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Modern Day Slavery: Guantanamo Bay's Force Feeding Factory - Torture in Iraq

Posted: 10/07/2013 16:50

A legal filing lodged to the US federal government by lawyers acting on behalf of four detainees refer to procedures at Guantanamo Bay could create a potentially dangerous "force-feeding factory" during Ramadan.

As a response, rapper Mos Def allowed doctors to put him through the standard force-feeding procedure in a film produced for the human rights group Reprieve. The film can be seen here and is provides a powerful insight.

Treatment of detainees is something the West need to focus on if they wish to set an example. Detainees should simply be treated not in luxury but in a humane manner. Anyone who witnesses the filmed procedure with Mos Def would find it somewhat brutal.

President Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay in 2008 and is now being urged to address the force-feeding procedures.

The US are not the only Western country facing scrutiny. The widespread use of torture in which Britain was involved during the invasion of Iraq and the "war on terror" amounts to "modern day slavery" says Reverend Nicholas Mercer, a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army.

As the army's chief legal officer during the Iraqi invasion, Mercer tried to prevent the mistreatment of prisoners of war, but was overruled by Government lawyers.

Now an Anglican priest, Mercer says part of his ministry is to raise awareness about the continuing prevalence of torture. "People just don't get what's being done," he told City University students.

"We got rid of slavery - but it took William Wilberforce 34 years. We all know what's being covered up, and will be covered up for a generation."

Along with the use of banned interrogation techniques by British troops in Iraq, Mercer said: "We were involved in rendition - outsourcing torture as a nation. We rendered people to Libya. We rendered people to Guantanamo. We rendered people to Bagram airport in Afghanistan."

Referring to the case of al-Qaeda member Rangzieb Ahmed, now serving a life sentence in the UK for planning terror attacks, Mercer added: "MI5 let him run to Pakistan, tipped off the Pakistan authorities and whilst the Pakistani authorities were ripping out his finger nails, MI5 was busy handing questions to the interrogators. In other words, they were complicit in that torture."

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They were also probably complicit in water boarding in Guantanamo Bay, he added, "and certainly in Libya," where letters of introduction had been sent to the chief torturer.

Britain's actions breached international law, the UN Convention against Torture, the EU Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, the laws of war, and Britain's domestic law. The response of the British Government was to "cover it up" he said.

Mercer first emerged as a whistle blower who had tried to prevent the use of banned interrogation techniques by British troops at the court martial of Corporal Payne, the first British soldier to be found guilty of a war crime after the death of Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa in British custody shortly after the invasion.

A subsequent enquiry said contributory factors included "lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions used by British troops - and a final struggle with his guards...'.

Mercer, whose role was to ensure British forces acted in accordance with the laws of war, had first realised that something was amiss soon after the invasion when visiting an army base where he saw 40 hooded Iraqi prisoners of war being forced to stand in stress positions.

When he had remonstrated with interrogators, however, they replied: "We don't answer to you, we answer to London".

2013 marks the tenth anniversary since the invasion of Iraq. In the lead up to the war, two million protested in London, with placards reading "not in our name". Weeks later Britain was in Iraq. Laurie Penny in the New Statesman describes it as her "first time seeing democracy rudely circumvented".

Whilst the debate as to whether or not the war was valid continues in the public realm, Mercer still has faith in the law in tackling abuse. "The law is an amazing tool. Any lawyer can get in there and say no. The Human Rights Act is the one act that cements the rights of prisoners," he said.

 

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