Daily Archives: November 7, 2005


Government Terror Plan Branded as ‘Nonsense’

From BBC Online

Plans to allow people to be prosecuted in the UK for encouraging terrorist attacks abroad have been branded a “dangerous nonsense”.

The plans came under fire in the Commons as MPs debated details of the Terrorism Bill.

But minister Paul Goggins said all terrorism had to be tackled and the government won a vote on the issue. Earlier, the home secretary said his anti-terror laws were still on course despite a climbdown on Wednesday.

Charles Clarke was forced by the threat of defeat in the Commons to back down on plans to extend detention powers in terrorism cases.

‘Ridiculous’

The Terrorism Bill creates several new offences, including encouraging or glorifying terrorism, preparing terrorist acts and attending terrorist camps. And it says those offences can be prosecuted in UK courts even if they are committed abroad.

Former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke said the plans would provoke all kinds of diplomatic and political problems “as soon as other governments realise they can start pursuing their enemies here and get them arrested”.

Labour MP John Denham, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said glorifying terrorism might not even be an offence in other countries. He said it was “ludicrous” to arrest people in the UK for doing something in another country where their actions were not illegal.

And Tory shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve said the plans would stop people who had tried to overthrow totalitarian regimes seeking refuge in the UK. “This law as drafted at the moment is a dangerous nonsense,” said Mr Grieve.

Terrorism camps

Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said terrorism increasingly had to be seen in its world context. And it had to be taken seriously wherever it happened and whatever the nationality of its victims, he argued.

The government defeated an attempt to change the plans by 303 votes to 211, a majority of 92. The bill would also create a new offence of attending places where terrorist training is taking place. A Conservative amendment to protect journalists trying to investigate terrorist training camps was defeated by 316 votes to 223.

Mr Goggins said it wasn’t up to “maverick journalists” to go to camps “to do their own investigations”.

Heading off defeat

The debate comes after the government scraped a one vote victory on Wednesday over plans to outlaw glorification of terrorism – Tony Blair’s slimmest ever majority. And Mr Clarke headed off a possible defeat on plans to extend the time terror suspects can be detained without trial from 14 days to 90 days.

He said he would seek agreement with all parties and bring forward new proposals early next week.

View with comments

MPs unite for inquiry into Blair’s conduct over Iraq

By Michael Smith writing in the Times online

TONY BLAIR is set to face an unprecedented parliamentary inquiry into his conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war. A coalition of Tory and Labour MPs is to table a motion to set up a Commons committee to examine ‘the conduct of ministers’ both before and after the war. They believe they need the support of about 30 Labour rebels to succeed.

The committee, comprising seven privy counsellors, would have the power to see all sensitive documents and call any British witnesses, including intelligence chiefs.

The failure to plan for the aftermath is likely to be at the heart of the committee’s inquiries now that Iraq is in the grip of a violent insurgency, says the Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of the inquiry’s architects and who is canvassing support for the move. The coalition already has backing from the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said his party had not supported earlier attempts to impeach the prime minister but was in no doubt that parliament should hold its own inquiry.

‘Information that has emerged, in particular the memos leaked to The Sunday Times, strengthen overwhelmingly the case for an inquiry into the judgments of ministers, and in particular the prime minister, in the run-up to war and thereafter,’ he said.

The prime minister is the main target of the inquiry but in addition it will examine the conduct of Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general.

The inquiry is also expected to look at the secret air war against Iraq that began in May 2002, just weeks after Blair had agreed that Britain would take military action with America to achieve regime change.

View with comments

British government and security agencies seek to legitimise torture

By Robert Stevens, posted at the Asian Tribune

The Blair government and Britain’s security agencies are seeking to legitimize the use of evidence obtained by torture overseas against terror suspects.

On August 11, 2004 the Court of Appeals had ruled such evidence admissible in UK law and, on this basis, upheld the continued detention of 10 foreign nationals imprisoned without charge for more than two years.

Lawyers acting for the 10 had argued that their imprisonment was ‘morally repugnant,’ given that the evidence against them may have been extracted through torture at the US military concentration camp at Guant’namo Bay, Cuba. But in a two-to-one ruling, the Law Lords ruled that evidence obtained through torture could be used in British courts so long as Britain was not directly involved in extracting it.

Lawyers representing the detainees challenged the verdict, arguing that it breached Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting torture or degrading treatment.

On October 17 the government requested the Law Lords to rule on the issue. The hearings ended on October 22 and a final ruling may take weeks or even months.

Appearing before a panel of seven Law Lords last month, Ben Emmerson, QC, representing the detainees, said that allowing the use of such evidence gave an incentive to the torturer ‘by making the act of torture worthwhile.’

In opposition, Ian Burnett, QC, for the home secretary, maintained that there was no rule of law preventing a court from relying on statements of a third party obtained by agents of a foreign state through torture.

The Home Office has so far refused to comment on the case. Last week the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, the secretary of state for constitutional affairs, said the government faced ‘difficult practical decisions.’

‘In facing the dangers posed by international terrorism, we have to ensure that those charged with protecting our security have all the tools they legitimately require,’ he said.

Lord Falconer claimed, ‘In adapting our legal tools to face new threats, we will ensure that we do so in a way that reflects our values for democracy and tolerance and ensures our continued support for the rule of law.’ But a seven-page statement to the Law Lords from the head of Britain’s secret service M15, Eliza Manningham-Buller’which was leaked to Channel 4 News’made clear where the security agencies stand on democratic rights.

Whilst careful not to use the word ‘torture,’ Manningham-Buller praised the uncovering of the so-called ‘ricin terror plot.’ In January 2003 police had raided a London flat, seizing what was described as a ‘poisons laboratory.’ The apparent find, of what was described as a major Al Qaeda cell planning a terror campaign in Britain, played a central role in government efforts to justify the war against Iraq and its accompanying ‘war on terror.’

The raid followed allegations by one Mohmammad Meguerba to security agencies in Algeria that he had been part of the terror plot. Manningham-Buller said Meguerba’s ‘evidence’ had been vital and ‘In those circumstances, no inquiries were made of Algerian liaison about the precise circumstances that attended their questioning of Meguerba. In any event, questioning of Algerian liaison about their methods of questioning detainees would almost certainly have been rebuffed and at the same time would have damaged the relationship to the detriment of our ability to counter international terrorism.’

In fact, Meguerba’s statement was widely believed to have been obtained through torture and when British investigators went to Algeria to question him further he withdrew most of his allegations. The subsequent trial of nine people accused of involvement in the supposed poison plot in April this year heard that no ricin had in fact been found in the flat and the case against eight of them collapsed. The remaining suspect, Kamel Bourgass, was eventually jailed for killing a police officer during his arrest and for ‘conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.’

Referring to the case before the Law Lords, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International, said:

‘Let us be clear what we are talking about. This is not about whether evidence is useful. This is about whether the UK will turn a blind eye to someone being thrown in a cell and having pain and terror inflicted upon them. The UK authorities must of course do their utmost to protect the public from terrorism’but going soft on torture is not the answer.’

Torture in Uzbekistan

Further evidence is emerging regarding the tacit support that the British government has given to those regimes routinely engaged in the torture of those held in captivity.

On October 27, the Independent newspaper published an article by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, opposing the contradictions, omissions and deceits contained in Manningham-Buller’s submission to the Law Lords.

Murray described in graphic detail how Uzbekistan agencies used extreme torture methods to obtain ‘evidence’ and how this ‘intelligence’ was then passed on for use by Britain’s security forces.

Murray wrote that Manningham-Buller’s statement to the Law Lords ‘argues, in effect, that we need to get intelligence from foreign security services, to fight terrorism. And if they torture, so what? Her chief falsehood is our pretence that we don’t know what happens in their dungeons. We do. And it is a dreadful story.

‘Manningham-Buller also fails to mention that a large number of people have been tortured abroad to provide us with intelligence’because we sent them there to be tortured. The CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme has become notorious. Under it, detainees have been sent around the world to key torture destinations. There is evidence of British complicity’not only do these CIA flights regularly operate from UK airbases, but detainees have spoken of British intelligence personnel working with their tormentors.’

Murray added that the ‘UK receives this intelligence material not occasionally, not fortuitously, but in connection with a regular programme of torture with which we are intimately associated. Uzbekistan is one of those security services from whose ‘friendly liaison’ services we obtained information.’

The torture methods employed included a woman ‘who was raped with a broken bottle in both vagina and anus, and who died after ten days of agony’ and an old man who was ‘suspended by wrist shackles from the ceiling while his children were beaten to a pulp before his eyes.’ According to Murray, another male ‘had his fingernails pulled before his face was beaten and he was immersed to his armpits in boiling liquid.’

Another victim of torture was an ’18-year-old whose knees and elbows were smashed, his hand immersed in boiling liquid until the skin came away and the flesh started to peel from the bone, before the back of his skull was stove in.’

None of these victims were terrorists, Murray continued, and the ‘great majority of those who suffer torture at the hands of these regimes are not terrorists, but political opponents. And the scale of this torture is vast. In Uzbekistan alone thousands, not hundreds, of innocent men, women and children suffer torture every year.’

Murray states in his article that he protested to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office at torture in Uzbek and was informed ‘that [Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw and the head of MI6 had considered my objections, but had come to the conclusion that torture intelligence was important to the War on Terror, and the practice should continue. One day, the law must bring them to account.’

Referring to Manningham-Buller’s statement that the evidence obtained in the case of Mohammed Meguerba was justified as it prevented the development of a terrorist plot, Murray states, ‘If that argument is accepted, then in logic there is no reason to rely on foreign intermediaries. Why don’t we do our own torturing at home? James VI and I abolished torture’New Labour is making the first attempt in English courts to justify government use of torture information. Why stop there? Why can’t the agencies work over terrorist suspects?’

According to another article by Dana Priest published in the Washington Post, November 2, ‘Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands have opened inquiries into alleged CIA operations that secretly captured their citizens or legal residents and transferred them to the agency’s prisons.’

Priest reported that ‘a covert prison system’ was ‘set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small centre at the Guant’namo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.’

View with comments