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British High Court Finds US Guilty of Torturing Binyam Mohamed

After losing an appeal, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband today published seven paragraphs formerly redacted from a High Court decision on the treatment of Binyam Mohamed. For the full story of Mohamed (detailing torture that included slicing his genitals with a scalpel after being rendered to foreign interrogators, followed by delivery to US custody), see this extended piece by Andy Worthington.

Included among the material published today for the first time is this paragraph:

The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]"

This is not a simple case of a politician or other public figure making an accusation against the United States. This is a British High Court rendering a decision after examining evidence. The language chosen is significant. Although "could readily be contended" perhaps could be interpreted as leaving a bit of wiggle room, that possibility is slapped down entirely by "at the very least" before launching into the highly significant "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment". This final phrase, often shortened to CIDT, is important because it is a key element of the UN Convention Against Torture, which actually has the full name "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment". Finally, this torture has been carried out "by the United States authorities".

Here is a portion of President Ronald Reagan’s statement on submitting the Convention Against Torture to the Senate after he signed it in 1988:

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

Here is Article 12 of the CAT:

Article 12

Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.

Barack Obama and Eric Holder now are required to act. A decision of a British High Court certainly would qualify as "reasonable ground to believe" that CIDT has occurred in the case of Binyam Mohamed and that it was at the hands of "United States authorities".

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Jim White

Jim White

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