Sunday, January 01, 2006

Blind Eyes

Take three days off and what happens? This:

Craig Murray has been releasing documents on the internet after the government attempted to have them removed from his book before publication. These documents throw a spanner in the UK government's plausible deniability policy with regard to receiving intelligence obtained by torture. Bloggerheads has extensive coverage and the documents have been widely mirrored. This is one cat which will not be easily put back in its bag.

Here's one of the documents:
From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor

Date: 13 March 2003

CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield


1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.


M C Wood
Legal Adviser
That's an interesting legal distinction and one which is almost certainly entirely wrong.

This attitude reminds me of something I read (can't remember where, sorry) when the Law Lords ruled that evidence obtained by torture was inadmissible in UK courts. It appears that the UK government has not denied that the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) receives information obtained by torture. It appears that they have not denied that the SIS and other government departments use this highly suspect information. From Craig Murray's July 2004 letter:
On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.
Very useful? In what ways? What did they do with the material? The UK government does not "support" obtaining intelligence by torture but there seems to be no denial that they use information obtained in this way. Just not in court.

You might want to listen to Blair's denial of, well, something he claims not to know anything about. What's that they say about ignorance and defence? This is a particular gem:
I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been happening here at all, and I'm not going to start ordering inquires into this, that and the next thing when I've got no evidence to show whether this is right or not...
Does that work in other areas of public service?

Bod: "I'd like to report a suspected murder please."
Plod: "We have absolutely no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been happening here at all, and we're not going to launch an investigation into this, that and the next thing when we've got no evidence to show whether a crime has been committed."
Bod: "What about the dead body with the knife stuck in it?"
Plod: "I've never heard of such a thing..."
Bod: "It's right there."
Plod: "Look, I'm not just going to look in the direction you indicate just because some people claim that there's a dead body over there. I mean, next thing you know I'll have hurt my neck with all this turning and looking at these alleged bodies. Where's the evidence?"
Bod: "It's right there. Look."
Plod: "I can't see it."
Bod: "You've got your eyes closed."
Plod: "I'm not going to open my eyes just because some people say a crime has been committed..."

And so on.

Here's what Blair refuses to look at. This is what torture means:
It means the woman who was raped with a broken bottle in both vagina and anus, and who died after ten days of agony. It means the old man suspended by wrist shackles from the ceiling while his children were beaten to a pulp before his eyes. It means the man whose fingernails were pulled before his face was beaten and he was immersed to his armpits in boiling liquid. It means the 18-year-old whose knees and elbows were smashed, his hand immersed in boiling liquid until the skin came away and the flesh started to peel from the bone, before the back of his skull was stove in.

These are all real cases from the Uzbek security services which we viewed as friendly liaison, and from which we obtained regular intelligence, in the Uzbek case via the CIA.
To ignore can also be a crime.

On the Law Lords ruling (via):
[T]hey held that there is an "exclusionary" rule precluding the use of evidence obtained by torture. However, they held it was perfectly lawful for such information to be relied on operationally, and also by the home secretary in making executive decisions.
- Charles Clarke
Confirmation rather than denial. We don't use torture evidence in court but we do receive it gratefully and act on it operationally. Doesn't that make you proud?

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