The official line is clear: the UK does not ‘participate in, solicit, encourage or condone’ torture. Yet the authors on this panel argue that the evidence against this is irrefutable: a sinister and unpalatable chain of complicity – going from the military right to the top of government – enables the on-going abuse of terror suspects by Britain.
Andrew Williams and Ian Cobain discuss their research uncovering new evidence into Britain’s torture practices.
Andrew Williams is professor of law and co-director of the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick. In A Very British Killing, The Death of Baha Mousa, Williams examines the killing of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist who was killed by British Army troops in Iraq. He had been arrested the previous day in Basra and was taken to a military base for questioning; for forty-eight hours he and nine other innocent civilians
had their heads encased in sandbags and their wrists bound by plastic handcuffs and had been kicked and punched with sustained cruelty.
Williams tells the inside story of these crimes and their aftermath, examining the institutional brutality, the bureaucratic apathy, the flawed military police inquiry and the farcical court martial that attempted to hold people criminally responsible. A Very British Killing won the 2013 Orwell Book Prize for political writing.
Ian Cobain is a senior reporter for the Guardian. His inquiries into the UK’s involvement in torture since 9/11 have won a number of major awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism. He has also won several Amnesty International media awards. His book Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture argues that it is time to re-examine the assumption that the British don’t ‘do’ torture.
Drawing on previously unseen official documents, and the accounts of witnesses, victims and experts, Ian Cobain looks beyond the cover-ups and the attempts to dismiss brutality as the work of a few rogue interrogators, to reveal a secret and shocking record of torture. From WWII to the War on Terror, via Kenya and Northern Ireland, Cruel Britannia shows how the British have repeatedly and systematically resorted to torture, turning a blind eye where necessary, bending the law where they can, and issuing categorical denials all the while.