That remark elided key questions about how far the security services are complicit in interrogation practices overseas, questions which were raised anew in a High Court judgement on Thursday.
Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that British security services colluded in the unlawful detention and interrogation of Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident detained in Pakistan six years ago.
The judges stated:
By seeking to interview BM in the circumstances described and supplying information and questions for his interviews, the relationship between the United Kingdom government and the United States authorities was far beyond that of bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.
The details of Mohamed’s treatment, as reported to the security services in 2002, are set out in a separate closed judgement. The court ruled that the Foreign Secretary has a duty to provide information that could support Mohamed’s case that he was tortured in Pakistan and Morocco before being sent to Guantanamo Bay.
The court stopped short of ordering the Foreign Secretary to hand over the information to Mohamed’s lawyers, in order to allow time for the national security implications of the ruling to be considered. A decision on this point is due at another hearing next week.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, who has represented Mohamed since 2005, said of the ruling:
This is a momentous decision. The Bush Administration committed crimes against Binyam Mohamed. The British government may have been Bush’s poodle, but the British courts remain bulldogs when it comes to human rights. Compelling the British government to release information that can prove Mr. Mohamed’s innocence is one obvious step towards making up for the years of torture that he has suffered. The next step is for the British government to demand an end to the charade against him in GuantÃ¡namo Bay, and return him home to Britain.