Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Benyam Mohammed, torture, responsibility, reform

Welcome home, Benyam Mohammed. Well, as much of a home country as you have ever had in your three decades of life. I hope that you make a good recovery from your traumatic years of captivity, abuse and torture. You came to the UK from Ethiopia, asked for asylum, got addicted to drugs, went to Afghanistan to "see a Muslim country with my own eyes". The US claims you visited an Al-Qaeda camp. You got arrested in Pakistan with a false passport, and were tortured and abused in various countries for seven long years.

Did you see Al-Qaeda? Maybe, maybe not. Young travellers go to all sorts of places. What evidence do the US authorities have? If it is based on confession, it is valueless evidence, not worth the paper it is written on. If there is independent evidence, then you have been punished more than enough for a young man's lack of judgment. In the end, all charges against you were dropped.

It looks as if the UK "Intelligence" Services are accomplices in your abuse and torture. This presents David Miliband and Gordon Brown with a serious problem. Both have said that Britain does not to support torture or to condone torture. If this is the case, then the "Intelligence" officers who colluded in Binyam's torture must face trial and prison. If, on the other hand, they both knew about the MI5/6 torture policy, they are lying and should resign.

Clearly, an inquiry is necessary.

Torture is the worst form of chimpanzee behaviour. The confessions extracted under torture are valueless as evidence. Despite this, the Authoritarian Right tries to make a case for torture. They argue:

"What if you knew a bomb was going to go off in one hour, killing hundreds of your people, and you were holding the bomber? Would it not be right to torture him to find the location of the bomb?"

This is a hypothetical scenario, and no other piece of policy would ever be rested on such a flimsy piece of fiction, especially not a policy with such serious humanitarian and reflexive implications. Thousands are being tortured in real life every day, and the Right wants this to continue under the pretext of an imaginary scenario?

But if we take the scenario at face value, it does not work, because a terrorist can hold out for an hour. He can buy respite by giving a false location for the bomb.

Third, there is the reflexive aspect of condoning torture on the basis of this fairy tale. If Britain tortures people, Britons will get tortured, period. So in condoning torture, the British Government, under NuLabour, will cause British citizens to be tortured in the future. In doing this, they have failed in their Responsibility to Protect, and have in theory and in principle become an illegitimate government.

We need a change of Government, but not just a change to a Tory Government, because everything that NuLabour have done, every mistake they have made, the Tories also would have done and made, quite possibly with bells and whistles. We need radical reform of government, a fresh start, with a new approach to economics, civil liberty, and representation.

Welcome home, Benyamin. You have suffered horribly, but your suffering may be one of the factors that triggers a radical reform of the country that gave you asylum.

1 comment:

BOARD said...


OTTAWA — Supporters of a Canadian sentenced to life behind bars in Ethiopia want the Harper government to suspend aid to the African country over what they consider a politically motivated sham.

The Ethiopian High Court ordered Bashir Makhtal, 40, to spend life in prison yesterday, after convicting him last week of terrorism-related charges.

Lorne Waldman, Makhtal’s Toronto lawyer, has denounced the legal proceedings as a “kangaroo court” that ignored important evidence.

He wants the federal government to pressure Ethiopia by cutting off all development aid short of humanitarian assistance.

The court found him guilty of membership in the political and military central committees of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front; working to co-ordinate attacks against the Ethiopian army, and working with the Eritrean government in recruiting and training insurgents.

He could have received the death penalty.

The Ethiopian-born Makhtal, who settled in Canada as a refugee in 1991 and later moved to Kenya, says he’s innocent. He is appealing the conviction.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said the government is “extremely disappointed” by the sentence.

Catherine Loubier, a spokesman for Cannon, said government efforts would focus on the continuing court proceedings — not suspending development dollars.

Source: Toronto Sun