Torture


“Torture is wrong”: Discuss

28 February 2011 by

Ahmed & Anor v R [2011] EWCA Crim 184 (25 February 2011) – Read judgment

“Torture is wrong”. The court of appeal made this simple and it would be hoped obvious statement in the appeal of two men convicted of terrorism and being active members of Al Qaeda. But, it turns out, the position on torture is not as clear as those three simple words.

Rangzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed were British citizens, born in Lancashire. They were jailed in 2008 for being members of Al Qeaeda and planning mass murder. During the trial, Rangzieb applied to the judge to stop the prosecution, on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to try him. He claimed that he was tortured whilst he was in custody in Pakistan. He said that amongst other things, he had been beaten and had his fingernails removed. He also claimed that British officers questioned him on one day of his captivity.

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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 The terms are confidential, no admission of culpability has been made and the claimants have not withdrawn their allegations.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.

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Fruit of the poisoned tree: evidence obtained under torture in the UK

7 October 2010 by

 

Ghailani

Updated | A judge in New York has barred prosecutors of a suspected-terrorist from using the testimony of a man whose evidence may be tainted by CIA torture. What would happen if a similar scenario arose in the UK?

The New York Times reports that those prosecuting Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in the first civilian trial of a man held at Guantanamo Bay have suffered a setback: “just as the trial was to begin on Wednesday, Judge Kaplan ruled that he would not allow [a man who was to testify that Ghailani sold weapons to him]  to testify. … the government had acknowledged that it had identified and located the witness through interrogation of Mr. Ghailani when he was earlier held in a secret overseas jail run by the Central Intelligence Agency. His lawyers have said he was tortured there.” The judge said:

 

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Death penalty victory in European court for Iraqi murder suspects

5 October 2010 by

Updated Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi v the United Kingdom – 61498/08 [2010] ECHR 282 – Read judgment / court press release

The European Court of Human Rights has declared that a decision in the cases of two Iraqi murder suspects in UK custody in Iraq is now final and will not be reconsidered. The court has effectively prohibited the death penalty under the European Convention on Human Rights, despite Article 2 (the right to life) appearing to expressly allow it.

The judgment is an important restatement of the prohibition against the death penalty which has been agreed to by all Council of Europe states. However, the reasoning of the court in prohibiting it under the European Convention, founded on the men’s “mental suffering caused by the fear of execution amounting to inhuman treatment”, rather than a prohibition against states carrying out the death penalty itself, may generate difficulties in future cases relating to inhuman and degrading treatment.

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Did the security services know about detainee mistreatment?

29 September 2010 by

Binyam Mohamed

More documents have emerged calling into question what the UK security services knew about the alleged mistreatment of ‘War on Terror’ detainees. Until this case is resolved, it is unlikely that work will begin on the upcoming torture inquiry.

Various documents have been disclosed in the ongoing case of Al Rawi and Others v The Security Services, in which six men who were detained at various locations, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram in Afghanistan, allege various forms of mistreatment. They say that the UK government knew or should reasonably have known that the mistreatment was happening. Although the case has not yet reached trial, it has been the subject of a number of high-profile applications for secret documents (see our posts here and here).

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Extradition to Lithuanian jail not a breach of human rights

9 September 2010 by

The Queen on the application of Arvdas Klimas v. Prosecutors General Office of Lithuania [2010] EWHC 2076 – Read judgment

We welcome this guest post by Michal Jorek

Will a court execute an extradition request if the prison conditions and treatment of prisoners in the requesting State are such that detention there would constitute torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment?

This question was recently considered by the High Court in The Queen on the application of Arvdas Klimas v. Prosecutors General Office of Lithuania. Although the Court was clear in its pronouncement, it is arguable that aspects of its reasoning are at the very least questionable.

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The ripple effect from Guantanamo Bay to the English courts

23 August 2010 by

Review: The Ripple Effect: Guantanamo Bay in the United Kingdom Courts” by CRG Murray, International Law Review Online Companion, April 2010 – Read article

A new academic article by C.R.G Murray at Newcastle University analyses the interesting and important line of case-law arising from claims by men detained in Guantanamo Bay. The case-law has involved many issues of a politically sensitive nature and generated much media coverage and pressure on the British Government. The ripple effects from the detentions have led to a series of important judgments.

Murray’s article reviews important case-law arising from detention at Guantanamo Bay and the impact it has had on the decisions reached by the courts. Murray concludes that the case-law demonstrates two major ‘ripple effects’: (1) judicial review has been used to press the British Government into being more active in opposing detentions at Guantanamo Bay; (2) where serious human rights breaches are in issue, the courts have been more willing to disregard historic concepts of comity between courts in different jurisdictions and give their own view of the correct interpretation of law for the benefit of appellate courts in the United States.

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Al Rawi disclosure evidence of torture complicity?

15 July 2010 by

http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2010/07/15/al-rawi-disclo…ure-complicity/The Guardian have published a number of documents which have been disclosed to the High Court as part of a claim for compensation by men claiming they were mistreated abroad with the knowledge of UK security services.

The Guardian claims that the documents reveal the “the true extent of the Labour government’s involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens”. Key passages can be found here.

The documents were disclosed as part of the ongoing case of Al Rawi and Ors v The Security Services. Although the case has not yet been heard, it has been the subject of a number of high-profile applications for secret documents which the Government have generally lost. We posted recently on the judgment of Mr Justice Silber leading to the disclosure of some of the most recent documents which the Guardian have published (see also here).

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Torture inquiry details announced

6 July 2010 by

Binyam Mohamed

The details of the forthcoming wide-ranging public inquiry into British complicity with “rendition” and torture abroad have been announced by the Prime Minister.

He also announced the public release of guidance, formerly secret, on the questioning of suspects overseas, and that a new committee is to review the use of secret evidence in court proceedings.

The statement can be read in full here. Contrary to some reports, the new inquiry is to be judge-led. It will be headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired Court of Appeal Judge, who amongst other things headed up the Omagh bombing intelligence review in  2008, and currently is serving as the Intelligence Services Commissioner, a post which involves reviewing actions taken by the Secretary of State under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the activities of British intelligence.

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Even more secret evidence trouble for Government in Al Rawi case

21 June 2010 by

 

 

 

Binyam Mohamed

Al Rawi & Ors v the Security Service & Ors [2010] EWHC 1496 (QB) (21 June 2010)  – Read judgment

The Government has received another in an increasingly long line of blows in the Al Rawi & Others foreign torture case, with Mr Justice Silber ordering a closed hearing to see whether two key security service documents are to be disclosed to the claimants. If the Government chooses not to claim public interest immunity, which is unlikely, the documents will be disclosed immediately.

The compensation claim involves six claimants who were detained at various locations, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram in Afghanistan, alleging various forms of mistreatment. They claim to have been subjected to false imprisonment, trespass to the person, conspiracy to injure, torture, breach of contract, negligence, misfeasance in public office and breaches of their rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Government has recently ordered a public inquiry into the security services’ alleged complicity in torture, but this is not likely to start until after the Al Rawi claims are resolved.

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Amnesty International report criticises UK’s record on deportation and torture

27 May 2010 by

Amnesty International published its 2010 Report yesterday, documenting torture and other human rights abuses around the world.

In relation to the UK, Amnesty’s report condemns the UK’s continuing reliance on “diplomatic assurances” in deportation cases where individuals were likely to be at risk of torture or other abuse if sent to countries where the Government accepts they would otherwise be abuse, in particular Algeria and Jordan. The report summarises that:

Reports implicating the UK in grave violations of human rights of people held overseas continued to emerge. Calls for independent investigations into the UK’s role in these violations went unheeded. The government’s attempts to return people to countries known to practise torture on the basis of “diplomatic assurances” (unenforceable promises from the countries where these individuals were to be returned) continued. The European Court of Human Rights found that, by detaining a number of foreign nationals without charge or trial (internment), the UK had violated their human rights. The implementation of measures adopted with the stated aim of countering terrorism led to human rights violations, including unfair judicial proceedings.

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More secret evidence trouble for Government in foreign torture case

4 May 2010 by

Binyam Mohamed

Al Rawi & Ors v Security Service & Ors [2010] EWCA Civ 482 (04 May 2010) – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has roundly rejected a request by the Government that evidence in a high-profile torture compensation claim should be kept secret from the public. It has also used the opportunity to emphasise that the interests of open justice would be serious compromised if this kind of request were ever granted in a civil case, even in very limited circumstances.

This compensation claim involves six claimants who were detained at various locations, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram in Afghanistan, alleging various forms of mistreatment.

The judgment is the latest in a series of reverses suffered by the Government in matters involving Binyam Mohamed and others in relation to their alleged torture. In February the Court of Appeal ordered it to release an unredacted version of an email relating to the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment which Binyam Mohamed received during questioning by American authorities.

In the latest judgment, the Court of Appeal rejected the previous judgment of Mr Justice Silber in the High Court. The issue was whether the judge was right to conclude that it is open to a court, in the absence of statutory authority, to order a closed material procedure for part (or, conceivably, even the whole) of the trial of a civil claim for damages in tort and breach of statutory duty.

The appeal judges concluded that it was not open for a court to order a closed material procedure, stating that:

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Government back in court over foreign torture allegations

20 April 2010 by

The case of The Queen on the application of Evans v Secretary Of State For Defence is continuing today in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, before Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Cranston.

Maya Evans, an activist, is brining a judicial review against the Ministry of Defence  in respect of the British Army’s detainee transfer policy in Afghanistan. It is alleged that British forces knew of the torture risks when handing over prisoners to the Afghan security services.

This is the latest in a series of cases where the Government have been criticised in the courts for defence policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, the House of Lords (the old Supreme Court) in Al-Skeini effectively opened the door to such claims by foreign nationals by holding that the Human Rights Act applies outside of the UK.

The most notable recent example is the Binyam Mohamed case, where the Court of Appeal heavily criticised the security services. Similar issues in relation to secret evidence appear to have arisen in Evans, with The Guardian reporting:

So concerned is the Ministry of Defence about the challenge to the practice, that it is insisting that evidence it had passed to her lawyers must now be suppressed.

As a result, skeleton argument from her lawyers – a document consisting of an outline of the case – includes a number of passages blacked out at the insistence of the MoD.

Following one long excised passage, the document revealed in court today reads: “The lessons from these shocking events is … investigation by the NDS [Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security] is obviously incapable of providing any satisfaction of the UK’s human rights obligations.”

Read more:

  • Our posts on the Binyam Mohamed litigation can be found here, here, and here
  • Our case comment on R (Mazin Mumaa Galteth Al Skeini and others) v Secretary of State for Defence

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