, after the attacks, to put the torturers on trial, punish them, and ensure that none of the torture-derived information was used when trying the terrorism suspects”

I think there are issues with this approach.

The first is the UK’s relationship and standing with international law, tribunals and war crimes trials. It is somewhat contradictory to on one hand to advocate the prosecution of atrocities and brutal actions of dictators etc. and then comply and use information gained from atrocities and brutal actions, which many would classify torture under.

The second point is the reliability of the information gained from torture. Much of the so called evidence for WMD was gained through these methods and turned out to be false.

12. Tony Baverstock

Since the Government are giving him my m,oney paid in my taxes I think I have a right to say NO. Let him go to court and prove a) he was not involved in potential terroist acts and B0 the Government knowly and willfully was involved in the torture. If the case has to be in camera so be it.

“Let him go to court and prove a) he was not involved in potential terroist acts”

He has to prove no such thing. He may or may not be a scallywag, (most likely he is), but it is for the state to prove this, not for him to prove a negative.

14. Chaise Guevara

12 Tony Baverstock

“Let him go to court and prove a) he was not involved in potential terroist acts and B0 the Government knowly and willfully was involved in the torture. ”

So if you were illegally held and tortured for years by the government simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time without an alibi, we can assume that you’d happily accept that due to that lack of alibi you’d be entited to zero compensation on release?

Or are you one just of these people who thinks “It won’t happen to me because I’m not Middle Eastern, so who gives a shit?”

15. scandalousbill

Tony

“Since the Government are giving him my m,oney paid in my taxes I think I have a right to say NO. Let him go to court and prove a) he was not involved in potential terroist acts and B0 the Government knowly and willfully was involved in the torture. If the case has to be in camera so be it.”

I think the point was with most Gitmo detainees is that their release was based upon the fact that no criminal charges that would stand up in civilian courts. Bush, in fact, unsuccessfully attempted to “end run” the US judicial system by attempting to create a military court. This would have provided the in camera type trials you allude to, but violated both international and US constitutional statutes on the basis that the individuals would not have been granted a due process, as the secrecy of the arrangement would deny them a right to a fair trial.

The reason it was done may have been that we would otherwise have had to confront the following:
1) That these were not really British people except in a legal sense…and that their testimony would emphasise that we have so-called Britons who have a deepseated hostilty to Britain who are receiving millions of pounds to compensate them for possibly being caught by British security services and handed over for torture.
2)That despite all the weasel words about torture being abhorrent to “us” we “friends” of America and Israel know very well that our friends routinely use Abu Grabe tactics during questioning ..yet still allow their security services and military to operate in Britain and the EU.

17. son of the soil

Only the British establishment would be so weak and stupid as to pay foreign enemies millions of pounds in compensation in this fashion. They should have been ‘disappeared’.

17

Yes, because disappearing people is the hallmark of a free, democratic society.

Oh wait……

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 16

“That these were not really British people except in a legal sense”

As opposed to the sense that means “people Jim Evans is prepared to accept as British”?


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Bin27

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  3. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: Guantanamo payouts: right decision, wrong reasons http://bit.ly/cOgN1g





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