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3 Mar, 2010 04:55

UK government cannot ignore torture accusations anymore

In UK a scandal is raging after it was reveled that the British Secret services were torturing one of its citizens at Guantanamo Bay, but despite persistent calls the government declined to run a full inquiry.

This story shows that not only a third world dictatorship can torture one of its own citizens. Allegedly it is happening in the UK as well, and not as a one-time occurrence, but as a persistent policy of the British government

Binyam Mohammed has accused MI5 officers of torturing him in Guantanamo Bay. A British court found that the accusations true, but the government then unsuccessfully tried to suppress the most damning statements about the involvement of the security services.

The case has led parliament’s own human rights watchdog to call for a full inquiry into the government’s role in torture. They are not the first to demand it, either. British peer Lord Hodgson has looked into extraordinary rendition, and says an investigation is essential.

“Transparency and openness and honesty are very important and if we don’t get it open and transparent, then we are the best recruiting sergeant for terrorists there can be,” concluded Lord Hodgson, Treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition.

Craig Murray is no stranger to this debate. He was sacked as UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan for alleging that the UK government had decided to use information obtained through torture. He says it was a decision made at the highest level.

“I know for certain that there was a policy of using intelligence from torture as part of the war on terror, a deliberate and considered policy,” said the Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan. “I know for certain that Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary took that policy decision because when I was a British ambassador I was formally told that at a meeting in London discussing this specific issue,” Murray said.

The Home Office has responded to allegations of collusion in torture by releasing a variety of catch-all statements whole-heartedly refuting the allegations. A spokesman said that “The Government rejects in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that a policy of complicity in torture has been in place. We have taken a leading role in international efforts to eradicate torture. There is no truth in the more serious suggestion that it is our policy to collude in, solicit, or even directly participate in abuses of prisoners. Nor is it true that alleged wrongdoing is covered up.”

Murray begs to differ. When he first made his controversial allegations in 2002, no one believed him. Now, he feels vindicated.

“At that time, the idea that the government systematically lied to parliament and the people was a proposition that most people wouldn’t believe was possible,” Murray said. “Sadly we’re now in a situation where people are completely cynical about it. Today if you say to the ordinary person on the street the government is lying, people will say yes, of course the government is lying, we all know that.”

Human rights groups say any kind of collusion in torture is bad enough, let alone attempting to cover it up. And as evidence piles up, public demand for an inquiry could be galvanized.