Britain Announces Investigation Into Complicity With U.S. Torture Program

July 6, 2010 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – British Prime Minister David Cameron today announced an independent investigation into allegations that U.K. agents were complicit in the torture of detainees in United States custody, and said the U.K. government would compensate torture survivors if the allegations were found to be true. U.K. residents and American Civil Liberties Union clients Binyam Mohamed and Bisher Al Rawi have long claimed that U.K. officials were aware of their CIA-orchestrated rendition and torture.

Following Prime Minister Cameron’s announcement, the ACLU called on the Obama administration to broaden its own investigation into the Bush-era torture program to include top-level government officials who may have known about and authorized such abuse. Despite disavowing torture, the current administration continues to shield Bush administration officials from legal scrutiny or accountability for their role in the program. An ongoing Justice Department investigation of the torture program excludes top-level officials.

“An investigation into the role of government personnel in the abuse and torture of prisoners is exactly what the Obama administration should be initiating. And while we welcome Prime Minister Cameron’s commitment to ensuring that torture survivors are acknowledged and compensated, this announcement also serves as a reminder of how little has been done here in the United States to reckon with the abuses of the last nine years,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director. “The Obama administration continues to suppress documents that would allow the public to understand the full scope of the Bush administration’s torture program. It continues to use the ‘state secrets’ privilege to extinguish civil litigation by torture victims. And thus far the only criminal investigation this administration has initiated is one that appears to be focused on interrogators, not on the senior officials who authorized torture.”

Mohamed and Al Rawi are plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, in which prisoners in U.S. custody were forcibly transferred to CIA “black sites” or prisons in countries known to torture. The United States government has asserted the “state secrets” privilege in an attempt to block the case from moving forward. In February, a British court ordered the U.K. government to turn over seven previously suppressed paragraphs from an earlier court ruling that summarize British government documents related to Mohamed’s rendition, detention and torture while under the control of U.S. authorities.

“Evidence of U.S. torture is widely known throughout the world. Yet, to date, no survivors of the United States’ rendition and torture program have had their day in a U.S. court,” said Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The Obama administration should not only end its efforts to prevent accountability for torturers and justice for survivors, but follow Britain’s lead and broaden the investigation here in this country. It is time to reaffirm our commitment to human rights and the rule of law.”

More information about the ACLU’s lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan is available online at:

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