Torture in the 21st Century 48


On Monday 30 July at 11am on Radio 4 there will be a BBC radio programme entitled “Torture in the 21st Century”, presented by John Sweeney. I was interviewed extensively for it, though I don’t know how much of my interview will feature. I shall be in Ghana then and iPlayer does not work abroad, so if anybody has the technical ability to make a sound file and send it to me, I should be grateful.

Britain has still not admitted, let alone sought to redress, its complicity in post 9/11 torture networks, and indeed its continued receipt on a regular basis of intelligence from torture from the security services of, for example, Bahrain. The worrying thing about the disingenuous vapourings of John Sawers, head of MI6, is that he still maintains that torture gets you the truth. It does not. It gets you whatever the Bahraini, Uzbek, US, or whatever government wishes to hear, which is a very different thing.

The Gibson Inquiry into complicity in torture was unceremoniously halted, a total fail like every other stated aim of the coalition government. It has presented an interim report to ministers who have spent two weeks considering the “security risk” of publishing it. This is nonsense as the interim report is purely procedural. It contains recommendations for how a resumed inquiry (ha ha) should conduct its business. Gibson’s interim report contains no reference to any evidence on any cases of torture or on the policy of complicity in torture.

In fact ministers are really stalling publication because they are hoping simply to let the entire notion of an inquiry die away.

This is the response I got from the Gibson Inquiry secretariat on the fate of my own evidence in relation to the interim report:

There was no specific reference to evidence from individual witnesses as we were in the pre-evidence gathering phase prior to being wound up and your evidence was provided to the police in relation to their investigation into the Libyan cases. The Panel has seen your evidence and will ensure that this is included in the handover materials that are to be stored and provided to the next Inquiry as and when it is established.

I am convinced there is no chance I will ever get to testify either in court or to a judicial inquiry. The powers that be in this country have great finesse. They don’t have to do anything too messy to inconvenient witnesses, they just freeze them out.


48 thoughts on “Torture in the 21st Century

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  • Suhayl Saadi

    Uzbek in the UK, how utterly horrendous re. the brave human rights activist, Mukhitdinov’s, murder. Just illustrates the kind of situation there. Thanks so much for keeping us all up to date in this way. And also for keeping us au fait with Central Asian dynamics – it’s not a region one sees much coverage of in the media here in the UK. There’s much more coverage in South Asia, actually, esp. in the Pakistan medai, for obvious reasons of proximity.
    .
    Mary, worrying info. re. Azerbaijan, thanks. A substantial proportion of Iran’s population is of Azeri, or part-Azeri, origin. Two of my Iranian friends are Azeri or half-Azeri. It’s one of the biggest ethnic groups in Iran. So I hope there’s no war of any sort and esp. not via Azerbaijan. Incidentally, there is also a substantial (though smaller) Armenian Iranian population. I know a musician in Glasgow who plays for the excellent Paragon Ensemble (with which I have worked on a production), who is from that latter group – and a very good musician he is, too!
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    http://paragon-music.org/

  • Mary

    It was very sad to hear of that assassination Uzbek. It seems that anyone who dissents is disposed of. I was reading this piece by Michael Andersen about two brave people, one who is called Rustam for anonymity, currently being held in Norway having had his appeal for asylum rejected and the other a human rights activist, Mutabar Tadjibaeva.
    .
    To think we are allied to this cruel dictatorship and that Hammond was crawling around Karimov recently is appalling.

    A tragedy foretold: Norway condemns Uzbek activist to jail and torture
    http://enews.fergananews.com/article.php?id=2768 .

  • Edward

    security risk=publishing embarrassing details of illegal activity that could get politicians imprisoned.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Mary, re. the use of drones in Libya, I am sure they’ll be flying these around Syria too, plus placing Special Forces and mercenaries in Syria. This is normal – business as usual wrt conflicts in which the UK, France, USA, Russia, etc. have been involved in over the decades in this para-colonial period in which we are living. All the Governments’ denials fall on deaf ears, as far as I’m concerned. Persiflage.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    It is good news, however, that the Libyan people have elected a secular govt. I hadn’t expected that result. I’m not sure what the description, “pro-business” means, exactly. Neo-liberal? Or just eager to get the country back on its feet again. I hear that China is back in wrt business in Libya, as it was before. Perhaps Ruth could tell us more, though?
    .
    I think the point Ms Dyer (see article below) makes is key – that whether secular or Islamist, the govts which have been elected in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia – it’s very early days – appear to be concentrating on the good of the country/ the people – at least at this stage. Furthermore, once the democratic process has begun, people won’t accept anything less any more. The struggles continue, of course. Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, Panglossian even, but let’s hope, eh, that the peoples of those countries won’t allow anyone – their own armies, whatever, outside powers, the IMF – to manipulate/oppress them ever again.
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    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/democracy-in-the-arab-world-is-making-progress-20120712-21yyf.html?skin=text-only
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    http://www.china.org.cn/business/2011-09/14/content_23414002.htm

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’m surprised this ietm got through on Al Jazeera, which has been accused by some its own ex-journalists of systemic censorship/bias wrt a pro-Qatar/pro-Saudi (and so, pro-US, etc.) agenda.
    .
    So, demos in Saudi, live rounds fires on the demonstrators, and no-one gives a toss. No destablisation programme, no glamorous reports in flak jackets doing ‘BBC’ hand-signals. Yeah, figures. No surprises there. Human rights, instrumentalised, again.
    .
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/09/can-libyas-new-leaders-curb-the-violent-militias/

  • Suhayl Saadi

    As you can see, this evening, friends, I was not watching the Olympic ceremony, but in between blogging here, was saving lives (I hope) :))

  • crab

    It was a fine spectacle though dear. For me the kind of thing that could be rained on others instead of insecurity and destruction. Through big spectacle like that and the fads and games, cold hearts could be thawed. I sensed a lift from Boyles production, and in watching the procession of teams from most everywhere.
    The opening cermony cost the price of a single jet fighter, i feel a fleet of them flown by great producers and commisioned to raise spirits together, could deploy a peaceful glamour everywhere, if only.
    .
    Sorry that you had to attend the so unattended, but thankyou kind cook.

  • Freeborn

    Sweeney is a spook.Just like Julian Assange.

    Moreover the guy has an awesome anger management problem.

    Think you’ll be in good company!
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    [Mod/Clark: Possibly private data removed from URL. Freeborn, if you included that by mistake, you’d best clear cookies, cache, etc.]

  • Chris

    Craig, a VPN service like witopia is good value and highly recommended and will allow access of country specific websites like iplayer, but more importantly will give privacy when surfing from insecure locations like airports and hotels (many passwords and details are not securely encrypted and can be captured by others on network).

  • Michael Culver

    For those who may have missed it may I suggest you listen to Heathcote Williams “Royal Babylon”on U-tube,says it all.As for Sawers does anyone beleive a word uttered by him or Evans.My wife did hear you Craig on the radio this morning, so “they” let a lttle slip,keep up the lonely good work.

  • Clark

    Assange is not a spook, he’s a hacker (and a hacker isn’t the same as a cracker). Hackers don’t like secrecy or locked doors or suppression of information, especially useful information. Their attitude to authority is rather anarchistic. In hacker culture, respect is earned by ability, not bought by wealth nor imposed by subservient lackeys.
    .
    Wikileaks is still the organisation with the most inclusive publishing policy:
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    http://anniemachon.ch/annie_machon/2012/06/what-whistleblowers-want.html
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    It is not a coincidence that US authoritarians are the group most incensed by Wikileaks, and the ones calling for Assange’s trial, imprisonment or even execution. Wikileaks started out as an extension of two great US innovations. The Internet descended from ARPANET, a US Department of Defense project to create a military-grade unblockable communications network. Tor, The Onion Router, was initially funded by the US Naval Research Laboratory. Even Wikileaks itself received initial support from US Hawks; they hoped it would be used by informants in “repressive regimes” (read “countries not alligned to US foreign policy and commerce”). I believe they were so arrogant that it simply never occurred to them that some people do not support US global ambitions and would use such tools against it. They see it as an outrage, “biting the hand that feeds” etc.
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    I think the attempts to extradite Assange to Sweden may have something to do with Wikileaks’ original servers being located there:
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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikileaks#Hosting

  • Mary

    Report Documents Bahrain’s Use of Tear Gas as a Potentially Lethal Weapon
    .

    The Bahrain government’s indiscriminate use of tear gas as a weapon has resulted in the maiming, blinding, and even killing of civilian protesters and must stop at once while the government reassesses its use, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) declares in a report issued today.
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    http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/bahrain-uses-tear-gas-as-lethal-weapon.html
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    And what has Yates of the Yard got to say?

  • Mary

    On the 10th Anniversary of Yoo and Bybee’s “Torture Memos,” Col. Morris Davis Reminds Americans About Justice and the Law
    Andy Worthington
    .
    August 1, 2012 – Exactly ten years ago, two memos written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, were signed by his immediate boss, Jay S. Bybee. In these two memos, Yoo, also a law professor at UC Berkeley, attempted to redefine torture so that it could be used on Abu Zubaydah, an alleged “high-value detainee” seized in the “war on terror,” even though the US is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits the use of torture under any circumstances. These two memos, generally known as the Bybee memos, but forever known to anyone with a conscience as the “torture memos,” marked the start of an official torture program that will forever be a black mark on America’s reputation — as well as providing cover for torturers worldwide …
    .
    /..
    http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m90023&hd=&size=1&l=e

  • Mary

    Bahraini authorities are targeting human rights activist and lawyer Mr. Mohamed Isa Al-Tajer due to his human rights activities and years of work on behalf of political detainees and prisoners of conscience.
    .
    Mohamed Isa Al-Tajer is an attorney, human rights activist, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-violence Organisation (BRAVO) and works with many international human rights organizations. Al-Tajer has defended many prisoners and participated in several defense firms formed to defend activists, political figures, and prominent human rights defenders in Bahrain since 2007.

    [..]
    .
    During his detention, Al-Tajer was subjected to torture and ill-treatment. He was kept in solitary confinement during seven weeks, beaten and kicked, forced to stand for long hours with his hands against the wall, prevented from going to the bathroom, sleeping, talking with other detainees and having contact with his family during two consecutive months. On August 6, 2011, after 114 days of detentions, he was released on bail.’

    .
    http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/07/when-are-you-blackmailed-with-video-of-yourself-sleeping-with-your-wife/

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Clark, I listened to wonderful programme on BBC Radio 4 late at night on Monday (in my car). It was a reading from the ‘Book of the Week’, which is all about the founding of the internet. It’s on i-player and is well worth catching up with. Stuff you’ll already know, I guess, but it’s fascinating for someone like me who is a neophyte in this area. The professor in LA who, in the 1969 – around the time of the first Moon landings! – first switched on the first machine that began the Arpanet was still there, teaching, in 2009 when the author visited the university. The machine lay, damp, musty, in a corner along with polythene bags and discarded coffee cups; the professor had managed to save it from being tossed away.

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