Afua Hirsch and Richard Norton-Taylor
February 11, 2009
Announcements by President Obama that his government was to ban torture, honour the Geneva conventions and close down Guantánamo Bay were greeted with delight by opponents of these notorious relics of the Bush era.
Maybe it was simply relief, a gratitude for small mercies. But looking at how much has actually changed, maybe it was naivety.
Much was made, rightly, of the unprecedented ruling in the English high court last week when Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones made it abundantly clear they wanted evidence to be disclosed of how Binyam Mohamed, the former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay, was tortured.
But they could not order disclosure, they added, because of claims by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, that the US had threatened to stop sharing intelligence with the UK, its closest ally, if the information – obtained from US officials – was released. And that, said Miliband, would “cause real damage to the national security and international relations interests of the United Kingdom”. Lives may be put at risk, he claimed.
As a result material was withheld in Mohamed’s case not because the material itself was sensitive, but because America was sensitive about it.
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