The UK’s spy agencies are under scrutiny once again as a new judicial review investigates claims of British involvement in the CIA’s covert torture and rendition activities post-9/11. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has announced its intention to conduct another probe, this time focusing on claims that UK intelligence played a role in the mistreatment of a US detainee.
A recent decision from the clandestine court reveals plans to look into a case presented on behalf of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national currently incarcerated at the Guantánamo Bay US military prison in Cuba.
Captured by the CIA in 2002 and later moved to Guantánamo in 2006, Nashiri, accused by the US of orchestrating an al-Qaida-led attack on an American naval vessel in Yemen, remains in detention with no end in sight. His legal team contends that UK intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6, and GCHQ, were implicated in sharing information about al-Nashiri, further alleging their complicity in his torture.
This move by the IPT follows a previous agreement in May to assess a related grievance by another Guantánamo inmate, Mustafa al-Hawsawi. The IPT, responsible for adjudicating complaints against intelligence entities, emphasized the profound gravity of both cases. Despite attempts by UK government attorneys to dismiss Nashiri’s claims due to timing, the tribunal found it in the public’s best interest to evaluate the matter similarly to al-Hawsawi’s situation.
Unique to the IPT is its authority to access classified intelligence files. Now, these agencies will be mandated to disclose records detailing the UK’s partnership with the CIA. Collectively, these IPT cases underscore the enduring concerns over the UK’s possible involvement in the CIA’s controversial detainee treatment, even over 20 years since the initiation of the covert detention program.
Back in 2018, a parliamentary committee deduced that UK intelligence took part in the CIA’s abduction and torture of terrorism suspects, leading the government to forgo a planned public judicial inquiry into the matter. After the parliamentary findings, a complaint was lodged with the IPT asserting Nashiri’s relevance to UK intelligence during the 2000s.
A US Senate probe into the CIA’s detainment activities found al-Nashiri subjected to severe torture in clandestine agency-run prisons. The extreme methods used against him involved waterboarding, simulated executions, and an invasive procedure termed “rectal feeding,” deemed by medical professionals as a brutal sexual violation.
With a death penalty trial pending concerning the USS Cole attack in 2000, which resulted in 17 US sailors’ deaths, Nashiri recently gained attention from a UN human rights panel demanding his release. In reaction to the IPT’s move, Nashiri’s lead attorney, Hugh Southey KC, commented on the legitimate doubts surrounding the UK’s involvement in Nashiri’s treatment and welcomed the upcoming impartial examination of UK intelligence’s actions.