The British government has lost its case in court to prevent the disclosure of secret information about the treatment of British resident Binyam Mohamed. Three senior judges of the Court of Appeal have ordered the release of US intelligence documents that Mohamed’s lawyers said showed he was tortured.
Mohamed, who spent four years in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, says the torture took place while he was in CIA custody and that the United Kingdom authorities colluded with it. His legal team had argued that most of the questions asked during his interrogation came from British intelligence.
The UK government had consistently argued that releasing the documents would seriously damage national security, because the disclosure would breach the understanding with the United States government on sharing intelligence. Foreign Secretary David Miliband had called the judges ‘irresponsible’ in an unprecedented attack on the judiciary.
After the government’s appeal against the High Court judgment was rejected, Miliband said in a statement: “The Government accepts the decision of the Court of Appeal that, in the light of disclosures in the US court, it should publish the seven paragraphs at issue in the case of Binyam Mohamed.”
The legal action charity Reprieve, which represents Binyam Mohamed, has accused the British government of ‘trying to conflate national security with national embarrassment’. Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said after the ruling: “The judges have made clear what we have said all along – it is irrational to pretend that evidence of torture should be classified as a threat to national security. Rather, it is proof of a crime committed against Binyam Mohamed, and as such it should be fully aired in a court of law.”
The key details are contained in a seven-paragraph summary of what CIA officials told their British intelligence counterparts about Mohamed’s treatment in 2002. The Foreign Office in London has now released the information it had long refused to disclose.
Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to US officials, to be taken to Morocco and then to Guantanamo Bay. He specifically claims that British MI5 was brought into his interrogation. In October 2009, the MI5 chief John Evans said ‘not colluding with torture was long-standing MI5 policy’. However, an MI5 officer known only as Witness B is being investigated by Metropolitan Police over his alleged role in questioning Mohamed in a Pakistani jail.
Shami Chakrabarty, director of Liberty, said after today’s court ruling that a public inquiry was now ‘inescapable’.