U.K. Settles Claims of Torture Victims, U.S. Continues Stonewalling

By Kenneth J. Theisen 

The British government has announced that it is settling claims brought by 16 former Guantánamo inmates for its complicity in rendition and torture by cooperating with the U.S. in the imperialist war of terror. The sixteen victims of the U.S. and the UK governments are not the only men alleging British complicity in their mistreatment while they were detained.
 
Legal proceedings have been begun on behalf of others who were not taken to Gitmo, but instead were illegally detained, tortured, and interrogated by British intelligence officers in other nations.
 
The settlements are not being made because of the benevolence of the British government, but rather in an attempt to quell the continuing release of damning documents that were being disclosed within Britain through various legal proceedings brought on behalf of those tortured. To date these proceedings have resulted in the release of some 900 torture papers out of a total of a quarter-of-a-million such documents. These documents prove that high-level British officials, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were intimately involved in the decisions that resulted in suspects being kidnapped in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program.
 
The undisclosed documents will be given to a government inquiry which is investigating the British government’s role in the torture of alleged terrorists held since 9/11. Those running the investigation will decide if any of the documents will be made public at a later date. Currently Scotland Yard is investigating charges that British intelligence officers committed crimes in handling of terrorism suspects.
 
While at least the British are investigating and taking some level of responsibility, here in the U.S. the Obama administration has done the opposite. (This does not mean that there still is not still much to be done in the U.K. to hold all those who committed these crimes accountable and for justice to be done.) Obama lawyers in both the U.S. Solicitor General’s office and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have repeatedly gone to court to suppress all the dirty secrets and crimes of the Bush regime and also of their own administration. 
 
They have repeatedly denied due process to prisoners of the war of terror as well. The administration continues kangaroo proceedings at Gitmo against those held there for years. DOJ recently announced it would not charge those who destroyed CIA torture videos of the interrogations it conducted against at least 2 prisoners.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union represents two of the likely recipients of the reparations settlements in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program. Binyam Mohamed and Bisher Al Rawi were kidnapped, forcibly rendered to U.S.-run prisons overseas and tortured. The Obama administration asserted the “state secrets privilege” to have the case thrown out, and a federal appeals court dismissed the case in September. The ACLU has asked the Supreme Court to review that decision.

Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, stated, “We welcome reports that the British government will compensate prisoners who were transferred illegally to the prison at Guantánamo Bay. It's commendable that the U.K. is addressing the role that its own officials played in enabling the Bush administration's torture and indefinite detention policies. It's deeply troubling, though, that while the U.K. and many other countries are now acknowledging and addressing their official complicity in the Bush administration's human rights abuses, here in the United States the Obama administration continues to shield the architects of the torture program from civil liability while Bush-era officials, including former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney, boast of their crimes on national television. If other democracies can compensate survivors and hold officials accountable for their endorsement of torture, surely we can do the same."

Steven Watt, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program and attorney on the Jeppesen case also said,
"The Obama administration continues to shield Bush-era torturers from accountability in civil proceedings by blocking judicial review of their illegal behavior. To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture program has had his day in a U.S. court. The U.S. can no longer stand silently by as other nations reckon with their own agents' complicity in the torture program. Reckoning with the legacy of torture would restore our standing in the world, reassert the rule of law and strengthen our democracy."
 
The U.S. government continues to run Gitmo and other hellhole prisons such as the one at Bagram, Afghanistan. It still conducts extraordinary rendition. In our names it commits murder in its targeted assassination program. Torture is still practiced by government agents. Wars are waged throughout the world on behalf of the U.S. Empire. Massive spying against Americans and those around the world is now an established program. 
 
An entire national security state has sprung into existence during the Bush regime and is continued under Obama. Yet no one is held to account. (Not even the ex-President who writes of his crimes in his recent book.) How long will we put up with this? YOU must join World Can’t Wait and others and demand that those responsible for all these crimes be investigated and then prosecuted. To do less is denying justice to the millions who have suffered in the U.S. war of terror.