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US Senate Intelligence Committee releases Executive Summary of its investigation into CIA Torture
The report lays bare the lies the CIA told about the effectiveness of its rendition, detention and interrogation programme. It confirms that the CIA's use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment was far more extensive than the CIA had ever admitted previously, even to the White House, Department of Justice and Office of the Inspector General. The report corroborates the testimonies of those prisoners who have survived and been able to tell of their torture and cruel treatment at the hands of CIA agents, including many of the accounts documented by The Rendition Project. However, the names of many victims and the names of the countries that were involved in the detention programme have been redacted from the report, including the UK. As Executive Director of Reprieve, Clare Algar, points out, "the British Government continues to fight against real accountability in the UK courts, and have broken their promise to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into the UK’s role in CIA torture. And not content with frustrating accountability at home, they have admitted that they even ‘made representations’ to US Senate over the contents of the report relating to the UK authorities. This is not the behaviour of a government committed to transparency and democratic accountability."
Over the coming weeks, we will be working our way through the report to identify material that updates and/or confirms our analysis. We will provide updates to the various prisoner profiles in due course.
UK Court of Appeal rules that the case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj v Jack Straw must be heard
The case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Bouchar, was first brought in late 2011, after documents were found in a government security building in Libya after the overthrow of Gaddafi – the so-called Tripoli Documents – which showed that British Security Services knew of their detention in Malaysia and arranged with the Libyan and American services to render Belhadj and Bouchar back to Libya. The UK government repeatedly insisted that the case should never go to trial becuase it would damage US-UK relations. The High Court dismised the appeal in December 2013. However, as Reprieve (representing the couple), state, today's Court of Appeal ruling clears the way for the couple to take their case to trial. Furthermore, the judgement makes clear that while the trial of the couple’s rendition was likely to require a British Court to assess the wrongfulness of acts by the CIA and Libyan agents, this was no reason to bar the claim. It gave weight to the allegations in the case of “particularly grave violations of human rights,” (para. 116), and stressed that “the stark reality is that unless the English courts are able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, these very grave allegations against the executive will never be subjected to judicial investigation” (para. 119). Read Reprieve's press release here.
1 October 2014
Case against British former Guantanamo prisoner, Moazzam Begg, on terror charges collapses
Moazzam Begg was arrested in Birmingham on 25 February on suspicion of 'attending a terrorist training camp' and 'faciliating terrorism overseas'. Refused bail, he was imprisoned for seven months. The case collapsed after the police and UK Crown Prosecution Service were handed secret intelligence information which called into serious question the case against him. The Home Office and the Courts refused to release the intelligence materials, or to confirm their provenance, although his lawyers assume their source was MI5. Had the case been heard, Begg's defence team would have argued that his actions were not those of a terrorist, that he had made no secret of his trips to Syria to provide support to communities under attack from the regime, and that he had indeed informed UK intelligence agencies about his visits. For more on this story, see The Guardian's story on his release and on Begg's response to the case collapsing.
Evidence emerges that UK ambassador lobbied US Senators to conceal role of British territory Diego Garcia in rendition
Through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, The Guardian found evidence that the UK ambassador to the US met with US senators several times between 2012-2014, at crucial times when decisions were being taken over how much of the report of the Senate's investigation into the CIA's rendition programme would be released to the public. See The Guardian's story here.
27 July 2014
European Court of Human Rights held that Poland complicit in rendition & torture of al-Nashiri & Abu Zubaydah
The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously that
in both cases, Poland had failed to comply with its obligation under Article 38 of the European Convention on Human Rights (obligation to furnish all necessary facilities for the effective conduct of an investigation); in both cases, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention, in both its substantive and procedural aspects;
a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security); a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life); a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy); and, a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial). As regards Mr Al Nashiri, the Court further held that there had been a violation of Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 of the Convention taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 6 (abolition of the death penalty). Having regard to the evidence before it, the Court came to the conclusion that the applicants’ allegations that they had been detained in Poland were sufficiently convincing. The Court found that Poland had cooperated in the preparation and execution of the CIA rendition, secret detention and interrogation operations on its territory and it ought to have known that by enabling the CIA to detain the applicants on its territory, it was exposing them to a serious risk of treatment contrary to the Convention.
9/11 trial hampered as defendant requests details of torture at hands of CIA
Days after Guantanamo Judge reaffirmed his order that CIA documentation relating to its treatment of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri be released to his attorneys, another of the detainees on trial for 9/11, Amnar al Baluchi, has requested the disclosure of documentation relating to his journey through the global rendition system, and his torture at the hands of the CIA. As The Guardian reports, Baluchi is believed to be the basis for the 'Amnar' character in the Hollywood movie, Zero Dark Thirty. Baluchi's lawyer stated, 'Torture has corrupted everything in the military commissions. It touches everything: pretrial confinement, tainted interrogations, the reliability of witness statements, and ultimately whether or not the United States can sentence Mr al Baluchi to death'.
US Federal District Court Judge refues to release UK resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo on health grounds
Shaker Aamer is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his lawyers, as well as other mental and physical illness. The habeas corpus challenge was filed in April but Judge Rosemary M. Collyer rejected it. A short memo was released but her reasoning was sealed.
19 June 2014
UK Government told to renegotiate with US over use of Diego Garcia for rendition operations
The House of Commons foreign affairs select committee has issued a report stating that the revelations Diego Garcia had been used for two rendition operations in 2002, which contradicted previous denials by UK officials, had 'dented public confidence' in Britain's ability to oversee its sovereign territory. MPs are urging the government to revise its lease agreement with the US so that it includes a clause requiring the US to request permission from the UK for any extraordinary use of the US military base there. See The Independent's story here.
US Senate report on CIA's torture programme likely to shed light on Scottish role in rendition
Following the US Senate's decision in April to declassify portions of its investigations into the CIA's torture porgramme, Reprieve and The Rendition Project have indicated that the report is likely to shed considerable light on the use of Scottish airports for rendition operations. Reprieve's legal director, Kat Craig, has written to the Scottish First Minister and Lord Advocate urging them to contact the US authorities over the report, so that Police Scotland can consider it as part of its on-going investigation into the use of Scottish airports for rendition. Read The Scotsman story here.
Guantanamo Judge issues discovery order requiring US government to release details of CIA Black Sites
The order issued by Army Col. James L. Pohl requires the government to provide defence lawyers with precise details of the four years that Abd al Rahim al Nashiri spent in CIA detention as part of the CIA rendition programme. Al Nashiri was subjected to mock execution and waterboarding.
10 April 2014
UK gave full cooperation for CIA black site on Diego Garcia
Leaked information about the US Senate's investigation into the CIA's torture programme indicate that the detention site on Diego Garcai was used to hold high value detainees and that this was done with the full cooperaton of the UK authorities. See The Telegraph's report here.
Former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, charged with terror offences related to Syria
Moazzam Begg was arrested in Birmingham on 25 February on suspicion of 'attending a terrorist training camp' and 'faciliating terrorism overseas'. He was charged on 2 March, remanded in custody, and will appear at the Old Bailey later this month. Begg was captured by Pakistani police and CIA agents in January 2002, and held at Bagram airbase for almost a year before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he remained for 2 years, mostly in solitary confinement, before being released on 25 January 2005, without charge, and returned to the UK. He became director of the human rights charity, Cageprisoners, now known as Cage, and has worked with numerous human rights organisations to secure the release of the remaining detainees in Guantanamo. In recent years he has been investigating the UK's role in rendition, and Cage maintain that his 2013 visit to Syria was part of these on-going investigations. Begg had written openly about these trips, and stated that he had met with MI5 in October 2012 to discuss his visits, and that they had raised on objections. Yet after his 2013 trip, his passport was confiscated. Begg himself wrote that he assumed this was because he is uncovering evidence of Britian's role in torture. Prominent US and UK human rights lawyers, academics and human rights groups have signed an open letter calling for his just and careful treatment, especially given the abuses he suffered at Bagram and Guantanamo.
Italian Court of Cassation overturns convictions of senior Italian intelligence officials for role in rendition
Italy's highest court overturned the convictions of former head of intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, and his deputy, Marco Mancini, for their role in the rendition of Abu Omar, from Milan to Egypt, via Germany, in 2003. They had been sentenced by an appeals court in February 2013 for their role. This followed the sentencing in absentia of 23 American CIA operatives in 2009, including former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, convictions that were upheld by the Court of Cassation in September 2012. As Meg Satterthwaite explains, the original convictions of the CIA operatives in absentia, and of the Italian intelligence chief and his deputy, were hailed by human rights organisations as rare instances of accountability for rendition and secret detention.
Lithuanian court urges prosecutors to investigate Guantánamo detainee rendition claims
In September last year, London-based human rights organisation REDRESS and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) lodged a complaint concerning their client, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, one of the 9/11 accused, which called for an investigation into his illegal transfer to Lithuania and detention in a secret CIA prison there. Prosecutors had refused to open an investigation, but on 29 January 2014 a Lithuanian court ruled that prosecutors should investigate. This follows a resolution passed by the European Parliament in October 2013 urging Lithuania to investigate. REDRESS and HRMI made their complaint after a detailed analysis of flight data, including analysis of rendition flight data undertaken by The Rendition Project, and other publicly available evidence on the secretive United States programme, suggested that it was highly likely that Mr al-Hawsawi was held in the country. Read the REDRESS press release here.