For Immediate Release
UK: Set Judicial Inquiry on Complicity in Torture
British Government Should Stop Stonewalling
LONDON - The UK government should immediately order an independent judicial
inquiry into the role and complicity of British security services in
the torture of terrorism suspects in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said
in a report released today.
The 46-page report, "Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Ill-treatment of Terror Suspects in Pakistan," provides accounts from victims and their families in the cases of five UK citizens of Pakistani origin
- Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Rangzieb Ahmed, Rashid Rauf and a
fifth individual who wishes to remain anonymous - tortured in Pakistan
by Pakistani security agencies between 2004 and 2007. Human Rights
Watch found that while there is no evidence of UK officials directly
participating in torture, UK complicity is clear.
"British intelligence and law enforcement colluded with and turned a
blind eye to the use of torture on terrorism suspects in Pakistan,"
said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights
Watch. "British officials knew that Pakistani intelligence agencies
routinely used torture, were aware of specific cases and did not
A well-placed official within the UK government told Human Rights
Watch that allegations of UK complicity made by Human Rights Watch in
testimony to the UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights in
February 2009 were accurate. Another government source told Human
Rights Watch that its research into this subject was "spot on."
These officials said that the Pakistani intelligence services
cooperated in specific cases by sharing information from abusive
interrogations with British officials, which was used in prosecutions
in UK courts and other investigations. UK law enforcement and
intelligence officials passed questions to Pakistani officials for use
in interrogation sessions in individual cases, knowing that these
Pakistani officials were using torture.
Knowledgeable civilian and military officials in the Pakistani
government have on numerous occasions told Human Rights Watch that
British officials were aware of the mistreatment of the terrorism
suspects in question.
"A key lesson from the past eight years of global efforts to combat
terrorism is that the use of torture and ill-treatment is deeply
counterproductive," Hasan said. "It undermines the moral legitimacy of
governments that rely on it and serves as a recruiting tool for
Four of the victims described meeting British officials while
detained in Pakistan. In some cases this happened shortly after
sessions in which the individuals had been tortured, when clear and
visible signs of torture were evident.
Rangzieb Ahmed, from Greater Manchester, England, was arrested in
the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan on August 20, 2006 and
accused of links with al Qaeda. On September 7, 2007, he was
transferred to the United Kingdom. Ahmed told Human Rights Watch that
while he was in detention in Pakistan, he was repeatedly tortured,
beaten, deprived of sleep, and otherwise mistreated by Pakistani
security agencies. His torturers pulled out three of his fingernails,
Human Rights Watch spoke to members of Pakistan's law enforcement
agencies involved in processing Ahmed at various stages of his
detention. These sources, from both civilian and military Pakistani
agencies, confirmed what they described as the "overall authenticity"
of his claims, including the claim that British intelligence services
were aware of his detention and treatment at "all times."
Zeeshan Siddiqui from Hounslow, London, was arrested in Pakistan on
May 15, 2005, on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. He was deported
to the United Kingdom on January 8, 2006. During his detention,
Siddiqui said he was repeatedly beaten, chained, injected with drugs,
and threatened with sexual abuse and further torture.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, Pakistani security officials
confirmed to Human Rights Watch that Siddiqui was arrested on the basis
of a tip-off from the British intelligence services and at their
request. The Pakistani sources added that British intelligence agents
were aware at all times that Siddiqui was being "processed" in the
"traditional way" and the British were "effectively" interrogating
Siddiqui even as Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau "processed" him.
"Because no one could prove or get him to admit anything useful,
that is probably why the green light was given to bring him into the
[legal] system," the source said.
Amin, of Edgware, was convicted in April 2007 in the "Crevice" trial
for plotting attacks against several potential targets, including
London's Ministry of Sound nightclub. Amin gave himself up voluntarily
to Pakistani authorities after assurances were given to his family that
he would not be mistreated, but was then tortured repeatedly through
2004 and forced into false confessions.
Amin alleges that during his detention he was met by British
intelligence officials on almost a dozen occasions. Amin was released
by Pakistani authorities after a 10-month illegal detention, and then
arrested upon arrival at Heathrow airport in 2005.
Pakistani intelligence sources said that Amin's account of his
detention and meetings with British and American intelligence personnel
are "essentially accurate." These sources told Human Rights Watch that
Amin's was a "high pressure" case and that the British and American
desire for information from him was "insatiable." The sources added
that the British and American agents who were "party" to Amin's
detention were "perfectly aware that we were using all means possible
to extract information from him and were grateful that we were doing
"The evil of terrorism does not justify participating in or using
the results of torture," Hasan said. "Until an independent inquiry is
held and those responsible held accountable, Britain's reputation as a
rights-respecting nation will stand tarnished."
General denials of complicity in torture from the foreign and home
secretaries have not addressed the specific allegations made by Human
Rights Watch, The Guardian newspaper, and lawyers representing torture
The government has also failed to respond adequately to the findings
and recommendations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) and
the Foreign Affairs Committee. The JCHR has called for an independent
judicial inquiry. "The British government has stonewalled parliament,
victims and the public alike in refusing to answer any questions about
its behavior in Pakistan," Hasan said. "It should immediately set up an
independent judicial inquiry and put in place measures to ensure that
its complicity in torture never happens again."
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.