Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ex-Ambassador on Uzbekistan

There's a fascinating piece on the Socialist Unity website. It's an interview with the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has been suspended from his job for speaking out about what he sees as UK complicity in the torture of Uzbeks. Murray claims that Uzebikistan's totalitarian governmet tortures thousands of people every year and that information extracted from detainees/prisoners under torture is passed on to the UK and US governments. Uzbekistan, is of course, one of the allies of the UK and US in its 'war for democracy and human rights'.

Here's an extract:

Q: .... Obviously the main reason for you leaving was that you spoke out against the torture situation. There were reports of prisoners having their nails ripped out and being boiled alive. Are such extreme cases a rarity, or are they quite systematic?

CM: It's completely systematic, and not rare at all. Thousands of people are tortured every year, undoubtedly. Attention always focuses when people are tortured to death, but that's a tiny minority of the cases. The people who are torturing are doing so to extract information and confessions usually. In the cases of the guys who were boiled to death, they were trying to get them to sign a recantation of their faith, which is a slightly different situation. Most of the torture goes on to try to extract so-called confessions. But the last thing the torturer wants is a dead person. It gives them a lot of explaining to do, and you can't get any more information out of them, they can't sign anything when they're dead. So the torture deaths only happen by accident in a tiny minority of the cases.

There are thousands of cases every year of people being tortured. In the Uzbek courts, in both political and criminal cases, the conviction rate is over 99%. Over 99% of people who come to court are found guilty. I know that the conviction rate's over 99%, it's not a kind of estimate. We did a project on court reporting, where we worked with a lot of courts throughout the country for a couple of years. Now I can't give you as precise a figure, but in over 90% of cases - and I would guess over 95% of cases - the accused person signs a full confession. Now you have to ask yourself why? And the reason is, the way the criminal justice system runs is the police decide who did it, then beat the hell out of them, suffocate them, dip bits of them into boiling liquid or whatever until they sign a confession. Then they're convicted. And the same applies in cases of political and religious dissidents. About a quarter of all so-called criminal cases in Uzbekistan are actually political or religious in their motivation.

Q: A controversial accusation you made was that MI6 was using information extracted from tortured Uzbek citizens. What evidence did you actually have to lead you to this conclusion?

CM: I've got no doubts about it whatsoever. I'm 100 percent sure of it, and in all my dealings with the British government about it - and I've been called back from Uzbekistan to have meetings specifically on the subject - they have never denied it. The British government has never denied it, and scores of British reporters have phoned up the Foreign Office and said, "What is the line?" and they always come back with the same line. It's that "it would be irresponsible to ignore useful evidence in the war against terror". They have never said, "No, we're not gaining evidence from torture." The British government has never denied it. They can't deny it.

Remember kids, the war in Iraq was fought for human rights and democracy.

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