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High Court deeply disturbed by actions of the US Government in Guantanamo case

Update on Binyam Mohamed case

BInyam Mohamed

22 October 2008

The High Court today gave a further judgment in the ongoing case of Binyam Mohamed, the last British resident detained in Guantanamo Bay.

Lord Justice Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Lloyd-Jones, said that the disclosure of evidence relating to the torture and ill-treatment of Mr Mohamed:

“must be brought to a just conclusion as soon as possible, given the delays and unexplained changes of course which have taken place on the part of the United States Government.”


The case returned to Court last week as the Foreign Secretary sought to argue that it was in the public interest to keep evidence of Mr Mohamed’s torture secret despite the earlier finding of the High Court that the UK had become mixed up in serious wrong-doing and held evidence which was essential to Mr Mohamed’s defence to terrorism allegations over which he faces a potential death sentence.

The evidence on which the US bases its allegations are confessions extracted from Mr Mohamed after two years during which he was unlawfully detained, held incommunicado, subjected to extraordinary rendition and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary has told the Court that the US Government is threatening to reduce security co-operation if the UK Court orders disclosure of the crucial evidence. The Foreign Secretary asked the Court to dismiss the case on this basis but the Court have declined to do this and expressed their surprise at the stance of our oldest and closest ally.

Since the matter was last in Court, the US Government had breached express assurances given to the UK Court that they would assist in the disclosure of the documents in the US legal system.

In parallel proceedings in the US Federal Courts, a US Judge recently ordered the US Government to hand over all evidence that assists Mr Mohamed. In response the US Government handed over only seven of the 42 UK documents which the UK Court has held are essential to his defence and no documents at all from their own records of what happened to Mr Mohamed. They also heavily redacted the documents that were disclosed in breach of another express assurance.

In a further recent twist this week, the US Government dropped the charges relating to the terrorism allegations but have said that they will re-charge Mr Mohamed in a months time. Thus the resolution of Mr Mohamed’s case will be further delayed – he has already been in detention without trial for six and a half years. It seems that this bizarre step was taken by the US Government to disassociate the case against Mr Mohamed from the recently resigned army prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Vanderveld. Lt. Col. Vanderveld resigned because he could reconcile his ethical and religious views with the requirements imposed on him by the US Government – notably the withholding of crucial defence evidence from defendants. Vandeveld statement here.

The UK Court has decided to stay the current UK proceedings to enable the US Federal Courts to deal with the matter at a hearing on 30 October. The Judges however warned that they will consider the request for the documents again afterwards if this does not resolve the issue.

The Judges found the recent sequence of events “deeply disturbing” and that “[t]here is a clear evidential basis” for Leigh Day’s claims that the US Government were acting in bad faith and doing everything to frustrate the disclosure of evidence that they are responsible for the kidnap, unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment of Mr Mohamed.

Richard Stein of Leigh Day said: “Never has the maxim that the torturer will not willingly or easily disgorge evidence of his torture been more starkly proven. The behaviour of the US Government in seeking to frustrate disclosure of their actions at all costs shows just how far the ‘land of the free’ has fallen in the estimation of the civilised world.”

Clive Stafford Smith OBE, Director of Reprieve who are working with Leigh Day & Co on this case, said: “The American treatment of Binyam has been a litany of misconduct. First they tortured him, then they held him for more than six years without trial, now they want to cover up evidence that could set him free. What is the point of a ‘special relationship’ if the UK Government cannot ensure basic justice for Mr Mohamed?”

For more information please contact Jamie Beagent on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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