Blog of Rights

7 Years and 7 Paragraphs Underscore Need for Accountability for Torture

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 5:19pm

Today, the English Court of Appeals ordered the publication of previously secret information pertaining to the abuse of Binyam Mohamed, a former British detainee who was held in U.S. custody. Today's decision affirmed an earlier High Court ruling that ordered the release of seven paragraphs that the British government sought to suppress. The paragraphs reveal what the whole world already knew: the British government's complicity with the United States in the torture of Mohamed.

As the Court of Appeals noted in their decision, the information at issue had already been placed in the public domain through a U.S. court decision in November 2009. In that case the judge, after reviewing extensive evidence of Mohamed's allegations of torture, noted that the government did "not challenge or deny the accuracy of Binyam Mohamed's story of brutal treatment."

Larry Siems discusses this particular decision in detail over at The Torture Report.

As Larry also reminds us today, the reason the U.K. government sought the suppression of those seven paragraphs is because the Obama administration "explicitly threatened that publishing the information would harm the intelligence-sharing relationship between the two nations." British Foreign Secretary David Miliband argued that the publication of those seven paragraphs would endanger Britain's national security.

While Mohamed's case has wound its way through the English courts, he has also sought justice in American courts as the lead plaintiff in the ACLU's lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan. That lawsuit, Mohamed v. Jeppesen, charges that Jeppesen, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Boeing Aerospace company, knowingly participated in the CIA's forced disappearance and torture of Mohamed and four other men through the provision of critical flight planning and logistical support services to the aircraft and crews used by the CIA in its "extraordinary rendition" program.

The Obama administration has sought to dismiss the Jeppesen case at the very outset by invoking the state secrets privilege, claiming that allowing this case to proceed will endanger national security.  Last December, the case was reheard by an en banc panel of 11 judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We await their decision.

Binyam Mohamed was under the control or in the custody of U.S. authorities for seven years before his release back to his home in England in February last year.  For those seven long years he was subjected to torture and other horrific abuse.  And, as the English Court of Appeals notes in today's judgment:

There is no secret about the treatment to which Mr Mohamed was subjected while in the control of the US authorities. We are no longer dealing with the allegations of torture and ill-treatment: they have been established in the judgment of the court, publicly revealed by the judicial processes within the USA itself.

Although we learned nothing new from the publication of the seven paragraphs in the U.K., what their publication confirms is that in the case against Jeppesen,  the U.S. government's invocation of the state secrets privilege is not about protecting our national security; rather it's all about our government side-stepping any legal accountability for the torture and abuse.

You can take action today to let the Obama administration know that its victims of torture — and the American public — deserve to know why prisoners were tortured in America's name.

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