Tony Blair and Jack Straw lie about torture… but how much?

Posted by Tim Ireland at 29 December 2005

Category: It's War! It's Legal! It's Lovely!

This entry was posted on
Thursday, December 29th, 2005
at
2:28 pm and is filed
under It’s War! It’s Legal! It’s Lovely!.

Blair and Straw may be liars, but many people forget that – as experienced lawyers and politicians – they are *exceptional* liars.

BlairWatch have provided a repository of quotes from Tony Blair and Jack Straw on the subject of torture (or, if you prefer, ‘rendition’) and/or their awareness of this practice:
http://www.blairwatch.co.uk/node/708
http://www.blairwatch.co.uk/node/709
http://www.blairwatch.co.uk/node/710
http://www.blairwatch.co.uk/node/711

You will need these leads – and the documents posted below – because we are setting a New Years’ Challenge:

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What is the biggest and/or boldest lie Tony Blair or Jack Straw has told regarding their use, awareness and/or tolerance of torture?

The challenge is two-fold, because the government is currently taking action to withdraw these documents from circulation. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has been ordered to return these documents to the FCO, and delete any reference to them from his forthcoming book. Post them on your website, and you can be sure that the government will take an interest.

Nevertheless, we urge you to mirror these documents on your website, add your own research/analysis, and then urge others to do the same. This damning evidence must not be allowed to disappear.

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These documents reveal a very specific list of concerns expressed by Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and how our government responded.

At first, they attempted to dismiss the concerns. When Craig Murray pressed them on the matter, they sought to dismiss *him*:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3750370.stm

You may also wish to note that – in recent statements regarding extraordinary rendition – both Straw and Blair echo Craig Murray’s concerns that using intelligence gained by torture is ‘morally, legally and practically wrong’.

They do this while claiming to be unaware of any actual instance of torture, but they can only continue to do so while Murray remains gagged.

The writing was on the wall during the 2005 General Election when Craig Murray, standing as an independent candidate in Straw’s constituency of Blackburn, was excluded from a public debate. It wasn’t until Murray was forcibly removed from the building that Jack Straw felt confident enough to deliver the following answer to this question:

Constituent: “This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?”

Jack Straw: “Not to the best of my knowledge… let me make this clear… that the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use.”

You may also wish to read/hear the most recent denial from Tony Blair, who claims here that “I’ve never heard of such a thing. I can’t tell you whether such a thing exists – because, er – I don’t know.”
http://www.blairwatch.co.uk/node/696

Well they *do* know, because Craig Murray *told* them…. and Uzbekistan is only part of the big picture.

Unlike other European countries, the UK is in a unique position in that, through the UK/US Intelligence Sharing Agreement, the CIA and MI6 pool all their material. So-called intelligence comes not just to Bush, but to Blair and Straw from the torture chambers of countries including Syria, the Gambia, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Morocco.

Tony Blair and Jack Straw have lied about their use of intelligence gained by torture and their awareness of the practice of torture. They will be allowed to continue these lies if the following information is suppressed.

Copy and paste this text into a new document. Save it to your hard drive. Make a back-up and send to a friend.

And then post a copy to your website.

Use this timeline for added context if you wish (for added illumination, compare the treatment of Craig Murray to that of David Blunkett, who was allowed to leave office – and then return! – ‘without a stain on his character’):
http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/04/timeline_of_cra.html

Legally, Blair and Straw are on extremely shaky ground here. Morally, they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Show it, prove it, share it.

——————————————————————————–

Letter #1

Confidential

FM Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray)

TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts

16 September 02

SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism

SUMMARY

US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.

DETAIL

The Economist of 7 September states: “Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism.” The Economist also spoke of “the growing despotism of Mr Karimov” and judged that “the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record”. I agree.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.

Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.

Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.

The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.

But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, waronterrorism.com). This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.

Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev’s time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.

This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov’s repression may keep the lid on for years – but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.

I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the “War against Terrorism” and that Karimov is on “our” side.

If Karimov is on “our” side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary – the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World’s old communist leaders.

We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the “too difficult” tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.

Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.

MURRAY

——————————————————————————–

Letter #2

Confidential

Fm Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray)

To FCO

18 March 2003

SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY

SUMMARY

1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.

DETAIL

2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

3. Uzbekistan’s geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.

4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid – more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov’s vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?

5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).

6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and “dismantling the apparatus of terror








5 Comments

  1. perfect.co.uk says

    Documents the government doesn’t want you to see

    It’s not often you get an email from a former British Ambassador asking you to contravene the official secrets act: I am in discussion with the FCO over what I am and am not allowed to publish in my book….

  2. Scaryduck says
  3. target= says

    Craig Murray on torture in Uzbekistan

  4. target= says

    Craig Murray on torture in Uzbekistan

  5. atopian.org says

    Torture

    Some documents on the UK government, torture, and Uzbekistan have found their way into the blogosphere. I’ve nothing interesting to add to the already excellent analysis. See:Craig Murray hereBloggerheads hereThe Disillusioned Kid hereOwen’s Musings

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