More claims of UK complicity and torture 'confessions'
The latest in the ‘Fabricating Terrorism’ series of reports by Cageprisoners was launched at a press conference in London last week. Freedom from Torture’s Communications Officer, Mark Fenwick, was there to hear yet more allegations of UK complicity in torture and how a confession obtained through torture helped convict Djamel Beghal of terror charges in France.
Djamel Beghal’s account of the two months he spent incarcerated in Abu Dhabi – at what a French newspaper later revealed to be the Emirati police headquarters – make for a sobering read. He says that between July and September 2001 he was subjected to regular torture sessions – stress positions; electric shocks; suspension; falaqa (beating the soles of feet); sexual assaults; sleep, food and light deprivation; exposure to extreme temperatures and mock executions – culminating in a signed confession and a CIA rendition flight to France to face terror charges.
These varied torture techniques, designed to break down the individual physically and psychologically, are all too familiar to the many torture survivors who flee to the UK each year and provide testimony to Freedom from Torture. We know from them that the simple fact is, being subjected to such extreme methods means a person will likely say anything to make the torture stop. Surely it therefore follows that evidence obtained in this way is at best ‘unreliable’ and can be worthless.
As Beghal himself testifies "...the pain would become a torture sufficient in itself to make anyone admit, without blinking, that he is the assassin of Kennedy."
The Cageprisoners' report – Djamel Beghal: British and French complicity in torture – explains how on removal to France, Beghal was tried and convicted of terror charges; and that it was only on appeal “that the court excluded his false confessions because they were obtained under duress.”
The report also contains the latest in a long line of accusations levelled at the UK intelligence services. In it, Beghal claims that at various points of his detention in the UAE he was interrogated by a British agent who questioned him about Muslims living in the UK. He alleges the man – who he’s able to describe having seen him through a gap in his blindfold – also beat him.
It is just one more case that can be added to an ever-growing list of allegations against the UK intelligence services and which again highlights the necessity for a transparent and effective inquiry to get to the truth. Unfortunately, the government here persists to state that this can be achieved through its proposed ‘Detainee Inquiry’, roundly written off and condemned by human rights organisations and the lawyers acting for the detainees as a flawed process, failing in credibility due to its lack of transparency or meaningful role for the survivors themselves.
Listening to Beghal’s wife Sylvie speak publicly for the first time about the impact his treatment has had on their family life, is a stark reminder that this is not just an example in the abstract.
“As a mother my concern is what goes through the minds of my children. We have shut ourselves off, firstly because we are scared of being badly judged and labelled, but also because we are scared of being hurt.”
In 2009, Beghal was released from prison under house arrest conditions in France but was then rearrested earlier this year for allegedly directing a terrorist group, a charge he still faces.