Torture watch

Secret courts

On 26 March, the Justice and Security Bill will pass through its final stages in the House of Lords and enshrine the expanded use of secret courts in British law. Even the limited safeguards insisted on by the Lords were stripped out by the government at committee stages, leaving a bill that will, in essence, guarantee the British state and secret services permanent immunity from prosecution.

Closed material procedures (CMPs) were introduced ten years ago by the then Labour government to deal with those accused of terrorist offences. These procedures will now be extended into the main civil courts.

The government will be able to apply for CMPs on the basis of ‘national security’, ensuring that evidence about British complicity in torture, rendition and human rights abuses can no longer be exposed and that claimants, their lawyers, the press and the public can be barred from proceedings, unable to challenge evidence against them, or even know what that evidence is. The Bill will also ban orders forcing the state to disclose documents – as happened in the case of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, tortured at the behest of the British security forces. The papers made it clear that government reluctance to hand them over had nothing to do with national security, and everything to do with shielding the British security services from exposure. In 2011, the government appealed for CMP in the case brought by former Guantanamo detainees accusing the British government and security services of complicity in their rendition, torture and detention. When the court refused, the government preferred to pay out millions of pounds to settle the claim rather than allow damning evidence to be heard in open court. This bill will ensure that it never finds itself in such a situation again.

Torture in Iraq

Just how much Britain has to hide is once again being revealed at the Al Sweady public inquiry into British Army unlawful killing and mistreatment of Iraqis. The allegations relate to the bodies of 28 Iraqis returned to their families by British soldiers after a 2004 firefight known as ‘the Battle of Danny Boy’. Five other Iraqis claim abuse during their detention by the British following that battle. Mizal Karim Al Sweady told the inquiry that the body of his son and others bore injuries such as ‘eyes missing, tongues cut out, noses cut off, teeth removed, bodies...distorted and mutilated and covered in blood’. The Ministry of Defence says all the dead were killed on the battlefield. The inquiry is expected to last a year.

Free Bradley Manning

The US too is attempting to cover up its crimes. US soldier Bradley Manning is accused of leaking thousands of documents to Wikileaks, exposing the brutality, lies and torture perpetrated by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jailed in 2010, he spent most of the first year in solitary confinement, in conditions defined by the UN special rapporteur on torture as ‘cruel and inhuman’. His court martial has now been adjourned until June. Despite Manning pleading guilty to releasing the documents – charges that could result in 20 years imprisonment – the US government is pursuing the more serious charge of ‘aiding the enemy’, punishable by death or life imprisonment.

At his pre-trial hearing in March, Manning – who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – explained how he had become increasingly horrified at the activities of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan and became convinced the public needed to know what was going on. Of a video showing US forces gunning down Iraqi civilians from a plane, Manning said:

‘I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralised, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public…As I hoped, others were just as troubled as me by what they saw.’

Bradley Manning is a political prisoner of imperialism’s brutal War on Terror. Sign the petition to demand his release at http://www.bradleymanning.org/take-action

Guantanamo hunger strike

Up to 166 of the remaining detainees at the US concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, and the numbers are growing. Two prisoners have been hospitalised and eight are being force-fed. Many of these prisoners have been incarcerated in Guantanamo for 11 years without charge and have been cleared for release. One of them is British resident Shaker Aamer. President Obama has broken his 2009 election promise to close down the barbaric site, where prisoners have no protection under either national law or the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war and many have been tortured. In January, the State Department responsible for resettling Guantanamo inmates was closed. Close down Guantanamo! Free the prisoners now!

Cat Alison

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013