Binyam Mohamed: government delays again
Jo Glanville on a new twist for Binyam Mohamed
15 May 09

In his latest efforts to keep details of the UK’s alleged involvement in the torture of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed secret, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband has made a third public interest immunity (PII) certificate.

On 6 May, the High Court ruled that the judgment on Binyam Mohamed should be reopened, following an application from both UK and international media, including Index on Censorship.

The Court had, with reluctance, originally redacted seven paragraphs from the judgment, after the government claimed that their publication would affect the UK’s intelligence sharing relationship with the American administration. The media then made an application for the judgment to be reopened.

In a highly dramatic day at the High Court on 22 April, lawyers for Binyam Mohamed and the media accused the government of misleading the court. It transpired that the government had not in fact actually asked the Obama administration if the publication of the paragraphs would endanger their relationship.

The government then took advantage of the time given it by the court following the hearing last month to approach the Obama administration for a statement, as follows: “Public disclosure of this information reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the United Kingdom’s national security. Specifically, disclosure of this information may result in a constriction of the US-UK relationship, as well as UK relationships with other countries.”

But there are many questions that need to be answered, and lawyers for the Guardian have now made a request for further clarification — who in the Obama administration wrote the statement? Was it preceded by any correspondence between the foreign office and the US administration? Did the foreign office assist in the drafting of the letter? It’s clear how desperate the government is to keep the paragraphs secret. And even though Lord Justice Thomas declared himself “baffled” as to why the Obama administration should have any objection to the release of the Mohamed paragraphs when it had just released the torture memos, it may be tough for the High Court judges to resist the foreign secretary. However much they may like to.

By Jo Glanville

Jo Glanville is editor of Looking for an enemy: eight essays on antisemitism (Short Books) and Qissat: short stories by Palestinian women (Telegram/Saqi Books). She is a former editor of Index on Censorship.