16 Nov 2010

Former Guantanamo detainees to receive compensation

The Government is set to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to former Guantanamo Bay detainees, following allegations the security services colluded in their torture abroad.

Former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed (Getty)

The out-of-court agreements which will settle a series of High Court action brought by the former Guantanamo prisoners and others, will include one payoff of more than a million pounds to one former detainee, according to ITV News at Ten.

The Cabinet Office confirmed there would be a written statement to the House of Commons today.

According to reports, two QCs acting as independent arbiters, were involved in talks at a secret location over the past few weeks, in order to agree on a settlement.

The talks were authorised by David Cameron in July after a court ruling ordered the disclosure of confidential documents.

The Prime Minister said that vetting the 500,000 documents would take up huge amounts of time and resources for the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Services (MI6).

High profile detainees like Binyam Mohamed, Bishar al Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga are among those receiving the settlements.

Some of the former detainees are believed to be asylum seekers.

The allegations

The allegations include claims that the Government was aware they were being illegally transferred to Guantanamo Bay and failed to prevent it from happening.

Other allegations include claims that the British security and intelligence officials were complicit in their torture and abuse while being detained abroad.

The Cabinet Office released a statement saying: “The Prime Minister set out clearly in his statement to the House on 6 July that we need to deal with the totally unsatisfactory situation where for ‘the past few years, the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries’.

“The Government will lay a written ministerial statement, updating the House on progress.”

“It’s not very palatable but there is a price to be paid for lawlessness and torture in freedom’s name.” Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

Binyam Mohamed was granted refugee status in Britain in 1994 after seeking asylum from Ethiopia.

In 2001 he travelled to Pakistan, the same year he converted to Islam, and was subsequently arrested there a year later on suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

He was then “rendered” to Morocco and Afghanistan.

He alleges that his US captors tortured him before sending him to Guantanamo Bay in 2004.

The US dropped all charges against him in October 2008 and he was released, returning to Britain in February 2009.

Two years in Guantanamo

Moazzam Begg, who was born in Britain, was also arrested on alleged terror charges in Pakistan in 2002. He spent two years in Guantanamo Bay but was then released without charge.

Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti said: “It’s not very palatable but there is a price to be paid for lawlessness and torture in freedom’s name.

“There are torture victims who were entitled to expect protection from their country.

“The Government now accepts that torture is never justified and we were all let down – let’s learn all the lessons and move on.”