UK investigating British involvement in torture of Guantanamo prisoner

UK investigating British intelligence's role in torture of Palestinian al-Qaeda suspect
3 min read
01 April, 2019
The UK's Metropolitan Police have confirmed that a senior officer is investigating the involvement of MI5 and MI6 officers in the torture of an al-Qaeda suspect.
Abu Zubaydah has been held in US custody without charge since 2002 [Getty]

British police have confirmed that they are investigating the alleged involvement of UK intelligence officers in the torture of Saudi-born Palestinian al-Qaeda suspect Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Hussain.

Scotland Yard confirmed that an investigation is taking place after lawyers representing Hussain in Britain wrote to police asking why it had failed to take action on his alleged torture, according to Guardian.

Hussain, who is more commonly known as Abu Zubaydah, was taken into custody in 2002 in Pakistan and was held at CIA "black sites" in Thailand, Poland and Lithuania. He was later transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he is still held today without charge.

A report published by a UK parliamentary committee last year concluded that MI6 had "direct awareness of extreme mistreatment and possibly torture" of Abu Zubaydah the rendition sites.

"In May 2002, a US official briefed SIS [MI6] that Abu Zubaydah was being held in Stirling [believed to be the code name for one of the black sites]. SIS became aware that he was being subjected to some harsh interrogation techniques, including sleep deprivation, and that it was considered that 98 percent of US Special Forces would have broken if subject to the same conditions," the British daily quoted the report as saying.

Citing a 2014 US Senate select committee on intelligence report on the CIA detention and interrogation programme, the report also said that Abu Zubaydah was routinely subjected to treatment would be considered torture by UK law.

Abu Zubaydah alleges he was waterboarded, denied solid foods and exposed to deafening blasts of music for lengthy periods. 

Waterboarding was employed under the Bush administration following the 11 September attacks. President Barack Obama banned such practices after taking office in 2009. 

Abu Zubaydah's graphic account of how we was waterboarded is included in a 2014 EU judgement which found Poland guilty of multiple human rights abuses against him.

"I was... put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position," The Guardian quoted his account as saying.

"The bed was then again lowered to horizontal position and the same torture carried out again with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die."

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed to the paper that "it is reviewing allegations regarding the treatment of a non-British citizen who has been in detention in locations outside the United Kingdom since 2002".

"The Met was requested to review these allegations via a letter to the Commissioner on 30 January 2019. The review will involve an assessment of the knowledge and actions of British personnel, and will report through the Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House."