Government “pays out” Al Rawi mistreatment claimants

16 November 2010 by

Binyam Mohamed

 

Updated | It is being widely reported that around 12 men, who accused the government of complicity in their mistreatment in various places including the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, have reached a financial settlement worth millions of pounds with the government.

Update, 16:30: Ken Clarke has announced the settlements to Parliament. The terms are confidential, no admission of culpability has been made and the claimants have not withdrawn their allegations. The alternative to any payments would have been “protracted and extremely expensive” litigation. This could have cost between £30m and £50m. There could have been no inquiry while those cases were under way. However, the Gibson inquiry cannot run in parallel with a criminal inquiry. The criminal investigations have to conclude first.

The men, whose number includes Binyam Mohamed, have been fighting the initial stages of a civil claim against the security services. The claim has already been the focus of a number of early skirmishes (see the ‘read more’ links below) relating to disclosure of around 500,000 documents, some of them secret, to the men’s lawyers.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits the state from subjecting anyone to “torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The UK is also a signatory to the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. So it is illegal for any agents of the state to carry out or be complicit in such treatment.

The men’s claims, known collectively under the name Al Rawi, were a civil (that is, non-criminal) compensation claim, but the wider issues surrounding the alleged mistreatment, and how much the UK security services knew about it, are to be explored in an upcoming torture inquiry announced by the coalition government in July.

The resolution of the case should clear the way for the public inquiry into torture collusion to begin, although the Prime Minister has always maintained that it cannot begin until criminal investigations are resolved too. When announcing the inquiry, the he saidWe can’t start that inquiry while criminal investigations are ongoing. And it’s not feasible to start it when there so many civil law suits that remain unresolved.” He went on to say “we are committed to mediation with those who have brought civil claims about their detention in Guantanamo. And wherever appropriate, we will offer compensation. As soon as we’ve made enough progress, an independent Inquiry will be held.”

The torture inquiry is also likely to consider the guidance which intelligence officers and service personnel were given at the time in relation to obtaining and using evidence obtained from detainees. The up to date 2010 guidance was published by the government at the same time as it announced the torture inquiry, and has been criticised and then defended . But the High Court in Al Rawi was concerned with the 2002 and 2004 versions (see our post) which may not have provided clear enough guidance to security services.

Meanwhile, with uncanny timing, Amnesty International have released a report claiming that the European Union has not done enough to deliver justice for the victims of the CIA’s unlawful and rendition and secret detention programs. The advocacy organisation claims “These abuses occurred on European soil. We simply can’t allow Europe to join the US in becoming an ‘accountability-free’ zone.”

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