Guantano Bay

UK compensation payout to torture victims

The UK Government’s decision to pay compensation to 16 men held by US forces at Guantanamo Bay should not limit scrutiny of possible UK complicity in the alleged mistreatment and torture of individuals detained during security activities post 9/11, REDRESS said today.

On the contrary, the settlement underscores the imperative for a full and thorough judicial investigation into the role of UK officials and the security services relating to these men and others apparently subject to illegal treatment during counter-terrorism investigations, REDRESS believes.

REDRESS’ Director, Carla Ferstman, said: “It is important that these individuals have received compensation. From REDRESS’ experience of dealing with torture survivors we know that such abuse has lasting impact on their lives. However, the fact of the settlement must not detract from the obvious need for public scrutiny of these issues.”

The compensation announcement made yesterday by the UK’s Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, brings to an end an important claim for damages before the High Court in London brought by 12 of the men, including Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed and Martin Mubanga.

Lawyers for the men argued UK officials were involved in their transfer to the US detention centre and should have taken steps to prevent this and their alleged ill-treatment. In agreeing compensation the UK government made no admission that it knew about the alleged mistreatment or that it took place.

Ms Ferstman added: “These are matters of grave public concern. That fact that they will not now be examined in the High Court does not negate the need for all issues and accusations regarding UK complicity in torture to be examined in a transparent and judicial forum.”

“Torture is never acceptable; it is illegal; it doesn’t work and no self-respecting country would be part of it. It is therefore important for the issue of complicity to be fully examined, so that we can be sure our security forces are acting in a way that is in accordance with UK and international law.”

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, said in July that a judge-led inquiry would be established to examine whether, and if so to what extent, the UK government and its intelligence agencies were involved in improper treatment of detainees held by other countries in counter-terrorism operations overseas, or were aware of improper treatment of detainees in operations in which the UK was involved.

REDRESS welcomes the inquiry, which is expected to be lead by Sir Peter Gibson, but believes it essential the inquiry has the legal power to ensure all the facts are considered. Earlier this year, REDRESS joined eight human rights organisations in writing to Sir Peter calling for a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry that would hear the evidence of alleged victims. The inquiry should have the power to compel the disclosure of relevant documents as well as to require a person give evidence, the joint letter said.