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The state's dirty work

Important truths about the British state are reaching the light of day, thanks to campaigners and ordinary citizens. The Metropolitan Police and the secret forces of security agencies MI5 and MI6 are being more and more exposed, not only as guilty of brutality, but of cynical lying to cover-up & disguise their activities.

When last week’s anti-G20 demonstrations saw a middle-aged man die, the police claimed this was due to Ian Tomlinson suffering a heart attack from natural causes. But they are now are under fire following revelations that  47-year-old newspaper seller Tomlinson did not “die of natural causes”. Eyewitnesses, including an experienced freelance photographer, say they saw Tomlinson suffer grievous blows to the head from a police baton which caused him to fall and hit the pavement hard. 

The same Metropolitan Police will be investigating evidence that security and intelligence agencies M15 and M16 colluded with the CIA in the inhuman treatment and secret rendition of British citizens who were kidnapped, tortured and sent to the Guantanamo Bay camp. 

A 55-page dossier released by Cageprisoners called “Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture” is now in the hands of the Met. It concludes that there were “systematic violations of international law perpetrated by the British authorities in relation to a) illegal rendition or torture flights which have been, and are using British airspace and airport facilities and b) the role of the intelligence services in gaining information knowingly obtained from torture, and from passing on intelligence of a dubious nature to other countries' intelligence services which forms a basis for the detention, abuse and torture of detainees.” 

The Cageprisoners’ report shows how Farid Hilali, a Moroccan man who had been living in Britain and was initially detained in 1998-1999 in the United Arab Emirates, was tortured. This was two years before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, which were given as the reason for the US-UK “war on terror”. Hilali claims the British gave "direct orders" to torture him, and that a British official was present when he was mistreated. 

Naturally, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) claims that it takes allegations of mistreatment or torture "seriously", saying in a statement: "The UK's position on torture is clear. We abhor torture. We don't participate, solicit, encourage or condone it. We unreservedly condemn extraordinary rendition for torture."   

The FCO’s claim is ludicrous given the fact that not only Binyam Mohammed’s own testimony, but also Cageprisoners’ reports and European Union and other investigations have shown categorically that the UK intelligence agencies were involved in what Asim Qureshi, who drew up the report, describes as “a subterranean system of kidnappings”, where prisoners are “ghosted to ‘black sites’, suffering abuse and torture”. 

Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, in a foreword to the Cageprisoners’ report, has denounced the official secrecy, saying: “There will be and is already a continuous assertion by the Government that any issue that relates to the Intelligence Services ... should not see the light of day in normal courts, but should be confined to special courts and/or the evidence should be heard in secret.” Peirce concludes that “the reality of guarantees of human rights does not come from the top down, but has to be fought for, generation by generation”, and that the secret state should be held properly and publicly to account. 

Too right, Gareth. Speed the day. But it certainly won’t happen by the existing state investigating itself. Achieving a new democratic state in place of the authoritarian, undemocratic state we live under now, has to be our aim.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary 
6 April 2009

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