Torture & rendition


British Government attempts to change Court of Appeal’s judgment after losing Binyam Mohamed secrecy case

In an extraordinary and disturbing development in Reprieve client Binyam Mohamed’s case, it emerged on 12 February that the British Government’s barrister wrote a note to one of the Court of Appeal judges in an attempt to manipulate the draft judgment. This note was not copied to Binyam’s lawyers, which prevented them objecting. Yesterday the court ordered that the other parties to the case now be allowed to respond, after which there will be a hearing as to whether the judgment will be altered.


Ironically, it was precisely the government’s attempt to tamper with a public judgment which led to yesterday’s appeal. Foreign Secretary David Miliband tried to remove seven paragraphs summarising Binyam Mohamed’s torture from his first Court judgment; the High Court ordered that they be published and yesterday the Court of Appeal agreed. Now their own judgment has been subjected to attempted interference.

Reprieve welcomes the decision, in which three senior Appeal judges (the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Judge), the Master of the Rolls (Lord Neuberger), and the President of the Queen’s Bench Division (Sir Anthony May)) dismissed the Government’s argument for secrecy and ruled that pressing public interest demanded that seven paragraphs summarising the treatment of Binyam Mohamed be published.

The paragraphs confirmed Binyam’s torture, referring to his sleep deprivation, the threat to ‘disappear’ him, the fact that ‘the interviews were having a marked effect on him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering’ and the fact that ‘the reports provided to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.’

The Foreign Secretary argued in the High Court that the publication of the seven paragraphs in their judgment would be damaging to national security. After his argument was dismissed in the High Court, it was heard by the Court of Appeals in December. Yesterday the Foreign Secretary’s argument was again dismissed, partly because the information had been disclosed by the US courts in a judgment de-classified last month. The judges decided that the US-UK intelligence sharing relations would not be damaged by the English Court publishing information which a US court had already published.

The government has indicated that it will not appeal this judgment.

For more information, see the Reprieve website. The decision by the courts is very welcome, but the paragraphs revealed are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to British complicity in torture – much more is to come.