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United Kingdom Human Rights

Torture and other ill-treatment

Further reports emerged that grave human rights violations had been committed with the knowledge, complicity and, in some cases, in the presence of UK intelligence officers, including in Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, and that UK officials had attempted to cover up the UK's involvement. In August, two Parliamentary Committees expressed concern about the UK's involvement in the torture of "terror suspects" held abroad. However, calls for independent investigations into the UK's role in these and other gross violations of human rights perpetrated in the context of the so called war on terror, including into the UK's involvement in the US-led rendition programme (the unlawful transfers of terrorist suspects between countries), went unheeded.

In February, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national formerly residing in the UK, was released from US custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he had been held since 2004, and returned to the UK. He had been detained in Pakistan in April 2002 and then transported under the US-led rendition programme to Morocco, then to Afghanistan, and then on to Guantánamo Bay. The US government did not dispute that his treatment amounted to torture or other illtreatment. UK judges ruled repeatedly during the year that the UK government should disclose what the US Central Intelligence Agency told the UK's Security Service (MI5) and what the UK's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) knew of the unlawful treatment of Binyam Mohamed. They also made clear that "the relationship of the United Kingdom Government to the United States authorities in connection with [Binyam Mohamed] was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing." The UK government's appeal against the disclosure rulings was pending at the end of the year. In March it was announced that the police would begin an investigation into the allegations of possible criminal wrongdoing.

By the end of the year, Shaker Aamer, a Saudi Arabian national, was the only known remaining former UK resident still held in Guantánamo Bay. Following his capture in Afghanistan he had been detained by US military authorities in various locations and ultimately in Guantánamo Bay. In December, the High Court of England and Wales ordered the UK authorities to disclose certain documents to support his case that any confessions he might have made during his detention had been induced by ill-treatment by US and UK officials, thereby discrediting such confessions and improving his prospects of release.

In February, the government admitted that, contrary to earlier statements, two individuals captured by UK forces in Iraq in 2004 and transferred to US detention had subsequently been moved to a US detention facility in Afghanistan. The US government categorized them as "unlawful enemy combatants". There was concern that efforts to identify them were being hampered by the UK government.

In December, the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition began legal proceedings in the USA, requesting disclosure from various US security agencies about the UK's role in the US-led rendition programme. This included the unlawful transfer of two people through the UK territory of Diego Garcia, and the handover in Iraq by UK special forces to US forces of other individuals who were then flown to Afghanistan.

Deportations

Attempts continued to deport individuals alleged to pose a threat to "national security" to countries where they would be at risk of grave human rights violations, including torture. The government continued to argue that "diplomatic assurances" were sufficient to reduce the risk they would face.

In February, two Algerian nationals, referred to in legal proceedings in the UK as "RB" and "U", and Omar Othman (also known as Abu Qatada), a Jordanian national, lost their appeals before the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (the Law Lords) against deportation to their respective countries on "national security" grounds. In all three cases the government was relying on "diplomatic assurances", given by the Algerian and Jordanian governments respectively, claiming that they would sufficiently reduce the risk that the men would be subjected to grave human rights violations, including torture, on their return.

The following day, the European Court of Human Rights issued interim measures indicating to the government that Omar Othman should not be deported to Jordan. At the end of the year, his case was pending.

In April, 10 Pakistani students in the UK were arrested and detained under suspicion of involvement in terrorism. They were later released without charge but immediately rearrested and detained again, pending deportation on "national security" grounds. They were held in high security prisons. By December, eight of them had abandoned their appeals against deportation and had returned to Pakistan.

In December, the High Court of England and Wales ruled against the government and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). It held that, even in the context of bail proceedings before the SIAC, a fair hearing required sufficient disclosure, and that exclusive reliance on secret material would breach fair trial standards.

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