Damning court of appeal findings about the "dubious" involvement of security officials in the mistreatment of former Guantánamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed were made public today, thwarting government efforts to keep them secret.
a remarkable sequence of events, appeal court judges considering the
case of Mohamed, who claims he was tortured, reinstated their findings
about the security services, stating that some officials "appear to
have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques".
a final judgment in Mohamed's appeal against the foreign secretary over
his treatment, the judges said that the dubious record extended to
"frankness about the UK's involvement with the mistreatment of Mr
Mohamed by US officials".
Opposition politicians and human rights
campaigners welcomed the court's decision and called for a judicial
inquiry into the UK's complicity in torture. But the home secretary, Alan Johnson, remained defiant, rejecting the judges' findings.
"We totally reject any suggestion that the security services have a systemic problem in respecting human rights," he said.
"We wholly reject too that they have any interest in suppressing or withholding information from ministers or the courts."
judgment comes after widespread criticism of government attempts to
have the remarks, made by the master of the rolls, Lord Neuberger,
removed from the public domain.
The government's lawyer, Jonathan
Sumption QC, wrote to the court asking that the comments, contained in
the draft judgment, be removed because of their "exceptionally damaging
criticism" of the security services.
In what is being seen as a
triumph for open justice and judicial independence, the judges largely
rejected Sumption's request, placing the initial judgment in the public
domain and amending the final version to clarify that the findings
related to the treatment of Mohamed.
Sumption's criticism that the original version of paragraph 168 went
"well beyond" the evidence heard by the high court.
The judge said its contents were "fully supported by the findings of the court based on the evidence".
The decision is likely to provoke controversy after MPs and the MI5
chief, Jonathan Evans, rejected criticism of the security services.
Despite coming under pressure to water down its findings, the court
repeated its powerful criticism today.
"[The record of security
service officials] regrettably, but inevitably, must raise the question
of whether any statement in the certificates on an issue concerning
such treatment can be relied on … Not only is there an obvious reason
for distrusting any UK government assurance based on SyS [security
service] advice and information, because of previous 'form', but the
Foreign Office and the SyS have an interest in the suppression of such
In the statement the judges took the unprecedented
step of waiving confidentiality and reading out previously unpublished
remarks about the conduct of MI5.
Significantly, the verdict clarified the judges' views of the responsibility of the foreign secretary in Mohamed's case.
statement said: "The good faith of the foreign secretary is not in
question, but he prepared the certificates partly, possibly largely, on
the basis of information and advice provided by SyS personnel."
the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Edward Davey, said the
judgment was "deeply embarrassing" for the foreign secretary, David
Miliband, as it implied he "had the wool pulled over his eyes".
home secretary David Davis, who raised the Mohamed case in parliament,
accused the government of "bullying" the court and said a judicial
inquiry was necessary "both to re-establish Britain's moral reputation,
and allow agencies to put this behind them in continuing their battle
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, described the case as "devastating" for the security services.
cannot have morale in your security services or public confidence if
you're not being straight about the mistakes of the past," she said.