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Britain's Greek Torture Problems

1.01.2006

There have been some rather large leaks and revelations about the behaviour of the British government in regard to torture over the past couple of days. First there was the news of Craig Murray's publishing of pretty incriminating FCO documents on the blogosphere, about which practically everyone has read (good post over at potatriotique).

The other story was a bit of a slow burner. The reason was that while Murray managed to get his information out there in bulk quickly enough to make sure it couldnt be shut down, the reports coming out of Greece were suitably managed by the FCO in London.

The second story surrounded an expose by the Greek tabloid (and apparant muckracker from what I can gather) Proto Thema of apparant torture by British MI6 agents in association with Greek agents of Pakistani terror suspects. Histologian from Greece has a great deal of backstory done here and here. From a telegraph report:


Proto Thema, a Greek magazine, said the man was posing as a diplomat, and was in fact the MI6 foreign intelligence station chief.
It also published claims by 28 Pakistani workers that they had been beaten by British and Greek counter-terrorism officers last July as they investigated links to the July 7 London transit bombings.


That and much of the rest of the information is published here. There is a scan of the Proto Thema Article and various other bits of information.

Anyway press in the UK have been effectively gagged by a d-notice which is protecting the guys identity. His name is freely available online (and the above link).

It did occur to me that in the US there was a bit of a scandal recently over the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose identity is protected by the Constitution. While a massive invesitgation is still ongoing, many are looking to the top of the political tree as leakers and possible indictments and various criminal measures.

The Greek situation has also compromised the identity of secret agents working in the field. Now I dont reckon there will be the same sense of injustice surrounding this case. It will be for more than one reason as some wont pass up an opportunity to criticise the US. To my mind, however, as Plame was never implicated in torture claims and fell victim to political vendetta there is a substantial difference in the nature of the leak and its effect. That is not to say its motivation was pure, some may smell political motivation and with good reason, I do. I merely wished to raise that point since it did occur to me while browsing the news of it.



From the Australian:
Some detainees have given evidence to a magistrate about their mistreatment. One, Mohammed Munir, claims he was held in secret for six days and "hit very hard on the head".

Mr Munir and others said they were sure those questioning them were British, yet all spoke fluent Greek. They said "a black British case officer" took part in their interrogation.

Most of the 28 Pakistanis are still too frightened to complain about their treatment, saying they were threatened by the British officers that their families in Pakistan and Britain would suffer if they said anything.


This is a serious own-goal for any government caught violating human rights and torturing on another states soil. It could turn particularly nasty for the UK, however evidence of Greek involvement suggests that any case over the alleged torture will be brought by a third party. Since both are in the EU this may be made easier. There does seem to be mounting evidence that the behaviour of states in the war on terror is getting out of hand and the tolerance level regarding abuse is becoming more leniant.

I remain to be convinced that it is necessary for operational matters to persist in abusing terror suspects. The most convincing argument to my mind is that a tortured man will tell you anything and once it becomes common knowledge that he has been tortured, well it wont win any sympathisers.

I dont intend to conflate this with some imperial rant, the issue of the response of western states to the threat of terror is far more important than point scoring. What is being allegedly carried out in the name of western values, makes me worried about a growing pool of willing jihadis determined to avenge new abuses on top of old ones (real or imaginary).

The internationalisation of the terror regime is certainly not the type of multi-lateral response to terrorism that I believe is necessary. International cooperation dedicated to strengthening states under threat from booming terror organisations and weakening the financial capacity of terrorists, coupled with a genuine political motivation and action to remedy issues of grievance for moderate citizens across the globe seems a better tactic.

I desire deeply for states to cease tolerance of the easy recourse to torture. Torture can never be justified, must never be justified for once we begin to dehumanise those victims we are on a very slippery and much travelled slope and the only manner in which torture can begin to be justified is the dehumanising of its victims. I doubt we have reached that point yet, for public tolerance of torture still seems low.

It is not just the west that tortures. however but if there is to be moral clarity and direction to the fight against all forms of terror it must begin with the value of human life.

All in all a week to forget for the British Foreign Office, certainly this does the struggle against terror no good.

RR
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  1. Blogger P O'Neill | 4:15 a.m. |  

    Nice commentary & links -- I'd forgotten that cryptome was the place to go for this kind of stuff. The Plame-Athens comparison is an interesting one, but Plame was exposed within her own country while the British diplomatic cover was exposed in the country of the overseas posting, so there is a legal as well as philosophical difference.

    It's also interesting that the British maintain an intelligence presence in Greece -- there must be some mutual distrust there, as reflected in the very long time it took the greeks to crack the case of the november 17 group.

  2. Blogger Cian | 1:57 p.m. |  

    I understand that there are plenty of differences between plame and the case of Athens man. Indeed Plame was not outed for torture, merely as a political chew-toy.
    The outing of MI6 man is a fascinating case as one wonders what sort of action the UK can take next.
    Do they pursue the paper for blowing cover or duck and run to make sure nothing comes out?

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