Friday, March 20, 2009

Big Surprise: Human Rights Watch Says UK And Pakistani Agents Colluded In Torture

Last month the Pakistani daily Dawn reported:
A shocking new report alleges widespread complicity between British security agents and their Pakistani counterparts who have routinely engaged in the torture of suspects, a report in the Observer has revealed.

Quoting from the report, which will be published next month by the civil liberties group Human Rights Watch, the Sunday newspaper said that at least 10 Britons are identified who have been allegedly tortured in Pakistan and subsequently questioned by UK intelligence officials. It warns that more British cases may surface and that the issue of Pakistani terrorism suspects interrogated by British agents is likely to ‘run much deeper.’
Much deeper indeed.

The piece in Dawn, "Pakistani, British agents accused of torture", and the report in the Observer to which it refers, "UK agents 'colluded with torture in Pakistan'", both describe the alleged al Qaeda terrorist Rangzieb Ahmed, who claims Pakistani interrogators removed three of his fingernails with pliers, after which his left hand looked like this:

Mark Townsend in The Observer:
Ali Dayan Hasan, who led the Pakistan-based inquiry, said [...] evidence collated from Pakistan intelligence officials indicated a "systemic" modus operandi among British security services, involving a significant number of UK agents from MI5 rather than maverick elements. Different agents were deployed to interview different suspects, many of whom alleged that prior to interrogation by British officials they were tortured by Pakistani agents.

Among the 10 identified cases of British citizens and residents mentioned in the report is Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, from Rochdale, who claims he was tortured by Pakistani intelligence agents before being questioned by two MI5 officers. Ahmed was convicted of being a member of al-Qaida at Manchester crown court, yet the jury was not told that three of the fingernails of his left hand had been removed. The response from MI5 to the allegations that it had colluded in Ahmed's torture were heard in camera, however, after the press and the public were excluded from the proceedings. Ahmed's description of the cell in which he claims he was tortured closely matches that where Salahuddin Amin, 33, from Luton, says he was tortured by ISI officers between interviews with MI5 officers.
Townsend mentions a number of other cases and continues:
Hasan said that evidence indicated a considerable number of UK officers were involved in interviewing terrorism suspects after they were allegedly tortured. He told the Observer: "We don't know who the individuals [British intelligence officers] were, but when you have different personnel coming in and behaving in a similar fashion it implies some level of systemic approach to the situation, rather than one eager beaver deciding it is absolutely fine for someone to be beaten or hung upside down."

He accused British intelligence officers of turning a blind eye as UK citizens endured torture at the hands of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

"They [the British] have met the suspect ... and have conspicuously failed to notice that someone is in a state of high physical distress, showing signs of injury. If you are a secret service agent and fail to notice that their fingernails are missing, you ought to be fired."

The poster in this photo (also from Dawn) poses an interesting question: What does torture teach our children? Equally interesting: What does torture teach us?

For most of us, it seems, the answer is "Not Much".

But for the rest of us, for those with enough courage to face our common reality (at least some of the time), torture teaches us to loathe and fear our government.

And that, from all indications, is exactly what it is intended to do.

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