Miliband MI5 Torture
Torture and the shame of MI5: Top judge says security service is dubious and untruthful
Last updated at 11:52 PM on 26th February 2010
Britain's top three judges plunged MI5 into crisis yesterday by releasing a devastating finding that its officers have a 'dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques'.
In issuing the judgment by Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, the Appeal Court faced down an unprecedented 'bullying' campaign by the Home and Foreign Secretaries demanding that the allegation be withdrawn.
Alan Johnson and David Miliband had dismissed as 'ludicrous lies' suggestions that MI5 had a 'culture of suppression' over torture.
That damning paragraph: David Miliband (left) and the tortured suspect, Binyam Mohamed
Two weeks ago, they persuaded the Appeal Court to change a contentious draft paragraph written by Lord Neuberger which made that allegation in relation to the treatment of ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.
But yesterday, despite overwhelming pressure from Whitehall and MI5, the judges decided to release in full the original paragraph, known as 168.
Lord Neuberger's blistering statement said denials by the security service of knowing about any ill-treatment of U.S. terror suspect detainees 'does not seem to have been true' in Mr Mohamed's case.
Devastating: Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger's judgment sparked a 'bullying' campaign by the Home and Foreign Secretaries
It went on: 'At least some (MI5) officials appear to have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques, and indeed when it comes to frankness about the UK's involvement with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed by U.S. officials.'
The judge said that, as a result, there were good reasons for 'distrusting' statements made on torture by Mr Miliband.
said the case for a full inquiry into the torture allegations against the
security services was now overwhelming.
A total of 25 terror suspects have complained of ill-treatment, illegal detention or torture which they allege was condoned by British agencies.
The Liberal Democrats accused Mr Miliband of having had the 'wool pulled over his eyes' by MI5 - which had assured him it did not know Mr Mohamed had been ill-treated.
Foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey said: 'The suggestion that there were others in the security services involved in unacceptable practices makes the need for a full judicial inquiry irrefutable.'
He also questioned how deep the Government's knowledge of torture went, adding: 'Did former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sign off on the "coercive techniques" referred to in the judgment?'
Mr Miliband said: 'The judges have a complete right to express their opinions, that's important in a free society. Equally, the Government doesn't have to agree with everything that they say.'
Johnson remained defiant and rejected Lord Neuberger's findings. In a statement
which heightened tensions between Whitehall and the judiciary, the Home
Secretary said: 'I am deeply disappointed that the court has decided to
criticise the security service in this way.
'The UK's security and intelligence services do outstanding work to keep us safe against a real and continuing terrorist threat, and they do so under proper control and oversight - by ministers, the Intelligence and Security Committee, the commissioners and, where necessary, the courts.'
In a sign of the deep alarm within the Government, Gordon Brown said he had spoken to MI5 chief Jonathan Evans to 'repeat my gratitude for the work the security service does to protect the British people'.
He also promised shortly to publish the latest Government guidelines on how detainees should be treated.
'We condemn torture without reservation,' added the Prime Minister. 'We do not torture and we do not ask others to do so on our behalf. We are clear that officials must not be complicit in mistreatment of detainees.'
Mr Mohamed says he was tortured in Pakistan in 2002 while held by the U.S., with the knowledge of MI5.
year David Miliband asked the Court of Appeal to block a High Court decision to
publish a seven-paragraph summary of what MI5 knew about his ill-treatment.
The summary showed that MI5 was aware Mr Mohamed was being continuously deprived of sleep, threatened with rendition and being subjected to 'significant mental stress and suffering'.
Earlier this month, Lord Neuberger and two other top appeal judges - Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, and Sir Anthony May, President of the Queen's Bench Division, rejected Mr Miliband's appeal against the High Court summary becoming public knowledge.
A dispute then erupted between the Government and the court over paragraph 168 in a draft version of Lord Neuberger's judgment.
Jonathan Sumption QC, representing the Foreign Secretary, said 168 went 'well beyond' anything found by the High Court judges.
As a result the judge altered the paragraph, leading to accusations that he was 'watering down' his ruling, and said he would further reconsider it.
But a summary of what the paragraph said, written by Mr Sumption, was leaked to the Press. It said MI5 was being accused of having a culture of suppression in relation to torture allegations, and of misleading Parliament.
Mr Johnson, Mr Miliband and the Labour chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee then launched an unprecedented assault on the judiciary designed to prevent the paragraph ever being released in full.
Even the head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, made a rare public intervention to say the idea that the service had a culture of suppression could not be further from the truth.
It was despite this onslaught that the Appeal Court released the paragraph yesterday, putting Britain's most senior judges in open conflict with MI5, the Foreign Office and Home Office.
Lord Neuberger also published a new paragraph 168, which took account of some of Mr Miliband's complaints - namely that his criticism of MI5 had stretched beyond the case of Mr Mohamed.
However the modifications were very limited, and the judge said the paragraph's findings were 'fully supported' by the evidence.
Former shadow home secretary David Davis praised the judges for standing up to Government 'bullying' but said the case for a judicial inquiry 'is now unanswerable'.
He added: 'It is now time to clear this matter up once and for all, both to re-establish Britain's moral reputation, and allow agencies to put this behind them in continuing their battle against terrorism.'
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