Trying Again to Stop Torture: My Formal Statement for the Joint Committee on Human Rights

by craig on March 13, 2009 2:04 pm in Rendition

WITNESS STATEMENT TO THE PARLIAMENTARY JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS

My name is Craig Murray. I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004.

I had joined the Diplomatic Service in 1984 and became a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Senior Management Structure in 1998. I had held a variety of posts including Deputy High Commissioner, Accra (1998 to 2001) and First Secretary Political and Economic, Warsaw (1994 to 1997).

I had also been head of the FCO section of the Embargo Surveillance Sector leading up to and during the first Gulf War, monitoring and interdicting Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement. In consequence I had obtained security clearances even higher than those routinely given to all executive members of the Diplomatic Service. I had extensive experience throughout my career of dealing with intelligence material and the intelligence services.

It was made plain to me in briefing in London before initial departure for Tashkent that Uzbekistan was a key ally in the War on Terror and to be treated as such. It was particularly important to the USA who valued its security cooperation and its provision of a major US airbase at Karshi-Khanabad.

As Ambassador in Uzbekistan I regularly received intelligence material released by MI6. This material was given to MI6 by the CIA, mostly originating from their Tashkent station. It was normally issued to me telegraphically by MI6 at the same time it was issued to UK ministers and officials in London.

From the start of my time as Ambassador, I was also receiving a continual stream of information about widespread torture of suspected political or religious dissidents in Tashkent. This was taking place on a phenomenal scale. In early 2003 a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, in the preparation of which my Embassy much assisted, described torture in Uzbekistan as “routine and systemic”.

The horror and staggering extent of torture in Uzbekistan is well documented and I have been informed by the Chair is not in the purview of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. But what follows goes directly to the question of UK non-compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture.

In gathering evidence from victims of torture, we built a consistent picture of the narrative which the torturers were seeking to validate from confessions under torture. They sought confessions which linked domestic opposition to President Karimov with Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden; they sought to exaggerate the strength of the terrorist threat in Central Asia. People arrested on all sorts of pretexts ?” (I recall one involved in a dispute over ownership of a garage plot) suddenly found themselves tortured into confessing to membership of both the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Al-Qaida. They were also made to confess to attending Al-Qaida training camps in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In an echo of Stalin’s security services from which the Uzbek SNB had an unbroken institutional descent, they were given long lists of names of people they had to confess were also in IMU and Al-Qaida.

It became obvious to me after just a few weeks that the CIA material from Uzbekistan was giving precisely the same narrative being extracted by the Uzbek torturers ?” and that the CIA “intelligence” was giving information far from the truth.

I was immediately concerned that British ministers and officials were being unknowingly exposed to material derived from torture, and therefore were acting illegally.

I asked my Deputy, Karen Moran, to call on a senior member of the US Embassy and tell him I was concerned that the CIA intelligence was probably derived from torture by the Uzbek security services. Karen Moran reported back to me that the US Embassy had replied that it probably did come from torture, but in the War on Terror they did not view that as a problem.

In October or November of 2002 I sent the FCO a telegram classified Top Secret and addressed specifically for the attention of the Secretary of State. I argued that to receive this material from torture was:

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29 Comments

  1. They are not really even pretending to be listening. Someone just sent me this response to their email to the joint committee:

    Your message

    To: Joint Committee On Human Rights

    Cc: craig murray

    Subject: Torture evidence on 10 March

    Sent: Thu, 5 Mar 2009 14:47:36 -0000

    was deleted without being read on Fri, 13 Mar 2009 10:46:42 -0000

  2. That’s all beautifully put, Craig. If email’s down, put the bugger in the post, before it gets privatised. And thanks from us, anyway.

    They’ll be listening all right – wondering , freaking out about what to do about this devastating testimony.

    Your move, Dismore.

  3. What’s the betting they’ll come back and say you used the wrong font …

    Just a thought but would it be possible to put in a FOI request to see communications relating to any discussions or advice Dismore received in preparing his response to you?

  4. I am prepared to give the jchr the benefit of the doubt while I try to give them evidence. But Jack Straw and the security services are a different matter.

    Might be worth pointing out that I am enormously looking forward to the birth of our new baby in May, and am very happy with Nadira and my kids Jamie and Emily. There is absolutely no way I am going to kill myself. Just thought it might be wise to get that out in public!

  5. And I guess it’s safe to presume you’re not considering any extreme sports or canoeing around Southend pier anytime soon?
    :-)

    Might want to be extra careful crossing the road for the next couple of weeks…

  6. Craig resist the temptation to go swimming off Beachy Head ok – you might be hit by a falling gargoyle!

    Seriously, it’s great that you take a stand against these creeps. Very best of luck to you and Nadira!

  7. “There is absolutely no way I am going to kill myself. Just thought it might be wise to get that out in public!”

    Goes to show how bad things are when you have to say that.

    George Galloway has said the same thing on his radio show.

    My God we are in deep trouble,as if we didn’t know.

  8. I was aware of your “experiences” in Tashkent when they hit the news (briefly) and was appalled. I’m sorry now that I did not take more interest.

    I note with distaste the name of Jack Straw in this matter.

    Should we approach our Local Members of Parliament on this matter?

    David M

  9. Craig – if the committee again refuses to hear you, you could get a sympathetic MP [your own if possible] or Peer to ask a Private Notice Question.

  10. It astonishes me that during this enquiry they have taken evidence from a journalist at the Guardian and a researcher from Human Rights Watch – both good people I am sure – yet are resisting taking actual first hand eyewitness evidence.

  11. “It astonishes me that…[they] are resisting taking actual first hand eyewitness evidence.” – What does it tell you Craig? Stephen’s post on the previous thread about faux and pacifying ‘inquiries’ is on the button. I think Ruth and Dr chris burns-cox (both prev. post) were on the button too.

    @ George:

    “Goes to show how bad things are when you have to say that…. My God we are in deep trouble, as if we didn’t know.” – That sent a shiver even down my spine! But it’s absolutely 100% correct.

  12. This purpose of the committee isn’t to uncover the truth about torture, but to bury it, to prove that the government isn’t involved; because, if it was shown to be involved, this could have serious implications.

  13. From writerman:

    This purpose of the committee isn’t to uncover the truth about torture, but to bury it, to prove that the government isn’t involved; because, if it was shown to be involved, this could have serious implications.

    I absolutely agree.

  14. Obama seems to be shielding our war criminals over here.Sy Hershs’ latest might stir up some investigations but I’m not holding mt breath.Good luck and be careful.

  15. “this could have serious implications”

    The charge is torture…It could well turn out to be torture and murder…

    http://tinyurl.com/7ejwd

  16. Just a thought … Have you considered approaching The Guardian and offering your submission to the JCHR to appear as an article on “Comment is Free”?

    Getting this out and into the MSM might be more productive than just using the blogs. Best of luck!

  17. writerman: “This purpose of the committee isn’t to uncover the truth about torture,…”

    Indeed, the purpose of this committee is not to uncover the truth about torture. That’s OK, it has a useful role anyway as indicated in the first paragraph of its home page: “The Committee is charged with considering human rights issues in the UK…”

    The particular human rights issue *in the UK* which I think it should be considering in the light of Craig’s evidence is, quite narrowly, the question of the legality of the UK government receiving intelligence derived from torture.

    Clearly the evidence that Craig is presenting is that the FCO, etc., currently think that that is legal. Either:

    1) they’re wrong (i.e., it’s illegal) and the matter needs to be clarified, something this committee seems to be in a good position to do or

    2) they’re right in which case the committee probably ought to consider the compatibility of current British law with UNCAT (and basic morality) and “report[s] its findings … to the House”.

    In order to do something useful there is no need for this committee to go after particular individuals (“…but cannot take up individual cases”). If it simply gets the law clarified or changed for the future then that will be enough within its remit.

  18. Mike K, The Guardian has been an active participant in the media blackout of Craig. I honestly suspect would get more chance with the Mail on Sunday. Which is a shaming indictment of The Guardian.

  19. Keep going Craig. And tell your story anywhere that will publish it. The media blackout is real; I only came to know of you through the blogosphere and I DO pay attention to the news. And the ‘suicide’ thing? Say it and keep saying it, it may just keep you alive. Interesting times indeed.

  20. The Attorney General referred to Mr Dismore in his capacity as chair of the JCHR in her answers yesterday in the HoL about the torture and rendition of Binyam Mohammed.

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2009-03-12a.1265.6&s=dismore#g1267.4

    On that subject he said on 5 February 2009 in the HoC -

    “On the potentially exculpatory material to which my right hon. Friend referred, would he at least go as far as to say, in general terms, whether it included evidence of torture? If so, that would fit the pattern of the cogent evidence that the Joint Committee on Human Rights received on Tuesday afternoon about allegations of torture committed by the Pakistan security services, and the complicity of UK agents in that. Although my right hon. Friend may see no evil and hear no evil, that does not mean that the evil of torture does not exist. Would he ensure that the JCHR gets full co-operation in our inquiry into UK compliance with the requirements of the United Nations convention against torture in these matters?”

    As Vice Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Dismore often speaks in the House about anti-semitism, the holocaust and the like…In fact he introduced the bill to create the Holocaust Memorial Day.

    On 29 January 2009 he said in the HoC:

    “I am grateful to my hon. Friend because he has made an important point, particularly in the wake of the recent troubles in Gaza and southern Israel. There has been a real upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks in my constituency and borough, and more widely. The Community Security Trust recorded more than 150 attacks, the highest number since it started keeping details. That is a very serious matter. Does my hon. Friend think that those responsible for those attacks could learn a lot if they studied what had happened during the holocaust?”

    Yet in his February 2009 (from his website) newsletter specifically for the Jewish constituents in Hendon, he reports their answers to this question in his questionaire -

    Q7) Have you experienced any anti-semitic behaviour since the crisis began?

    We heard a lot about the rise in anti-semitism in the media, as a result of the Gaza crisis; and many people have written to me about their fears.

    Whilst we can never be complacent on this extremely serious issue, the level of anti Semitism seems to be low, in the constituency ?” 90% say they have not experienced anti-semitism since the crisis began; only two respondents say they have (the rest did not answer the question).

    aaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Can you spot the contradiction?

    He has been to Israel with the Labour Friends of Israel and to Paris last year with the European Friends of Israel.

    Above info from TheyWorkForYou

  21. Well done, Craig! Noli nothis permittere te terere.

  22. Anas Taunton

    14 Mar, 2009 - 1:09 am

    I am standing amongst giants. The BBC’s Frank Gardner says there is no suggestion that Uncle Tony made use of material gained by torture. The Right Hon. Mr Andy D. of the UK Parliament’s Jewish Committee on Human Rights agrees.

    Our man in his leopard spotted leotard and the crowd consisting of every other human being on this planet, God and His angels, do not agree.

    Is Uncle Tony getting a prickly feeling on the back of his neck at this time or is he too busy forcing the people of Palestine to come to heel?

  23. Do you mean war pimp and MI5/6 liaison officer Frank Gardener who hides, like many of them do, in the BBC? Frank G who, very much to his disgrace, pulled out of his azz unsourced rubbish designed to bring into disrepute National Intelligence director Dennis Blair who said the other day ‘Iran has no enriched uranium’.

    Frank G should be instantly sacked for that, or at least grilled like Andrew Gilligan. but he won’t be as he in alignment with the mission of the BBC.

    War pimping is the done thing. It’s only the poor fools who expose the lies and try to stop unimaginable death and suffering who are for the chop. Disagree? Look at this pimping: Friday, 2 March, 2001, 23:52 GMT Saddam’s bomb (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/correspondent/1191203.stm)

    Sick!

    Frank reports the (filtered) surprise that people were ‘srprised at the fuss’ of the UK bugging the UN. *jaw drops at this mans unchallended agenda* {click on name-link}

  24. Like many others here I really do admire your efforts Craig; and I wish you the very best of luck. Anger and disgust at the Government is a natural response to the evidence you set out. I was particularly struck by your response to Simon Butts remarks on patriotism. I too have served in the armed forces as did my father and both grandfathers, one of whom was blinded at Paschendale in 1917. I too had always regarded myself as ‘Patriotic’; but events leading up to the invasion of Iraq, coincident as they were with my experiences of government and its enforcers during the Campaign for Hunting, have changed my view of ‘patriotism’ fundamentally. I began a process of intense study and began to question some lifelong assumptions. The results have been and remain very uncomfortable indeed. I can no longer be patriotic about the British State. In fact I can do no other than despise it heartily and when I hear the likes of Gordon Brown extolling ‘British values’ and ‘Britishness’ it makes me cringe with shame and embarrassment. Suffice to say that anyone interested in exploring instances of similar behaviour by successive governments and the senior civil service could do worse than read John Pilger’s Book ‘Freedom Next Time’ – especially the first chapter about the Chagos Islanders. It’s also on DVD and Pilger’s interviews with senior British and US functionaries are a revelation in the brutal, cynical amoral arrogance of power.

    Dismore and the rest of the Privy council level apologists for Great Britain will make quite sure that the boat is rocked only so far – if at all. Defence of the Establishment status-quo is their function in life; their whole raison d’etre. Rank, position, and place in life (and a gong if they are judged to have succeeded) depend on unswerving loyalty to a certain narrative of Britain as an essentially benign state seeking to make the world a better place (and in his case loyalty to that racist apartheid monstrosity Israel as well). So do not expect much, if anything from his committee other than to seriously embarrass it and risk making yet more powerful, amoral and utterly ruthless enemies.

    I have an ongoing attempt to describe my own journey from credulous naivity on the Sabretache site.

  25. Yet no inquiry was held into the death of Willie McRae. Instead, there was a whispering campaign suggesting that “McRae was everything from an alcoholic, to a homosexual, to a man in deep financial trouble.”

    “Good enough reasons why he might be troubled, why he might have killed himself, but absolutely without any substance”…

    http://tinyurl.com/apyscu

  26. Keep voting Tory and Labour, fools. Keep chatting. Keep talking. Keep writing comments. Keep e-mailing.

    The only thing they’ll listen to now is violence.

  27. I wish you the very best of luck Craig.

    The fact that you have to mention that you’re not going to commit suicide shows how truly desperate,evil and out of control this mob and their cowed little spooks truly are.

    It ought terrify every single citizen in this land now.

    What a disgraceful state.

  28. Michael Culver

    22 Mar, 2009 - 1:32 pm

    Congratulations Craig Murray.I have been helping Brian Haw in Parliament Sq: for the last 7 years trying to make people pay attention.There is a growing awareness but the question remains how to hold those responsible to account.Bliar should either be in Broadmoor or at the Hague .If only people demanded that their M.P. DID something. M Culver

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