- Moazzam Begg is Director for the British organisation, Cageprisoners. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Little seems to have changed regarding the treatment of prisoners held at the U.S. military-run Bagram prison since I was there (2002-2004). The recent study conducted by the BBC shows allegations of sleep deprivation, stress positions, beatings, degrading treatment, religious and racial abuse have gone unabated. On a personal level though, I can’t help wonder if British intelligence services are still involved.
In April this year, a report issued by Cageprisoners entitled Fabricating Terrorism II highlighted through eyewitness testimony the cases of 29 people, all of them either British residents or citizens, who had allegedly been tortured and abused in the presence of British intelligence agents or at their behest.
One of them, the case of Farid Hilali, featured in the Guardian newspaper, showed how allegations of complicity in torture against British intelligence predated the Sept. 11 attacks. The story of Jamil Rahman too – regarding allegations of British complicity in his torture in Bangladesh – would have been included in the report but he was worried at the time about the safety of his family. The recurrent factor in all these cases is the extent to which denial and prevarication remain as much a part of the intelligence services’ arsenal as outsourcing torture and abuse. The others include the British cases of Omar Deghayes, Bisher Al-Rawi, Jamil Elbanna, Richard Belmar, Shaker Aamer and Binyam Mohamed – all of whom were held at Bagram.
Shortly after I returned from Guantanamo my father showed me a letter he received from the British Foreign Office. The letter, written in 2002, claims that UK officials were not given access to prisoners in Bagram. At the time, I was being held captive there by the U.S. military and, amongst other alphabet intelligence agencies, was being interrogated by MI5, who were aware that torture, abusive and degrading treatment was being meted out to prisoners– including British citizens.