Call me cynical but this looks like CYA now the torture cat is exiting the bag, especially with a Bush regime in its dotage and as Mohamed’s lawyer says it’s really an obligation under the convention against torture now. And Baroness Scotland… well former Home office minister who has performed odious work for Smith previously.
Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, has asked the attorney general to investigate possible “criminal wrongdoing” by the MI5 and the CIA over its treatment of a British resident held in Guantanamo Bay, it was revealed tonight.
The dramatic development over allegations of collusion in torture and inhuman treatment follows a high court judgment which found that an MI5 officer participated in the unlawful interrogation of Binyam Mohamed. The MI5 officer interrogated Mohamed while he was being held in Pakistan in 2002.
It emerged tonight that lawyers acting for Smith have sent the attorney general, Baroness Scotland, evidence about MI5 and CIA involvement in the case, which was heard behind closed doors in high court hearings. In a letter seen by the Guardian, they have asked Scotland – as an independent law officer – to investigate “possible criminal wrongdoing”. The move could lead to a criminal prosecution.
The evidence was suppressed following gagging orders demanded by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and the US authorities. The action by Smith, the minister responsible for MI5 activities, is believed to be unprecedented.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed tonight that the letter and closed evidence had been sent to the attorney. It had no further comment.
Tonight Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, which represents Guantanamo detainees, welcomed the move. He said: “This is a welcome recognition that the CIA cannot just go rendering British residents to secret torture chambers without any consequences, and British agents cannot take part in American crimes without facing the music”.
He added: “Reprieve will be making submissions to the attorney general to ensure that those involved in these crimes – from the US, Pakistan, Morocco, Britain, and elsewhere – are held responsible.”
Richard Stein of Leigh Day, which is acting for Mohamed in the British courts, said: “Ultimately the British government had little choice in the matter, once they conceded that a case had been made out that Binyam Mohamed was tortured.”
“The Convention Against Torture rightly imposes an obligation on signatory states to investigate cases of torture, and we look forward to a full and open airing of the crimes committed against Mr Mohamed and a thorough investigation by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service into this case.”
Reprieve has argued that the case against Mohamed should be dropped by the US government, and that he should be returned to the UK, as the British Government requested in August 2007. It says Mohamed is a victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture.