Britain set to pay compensation to Guantanamo detainees

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain is expected to announce Tuesday it is paying millions of pounds in compensation to former Guantanamo Bay detainees who accused British security forces of colluding in their torture overseas.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke will present a written statement to parliament, officials said, following media reports that an out-of-court settlement has been reached with Binyam Mohamed and around nine others.

The announcement follows weeks of negotiations between lawyers for the two sides and will see one prisoner receive more than one million pounds (1.6 million dollars, 1.1 million euros), according to the ITN broadcaster.

It is thought the government has decided it is better to settle rather than risk the release of secret documents during any open court case, although the exact amounts are expected to remain confidential.

In February, a British court released secret evidence that Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born resident of Britain, had been subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment during questioning by US agents.

The information was made public in defiance of ministers' warnings that such disclosures could harm Britain's intelligence-sharing relationship with Washington.

Other British residents and citizens who have accused British intelligence agents of colluding in their torture include Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes and Martin Mubanga.

In July, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an inquiry into claims Britain's security services were complicit in the torture of suspected violent extremists on foreign soil after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

He also said that "wherever appropriate", compensation would be offered to people who had brought civil court actions over their treatment.

"While there is no evidence that any British officer was directly engaged in torture in the aftermath of 9/11, there are questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done," Cameron said at the time.

"The longer these questions remain unanswered, the bigger the stain on our reputation as a country that believes in freedom, fairness and human rights grows."

The inquiry, led by a judge, was due to start before the end of the year and was expected to report within 12 months.

The prime minister also announced plans to look again at how British courts handled intelligence, admitting that relations with the United States had been "strained" over the disclosure of secret information.

Responding to news of the compensation pay-outs, Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties campaign group Liberty, 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."

© 2010 AFP

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