- Created: Tuesday, 14 April 2009 13:39
- Written by Cat Alison
Guantanamo: Justice for Binyam Mohamed
On 30 October 2008 it was announced that British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had officially asked Attorney General Baroness Scotland to investigate ‘possible wrongdoing’ by the CIA and M15 in the case of Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, a British resident. On the same day, in a separate development, the US administration was finally forced to hand over to Mohamed’s lawyers the full defence evidence they have been demanding since May. Both events represent significant achievements in Mohamed’s long campaign for justice in the face of desperate attempts by both the British and US governments to hide evidence of their involvement in Mohamed’s extraordinary rendition and torture (see FRFI 205).
Binyam Mohamed, who has been detained at Guantanamo since 2004, was due to face trial at a US ‘Military Commission’ on a number of charges, the most serious being plotting to detonate a ‘dirty bomb’. He faced a possible death sentence. The only evidence against him was a forced ‘confession’; Mohamed argues that, after being illegally kidnapped in Pakistan in April 2002, he was then rendered to Morocco for 18 months and horrifically tortured at the behest of the CIA until he ‘confessed’. The evidence that could prove this consists of 42 documents which both the British and US authorities initially refused to release. A judicial review in the High Court in July ruled that the British government must disclose whatever evidence it held. It also criticised British intelligence services for complicity in Mohamed’s torture.
The British government responded by filing a Public Interest Immunity Certificate (PIIC) arguing that national security requirements – Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US – trumped Mohamed’s right to a fair trial.
Meanwhile, in the US, Mohamed’s case came up as one of a number of habeas corpus claims for Guantanamo detainees and as part of this case, the US administration was also ordered to make the 42 documents available to him. However, only seven were handed over, so heavily ‘redacted’ [censored] as to be almost useless. But the US clearly felt under pressure: on 15 October the ‘dirty bomb’ plot charge was dropped without explanation. On 21 October, the Military Commission trial was also dropped, following the resignation of prosecutor Lt Col Darrel Vanderveld over ‘ethical qualms’ that evidence was being withheld from Military Commission defendants, depriving them
of ‘basic due process’. Bizarrely, Mohamed’s defence counsel, Yvonne Bradley, was told that charges might be reinstated in 30 days.
On 23 October, the High Court in London grudgingly accepted the government’s ‘national security’ claims but made it clear that if the US refused to hand over the remaining documents to Mohamed’s lawyers at the next US habeas corpus hearing on 30 October, they would reconvene and order disclosure. Judge Thomas ruled that the evidence was ‘essential’, ‘relevant’ and ‘potentially exculpatory’ and that the common law principle that a confession extracted by torture could not be used as evidence in any trial overrode the government’s concerns. The government PIIC had, in the High Court’s view, completely ‘failed to address the abhorrence and condemnation accorded to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment’.
Binyam Mohamed must now be released, and those implicated in his torture brought to justice.
FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009