Memorandum submitted by Ian Cobain, The
1. Over the past two years The Guardian
has been reporting upon allegations that a number of British terrorists
and terrorism suspects have been detained in Pakistan and suffered
severe mistreatment amounting to torture. These individuals say
that they have been questioned by British intelligence officials
after, in some cases in between, periods of mistreatment. They
and their families, and in some cases their legal advisors, say
they have been forced to conclude that British officials may have
been responsible for their detention and have colluded in their
2. The Guardian has investigated these
allegations as best it can. Given that acts of torture are generally
surrounded by secrecy and denial, and that those who are victims
of torture can be expected to be terrified of speaking openly,
this was never going to be an easy matter. With so much evidence
relating to these matters being heard in camera, and kept in `closed'
court judgements, and with the Prison Service attempting to prevent
us from visiting some of those making the allegations, the task
has been particularly difficult.
3. In a leading article published on 15 July,
the Guardian described the questions raised by its news
reports on these allegations as being "at the heart of the
difficulties which terrorism poses for democracies". It also
said that an investigation into such allegations by those bodies
responsible for the oversight of the country's intelligence agencies
is "the least a democracy expects".
4. The aim of this memorandum is to introduce
members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to these allegations,
to some of the facts that may tend to support them, and to some
other related matters.
5. Some of the matters complained of by
those making the allegations are not contested; others are. I
believe that if the allegations are examined together, rather
than in isolation, a pattern emerges that may indicate where the
6. The Committee will be aware that law
enforcement and intelligence agencies in Pakistan have been responsible
for serious abuses of human rights, and that these abuses have
been well documented for a number of years. Among the organisations
that have reported on these matters are the United Nations, the
United States State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International
and the Pakistani Parliamentarians' Commission for Human Rights.
7. The torture of detainees is no great secret
in Pakistan. In conversations with other media, particularly the
Agence France-Press news agency, government officials have been
more-or-less open about it. Victims of torture are regularly photographed
as they arrive at court, showing clear signs of their mistreatment.
In July 2006, Pakistan's most widely-read English language newspaper,
Dawn, took the principal Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services
Intelligence Directorate (ISI), to task in an editorial in which
it said the agency had "over-stepped all limits", and
that "running torture chambers" was not part of its
8. In October 1996, Nigel Rodley, the United
Nations special rapporteur on torture, reported on the "endemic,
widespread and systematic" use of torture in the country.
The methods used, he reported, included "rape, beatings with
sticks, hose-pipes, leather belts and rifle butts, kicking with
heavy boots, being hung upside down, electric shocks to the genitalia
and knees, cheera (forced stretching apart of the victim's legs,
sometimes in combination with kicks to the genitalia), sleep deprivation,
prolonged blindfolding and boring of holes with an electric drill
into parts of the victim's body".
9. Four years after Rodley's report, the
London-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
reported on 51 clients whose torture in Pakistan had been medically
documented: almost all had been beaten or whipped, more than a
third while suspended, usually upside down.
10. In February 2004, Amnesty International
wrote an open letter to Pervez Musharraf raising concerns about
the treatment of non-Pakistanis suspected of al-Qaida membership.
Later that month, the US State Department was reporting that Pakistani
"security force personnel continued to torture persons in
custody throughout the country".
11. Rodley, or Sir Nigel as he now is, believes
the methods of torture that he detailed to be still in use in
Pakistan. He has told the Guardian that he believes that
any British officials operating in Pakistan who claimed not to
be aware of the manner in which detainees are likely to be treated
while being questioned during counter-terrorism investigations
would be displaying "wilful ignorance".
12. After the attacks on London's transport
network on July 7 2005, Pakistani authorities announced that they
had detained around 800 people for questioning.
13. The British nationals whom we know to
have made allegations of British collusion in mistreatment, or
whose relatives or lawyers have made such allegations, were held
in Pakistan over a four-year period between late 2003 and late
14. Some have given accounts of their alleged
mistreatment in court or in media interviews. Other accounts have
been relayed to us second-hand, or even third-hand, and are sketchy.
15. There are some similarities between
their accounts, between the locations at which they have been
detained, for example, or between their descriptions of the rooms
in which they say they were tortured, or between the form of words
that they say British intelligence officers have used to introduce
themselves for the first time.
16. This man is a doctor currently working
at a hospital on the south coast of England. He appears to the
Guardian to remain traumatised by his experiences, and
he and his family appear to be frightened both of the British
Security Service and Pakistani intelligence agencies. He and his
family have asked that I do not disclose his name.
17. MSS was born in London in 1981. His family's
Member of Parliament, John McDonnell, is a friend of his father;
Mr McDonnell says he has known MSS almost since birth.
18. MSS studied medicine in London. At the
end of his fourth year of studies, he and his fellow students
were encouraged to spend some weeks working at another hospital,
preferably overseas. Both of MSS's parents are of Pakistani origin,
and he arranged to work at the Ziauddin Memorial Hospital in Karachi.
19. MSS travelled to Pakistan shortly after
the 7 July 2005 suicide attacks. On the evening of 20 August while
eating with colleagues at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant
in the city, he was approached by three armed men wearing civilian
clothes who bundled him into a waiting car and drove off.
20. MSS's family in the UK were told that
he had been abducted. They informed Mr McDonnell, who contacted
the Foreign Office and the Metropolitan Police. Neither were able
to tell him who was holding MSS.
21. MSS's father travelled to Karachi, where
he spent almost two months looking for his son. He says that he
made frequent contact with the office of the UK's Deputy High
Commission in Karachi, but says he formed the impression that
they were not particularly interested in his son's plight, and
not helpful. He says that he eventually learned, through contacts
in the city, that his son was being held by one of Pakistan's
intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Bureau (IB). He says that
he made contact with the IB, and was eventually told that his
son would be released to him. He says that he waited at a designated
location in the city, where a van pulled up. Inside were one uniformed
police officer and several men in plain clothes. Once inside,
he says, there was a brief discussion as to whether a hood should
be placed over his head, and it was decided that he could remain
unhooded as long as he lowered his head and did not look out of
the window. He says he was driven into a compound and taken into
a room, where four intelligence officers apologised to him. He
says he was then introduced to a man identified as the director
of the IB, who also apologised to him.
22. He says his son was then brought into
the room. MSS and his father say they were then put back into
the van and driven to a relative's home, before flying to London
the next day. MSS's father says that as he was driven from the
building where his son had been held, he looked out of the window
and saw that the British Deputy High Commission's offices were
on the opposite side of the road.
23. MSS says that he was detained at just
one location though-out his detention; that he was beaten, whipped,
deprived of sleep and forced to witness the torture of other detainees.
He says that he was questioned only about the attacks on London
of the previous month. He says that towards the end of his detention
and torture he was questioned by two British intelligence officers.
24. The Guardian decided that it
needed to visit Karachi, to establish whether an IB facility might
located opposite the British Deputy High Commission.
25. A freelance journalist, Waqar Kiani,
travelled there from Islamabad on 5 July last year. Waqar quickly
established that one of the buildings opposite the Deputy High
Commission is well-known to be the local headquarters of the IB.
Unfortunately he aroused the suspicion of those inside. Men emerged
from the building on motorcycles and chased him through Karachi
until he sought refuge in a police station. On his return to Islamabad
the following day, Waqar found that his apartment had been broken
into and searched. He then received two threatening calls on his
mobile telephone from a man who accused him of being a "British
agent" and told him that he must "face the consequences"
for his actions. There were consequences for Waqar, which I have
outlined in my second memorandum.
26. Ahmed was born in Rochdale in 1975.
He has spent much of his life in Pakistan. He was in prison in
India between April 1994 and July 2001, after being detained in
Kashmir. He is a self-professed member of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen,
a terrorist organisation proscribed in the UK, and in December
last year, after a trial at Manchester Crown Court, was convicted
of membership of al-Qaida, directing a terrorist organisation,
and possession of an article for the purposes of terrorism. He
was jailed for life with the judge ruling that he should serve
a minimum of 10 years and should be considered for parole only
when he was no longer considered a danger to the public and had
forsaken his radical views.
27. Much of the evidence against Ahmed was gathered
when he was under surveillance in Dubai and Manchester, before
he returned to Pakistan where he was detained in August 2006.
Four of his associates were detained in Greater Manchester around
the same time. When he was deported to the UK in September 2007,
three of his fingernails were missing from his left hand.
28. Before the trial, during an abuse of
process hearing, Ahmed gave an account of his mistreatment at
the hands of the ISI. He said he was beaten with sticks, whipped
with electric cables, sexually humiliated and deprived of sleep
for several days. He says his fingernails were removed one at
a time over a period of three days, and he would be given a pain-killing
injection and allowed to sleep after each session.
29. On the day after his third fingernail
was removed, he alleged, he was shackled and hooded and driven
for about 15 minutes to a building where he was questioned by
two British officials. He says the two men explained that they
were from the British government, and specified that they were
not consular officials. He says he told these men that he was
being tortured, and never saw them again. He was subsequently
interrogated by American officials, he says, and was denied access
to a lawyer or his family throughout his detention.
30. Ahmed's counsel, Michael Topolski QC,
argued during the abuse of process hearing that because of his
mistreatment in Pakistan, it would be an abuse of the court's
process for his trial to go ahead. He said that the conduct of
the state authorities had failed to uphold the administration
of justice, and that to proceed would put Britain under a clear
breach of its obligations, under international law, to suppress
and discourage torture.
31. Mr Topolski also said: "Aware of,
or at least suspecting the situation in Pakistan to be what it
was, state agents, the security services and also the police condoned
and connived in his torture by providing his torturers with questions
after being refused access to him."
32. The assertion that police and the security
services passed questions to the ISI was not contested by the
Crown in open court. The Guardian believes this to be because
this information was disclosed to the defence by the Crown. A
ruling by the judge towards the end of proceedings makes clear
that there were three matters heard in camera that may have a
bearing on the issues addressed in this memorandum, and which,
it might be argued, should be brought into open in the public
33. During the abuse of process hearing,
the Crown introduced evidence that it said showed that Ahmed's
fingernails had been removed while he was a prisoner in India.
The defence introduced evidence that it said showed that this
could not be the case, and that they could only have been removed
in Pakistan. The Crown's own pathologist concluded that the fingernails
had parted from his fingers as a result of some sort of injury,
and that one of those injuries had been just a few months prior
to his release from Pakistani detention in September 2007.
34. The British Security Service's response
to Ahmed's allegations of collusion in torture was heard in camera.
35. The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, rejected
the application for a stay. He issued two judgements on the matter,
one open, the other closed. In his open judgement he concludes
that Ahmed was kept in inhumane conditions during the early part
of his detention and may have been deprived of sleep, but said
he was not satisfied that he suffered physical injury during the
first 14 days of his detention (ie before being seen by British
36. The judge does not address the matter
of questions being passed to Ahmed's interrogators in his open
37. Ahmed's lawyers say they are planning
to appeal against both his conviction and the judge's ruling on
the abuse application, and are planning to bring civil proceedings
in which the British state will be accused of failing in its duty
of care towards Ahmed while he was in Pakistani custody.
38. Zeeshan Siddiqui was born in London
in 1980. He has some history of mental illness but is not known
to be delusional. He was a friend of Asif Hanif, who killed three
people and injured 55 in a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv in
April 2003, and was associated with several men since convicted
of serious terrorist offences.
39. Siddiqui was detained in the Peshawar area
on 15 May 2005 and held until March 2006, when he was repatriated
to the UK. On his return he gave a statement to a London solicitor
and an interview to the BBC in which he alleged that he suffered
11 days of severe mistreatment at the hands of Pakistani officials
before being interviewed several times by British intelligence
40. He says he was shackled, beaten, drugged,
had chemicals injected up his nose, was forcibly catheterised,
sexually humiliated, threatened, and told that he would be sent
41. Siddiqui told the BBC in an interview
broadcast in March 2006 that he was questioned several times by
British intelligence officials. Asked how he could be sure that
they were intelligence officials, he replied: "The first
time they came to see me they told me that there's people in the
embassy who are available to help people like you, who have been
imprisoned and detained, but we want you to know that we are not
those people, we are in fact people from British intelligence."
42. In a statement to his lawyer, Siddiqui
said he was seen by intelligence officers on six occasions and
also seen by a consular official.
43. Siddiqui was subjected to a control
order but absconded in October 2006 and his current whereabouts
44. Salahuddin Amin was born in Edgware
in 1975. He is serving a life sentence after being convicted in
April 2007 of conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger
life. The court heard that he and several other men were planning
attacks on targets such as the Ministry of Sound nightclub or
the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. His appeal was dismissed.
45. Amin had been detained in April 2004 after
surrendering himself to ISI officers who knew his uncle. His uncle
says that the ISI told him that British officials were requesting
Amin's detention. Shortly before his uncle was approached some
18 people, including associates of Amin, had been detained in
raids across the south east of England.
46. Amin was held for ten months. For the
first four months, he says, he suffered severe mistreatment including
sleep deprivation, beatings, whippings, being threatened with
an electric drill and being suspended from the ceiling of a cell.
He says he was interviewed several times by two officers from
the British Security Service in between being tortured. He says
he did not tell the officers that he was being tortured as he
assumed they had requested that he be treated this way.
47. Amin's counsel, Patrick O'Connor QC,
told the jury at the Old Bailey trial that Security Service officers
would need to have been "naive in the extreme" not to
know what would be happening to him. He said: "The ISI are
so notorious that the idea that they didn't know, in general terms,
the practices of the ISI, and what was likely to be happening
to Mr Amin, will be regarded by you as risible." He added:
"You could well conclude that there was a tacit understanding
of some considerable amorality. The ISI can get away with what
they can get away with. They are an organisation above the law,
operating in a country with no effective democratic control. The
British authorities, of course, are not going to dirty their hands
with such abuses." The amorality, he added, is that British
authorities are perfectly happy to gain what they regard as the
benefit by way of intelligence, and information, and access to
48. Before the trial began, the judge ruled
that Amin's treatment before he was brought to the UK was oppressive,
but said he did not believe his allegations of torture.
49. During a telephone conversation from
prison, Amin told the Guardian that an Uzbek detainee,
held for a while in the cell next to him at the ISI prison in
Rawalpindi, had informed him that another British citizen had
been held there a short time before. Amin says that the Uzbek
told him the British man had said his name was Tariq and had said
he came from Birmingham.
50. We believe this man to have been Tariq Mahmood,
who was born in Birmingham in 1973. His relatives say he travelled
to Pakistan to settle a family dispute and disappeared in October
2003. His family's solicitor in Birmingham says she wrote to Jack
Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, and to the British High Commission
in Islamabad, seeking information on his whereabouts.
51. Pakistani officials confirmed on 17
November that he had been detained and was being questioned about
alleged terrorism offences.
52. Mahmood surfaced around four months
later when he was arrested by police in Rawalpindi. According
to a police report compiled at that time, and seen by the Guardian,
Mahmood had been been in ISI custody. He was then released at
the side of a road, and police were called to say that a foreigner
could be found at that location without any form of identificationa
criminal offence under Pakistani law.
53. Mahmood's brother, Asif Mahmood, told
the Guardian that Tariq had been mistreated while in ISI custody.
He said: "Everyone mistreated him in a bad way. It was the
British, it was MI5, and it was the FBI." He has declined
to expand on that statement. He added that his brother remained
in Pakistan and wished to put the matter behind him. In the Jhelum
district of the Punjab, friends and relatives of Mahmood contacted
by the Guardian claimed that he was now resident in Dubai. We
formed the impression that relatives in both countries were very
concerned for his safety. The Guardian has not been able to make
contact with Mahmood.
54. Shah was born in the UK in 1967. He
was detained in Peshawar in July 2005, shortly after the London
bombings. He was held for 16 days. He says he was interrogated
about the bombings in what he describes as "a fully-equipped
torture chamber", with mangles, whips and electrical equipment.
55. Shah says he was hooded and shackled for
long periods and deprived of sleep. He says he did not receive
any consular assistance. He says he was effectively deported without
any legal process, being put aboard a scheduled flight. He says
that at Heathrow his British passport was returned to him by an
official who did not identify himself. Shah says he assumed the
official to have been from the Security Service.
56. Rauf was born in Pakistan in 1981 and
moved to Birmingham as a child. He was a dual national. He returned
to Pakistan in 2002 after the murder of an uncle in Birmingham.
West Midlands police say they wou;ld have wanted to interview
Rauf in connection with that offence had they been able to do
57. Rauf was detained in Pakistan in August 2006
on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist plot. Some 21 people
were arrested in the UK shortly afterwards. Rauf was brought before
a court in December 2006, and cleared of terrorist offences. He
was held on other charges and arrangements were made for his extradition
to the UK.
58. Rauf's family in Birmingham say that
he told relatives who spoke to him at court that he had been tortured.
They also that he was once able to telephone them from the court.
His brother Tayib Rauf, who was interviewed a number of times
by the Guardian, said: "He described being dragged
off a bus and having the living daylights beaten out of him. His
solicitor who only saw him after he had been held for six months
has said he had marks on his back, his front and his side. At
first he was held in what he called a "grave cell".
It was like a coffin: there was so little room that when he was
lying down if he brought up his knees they touched the roof. He
had no idea where he was. Whenever he was moved from cell to cell
or interview room to interview room he would have a hood placed
over his head. He could not see anything because he still had
the hood on. He told me that one time, when he was being beaten,
he could hear English and American accents in the room with him.
He had a hood over his head but he knows what an English accent
59. Rauf's lawyer in Pakistan, Hashmat Ali
Habib, told the Guardian that Rauf told him that he had
been mistreated, and that he had been questioned Westerners, but
that he did not specify their nationality.
60. We believe that official responses to
the specific allegations made in court by Ahmed and Amin were
heard in camera.
61. General responses made in public are given
in more detail in the annex. Asked about the allegations, the
Home Office issued a statement on behalf of the Security Service
which did not address the specifics but said that the Service's
policy was to not be involved in torture in any way.
62. The FCO denied that the Government had
"outsourced" torture and said that the Foreign Secretary
had been assured by the Security Service that there was nothing
to suggest that it had supported torture.
63. The FCO and Margaret Beckett, former
chair of the ISC, said individuals who with a complaint against
the Security Service should take their case to the Investigatory
64. The IPT has indicated that it does not
generally examine third party complaints. I understand that John
McDonnell has lodged a complaint on behalf of his constituent,
MSS, but I am uncertain whether this man's allegations have yet
65. Finally, it should be pointed out that
few of the people who have alleged mistreatment, and alleged British
collusion in mistreatment, or on whose behalf such allegations
have been made, are able and willing to make complaints to the
IPT. Many of the people to whom I have spoken are, frankly, terrified
of reprisals against themselves or against family members in Pakistan.
1 Guardian, 29 April 2008, page 8. Back