A court ruled today that the full draft judgment of its ruling on the case of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, including sections the Foreign Secretary had attempted to suppress, should be published.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said that the paragraph, already the subject of considerable press comment after it was referred to in a letter by the Foreign Office’s barrister, Jonathan Sumption QC, should be revealed for the purposes of clarity.
The paragraph reveals the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger’s opinion that members of the security services had a “dubious record” on torture.
The court emphasised that it had at no point been coerced by the government, pointing to the fact that at all stages of the case, judges had rejected attempts by the Foreign Office to claim that evidence should be concealed.
The full text of paragraph 168 reads:
Fourthly, it is also germane that the SyS were making it clear in March 2005, through a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee that “they operated a culture that respected human rights and that coercive interrogation techniques were alien to the Services’ general ethics, methodology and training” (paragraph 9 of the first judgment), indeed they “denied that [they] knew of any ill-treatment of detainees interviewed by them whilst detained by or on behalf of the [US] Government” (paragraph 44(ii) of the fourth judgment). Yet that does not seem to be true: as the evidence in this case showed, at least some SyS officials appear to have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques, and indeed when it comes to frankness about the UK’s involvement with the mistreatment of Mr Mohammed by US officials. I have in mind in particular witness B, but it appears likely that there were others. 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. Regrettably, but inevitably, this must raise the question whether any statement in the certificates on an issue concerning such mistreatment can be relied on, especially when the issue is whether contemporaneous communications to the SyS about such mistreatment should be revealed publicly. Not only is there an obvious reason for distrusting any UK Government assurance, based on SyS advice and information, because of previous “form”, but the Foreign Office and the SyS have an interest in the suppression of such information.
The court also ordered that Mohamed’s legal costs be paid by the Foreign Office.