Omerta in state intelligence

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Who knew what in the UK about the use of torture on Guantanamo detainees? The question itself is very important. We tend to think that the power of the State in the UK has been civilised through centuries of vigilance and struggle. Has it? And are we losing it? We know what can become of a modern state that ignores the rule of law---think of the modern European totalitarianisms. I don't want anything to do with a government that facilitates torture, and I would do what I could not to live or bring up my children in a State that tortures.

And who can and should stop us from finding out who knew what about torture? John Jackson, in these three posts, takes us through the very troubling case of Binyam Mohamed. Two judges had to decide whether to make public in their judgment a summary of evidence provided by the US about the treatment of the UK-resident Ethiopian while in detention in Pakistan. It appears that David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary (and also the defendant in the case) succeeded in persuading the judges not to do so.

The case of Binyam Mohamed

Has David Miliband breached the rule of law?

Will International law help Binyam Mohamed?

Having read John Jackson's posts, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the agents of the UK Government were guilty of contraventions of the Geneva Convention and that our Foreign Secretary is now involved in a cover-up in which he claims over-riding interests of state to save itself. The suspicion is fuelled partly by a strange misunderstanding of what David Miliband told the court. But we may be seeing an executive branch with no compunction in being disingenuous in its statements on a fundamental question of its respect for the rule of law.

Cover-up could be one explanation for the behavior we see. Even more worryingly, John Jackson's third post suggests that what we may be witnessing is evidence of a sort of "code of Omerta" amongst States that are party to the Geneva Convention: if you allow your courts to "tell" your citizens about our covert activities, expect to be thrown out of the charmed circle of intelligence sharing.

Those civil liberties dependent on the rule of law, that we may have thought we had secured, need to be secured again. The Convention on Modern Liberty, of which openDemocracy is a primary sponsor, brings together those who understand that rights will wither and power will become brutal if we do not fight for them repeatedly and frequently.