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Article by Aamer Anwar published in Scottish Daily Mail on the 11th December 2014

Torture and Rendition- the Senate Investigation

There is in the UK a fundamental principle of justice, that no-one is above the law. That principle includes the Government and those security agencies such as MI5, MI6 who act in our name.

The recent explosive findings of a Senate investigation that the CIA engaged in barbaric acts of torture has raised real questions about the complicity of our own security services.

At least the United States has exposed to the world the devastating failure of its security services. Details reveal a depravity and barbarity that until now many would have considered worthy of despotic regimes such as Iran and North Korea.

But sadly in the United Kingdom the mere mention of our security services leads to spineless and pathetic denials with simultaneous cries of acting in the interests of national security. Chapters upon chapters in the Senate report have been redacted to protect the identities of British intelligence officials and other allies.

We now know that the British Government lobbied the Senate Committee on at least 22 recorded occasions to redact any mention of British involvement in rendition or torture.

The Senate found that the CIA had systematically lied for over a decade to its people, sections of the Government and the world.

When it comes to the victims, the public may think there is no smoke without fire but we now know that many were wrongly abducted and falsely accused.

But even if they were guilty so what? Surely our moral standards of justice should apply to those we hate, who would wish us harm. Surely that is what makes us civilised in comparison to the likes of ISIS or the TalIban?

The CIA engaged in horrific acts of torture which included Detainees ‘standing on broken limbs for hours’, ‘forced to stay awake for seven days whilst hung from shackles’, others were ‘raped anally with metal objects’ or subjected to ‘rectal feeding’, ‘mock executions, electrocutions, threats to sexually abuse or slit the throats of female relatives’. These were just some of the weapons of torture used by US Agents.

Waterboarding a technique taken for granted as a weapon of choice by the CIA was first developed by the Spanish inquisition. In some instances it is claimed that detainees died or simply ‘lost their minds’.

Our own security services stand accused of complicity, yet there has been little response other than our PM stating that ‘torture is wrong under any circumstances’.

Lip service is no longer enough, all political parties have failed to some extent in allowing our country to cast aside our centuries old principles of basic human rights- the right to a fair trial and freedom from torture.

Since 9/11, the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” meant the kidnapping of suspects and shipping them out to secret prisons but successive British governmentsresponded by pretending they knew nothing about such practices.

Torture and Rendition- The Council of Europe Report 2006

The Council of Europe investigation in 2006 confirmed the existence of “rendition” flights, naming Britain among 14 European countries that colluded in the operation of secret flights delivering people for torture.

Eight years later the Senate report merely confirms those allegations as proven.

Yet the day after the Council’s report was published the British Association of Chief Police Officers announced the conclusion of their investigation into Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition and said that “no evidence had been found to support the claims”.

Whilst Tony Blair denied all knowledge of CIA rendition flights passing through British airspace- “I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been happening here at all. All this stuff about camps in Europe or something. I don’t know, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I can’t tell you whether such a thing exists because I don’t know.”

We stood shoulder to shoulder with the USA, in the war on terror, providing the intelligence, manpower for interrogations, capturing individuals and handing them over to the Americans.

The CIA used a fleet of executive jets to secretly transport prisoners around the globe, to secret torture camps not just in Guantanamo, but also Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, BritishDeigo Garcia, Jordan and even Assad’s Syria and Gadaffi’s Libya, 56 countries in total partook in torture and rendition at the behest of the US Government.

These unmarked civilian jets carried men shackled, hooded, gagged across the planet and sometimes those flights would land in Scotland for refuelling at our own Prestwick airport.

Torture and Rendition- The Scottish Role?

Criminal complaints were passed to Strathclyde Police, the Crown Office and the Scottish Government all of whom were apparently unable to intervene because of the complexities of international law.

Just imagine if someone had kidnapped the guy of your street, gagged him, shackled him and stuck him in the boot of their car.

If you called the police and their response on seeing the car was to refuse to check it as they had no evidence, there quite rightly would be an uproar years later when the poor man was discovered in some far away land having been subjected to barbaric rituals of torture.

At least now there is a criminal investigation, ordered by the Lord Advocate, which is in its closing stages and may shed more light on what has been happening under our noses for years.

Guantanamo was always the tip of the iceberg. People considered to be a threat were quite literally kidnapped of the street and sent to countries with which they had no connection at all. The British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia “played a critical role in the development of the CIA’s secret “war on terror” prisons”.

The US government have desecrated the memories of the victims of 9/11 by using the atrocity to justify any action it took anywhere in the world, with the full support of our governments.

A callous arithmetic is at work here, a ‘Western life is worth more than a Muslim one’ which is hard to refute.

The hideous abuse of power by our security services has made a mockery of the West’s claims to be the ‘guardians of decency and democracy’, morally superior to the likes of  ISIS.

It is time that our Security Services were finally held to account and that cannot be done by grand public statements or by whitewash inquiries that never see the light of day.

If the United States had the courage to do it then why not us?

The principle sold to society was –‘If you’ve been detained, If you’ve been questioned, If you’ve been detained by the security services, If you’re a suspect, there’s no smoke without fire, you must have been doing something.’

Of course our anti-terror strategy should target and bring to account those who plan criminal acts of terrorism, but as children we were taught we once burned witches at the stake who had usually confessed after torture. I

f the practise didn’t really work for medieval ‘witch hunters’  then why should such practices achieve positive results in the 21st century.

After 7/7 Tony Blair said terrorists would not change our way of life but that is exactly what has happened.

Torture and rendition were carried out in our name to keep us safe, the mere mention of the word ‘terror’ produces a ‘predictable and hysterical’ public response

We should now be asking at what cost? History has always shown that injustice becomes a rallying point for extremists.

The ability to speak one’s mind and criticize the policies of our Government without fear of recrimination was once the essential distinction between life in a free country and living in a dictatorship, sadly no more.

Post 7/7 every successive Government has promoted so called “British values”. If that is really true then the authorities must be seen to take robust and transparent action and hold the torturers to account, even if that difficult path should lead us to our political leaders who sanctioned torture.