Guantánamo detainee accuses UK agencies of complicity in his torture

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri wants to bring case examining alleged role of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in his mistreatment by CIA

A Guantánamo Bay prisoner tortured by the CIA has accused British intelligence agencies of complicity in his mistreatment in a new case before one of UK’s most secretive courts.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is alleged by the US to have plotted al-Qaida’s bombing of an American naval ship, is seeking to persuade the court to consider his complaint against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Lawyers for al-Nashiri, 58, argued this week there was an “unavoidable inference” that the intelligence agencies were complicit in his torture, rendition and mistreatment by the CIA.

Al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian citizen, was first detained in 2002 as part of the CIA’s post-9/11 secret detention and interrogation programme. He is currently facing the death penalty before a US military commission over his alleged role in the 2000 bombing.

The UK government is arguing that the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) – a special judicial body that investigates complaints against the intelligence services – does not have jurisdiction to hear al-Nashiri’s application.

In papers submitted to the tribunal, al-Nashiri’s barrister, Hugh Southey KC, said: “The complainant’s case is that the UK agencies aided, abetted, encouraged, facilitated and/or conspired with the US authorities in his mistreatment.”

After his capture by the CIA, al-Nashiri was put into a network of secret prisons operated by the agency, known as black sites, in Afghanistan, Thailand and multiple eastern European countries.

A US Senate investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention programme found that al-Nashiri was repeatedly tortured while held at the black sites. The so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against him included waterboarding, mock executions and “rectal feeding”.

After being held for almost four years at secret CIA facilities, al-Nashiri was transferred in 2006 to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. He has been detained there ever since.

In al-Nashiri’s complaint to the IPT, his lawyers said he was of “specific interest” to British intelligence in the 2000s and probably part of a group of detainees in whose torture the UK was allegedly complicit.

The lawyers allege the UK’s involvement in al-Nashiri’s mistreatment probably included allowing Luton airport to be used to refuel a private jet used in his rendition from Thailand to Poland in December 2002.

If al-Nashiri’s case is allowed to proceed at the IPT, it could place the spotlight back on longstanding questions about the UK’s alleged complicity in the CIA’s detention programme.

In 2018, the parliamentary intelligence and security committee concluded that the UK’s spy agencies were involved in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects by the CIA and other partner intelligence services.

However, the committee said its investigation had been “terminated prematurely” because of government obstruction and warned: “There are questions and incidents which therefore remain unanswered and uninvestigated”.

UK ministers previously pledged to hold an independent judge-led inquiry into the issue, but the commitment was abandoned in 2019.


At Guantánamo Bay, al-Nashiri is awaiting trial before a military tribunal in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors. US officials have accused him of being “one of al-Qaida’s most skilled, capable, and prolific operational coordinators”.

Al-Nashiri’s case has been closely scrutinised by the European court of human rights, which found that Poland, Romania and Lithuania committed human rights violations while helping the CIA operate black sites.

The European court ruled the CIA’s secret programme was specifically designed to strip the detainees of protections in US and international law against torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention.

Asked about al-Nashiri’s case at the IPT, a government spokesperson said: “It is a longstanding principle that the government does not confirm or deny allegations, assertions or speculation about the activities of UK intelligence agencies.”


Harry Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Torture warnings pushed aside for Britain to join US in 'war on terror'
• Ex-Guantánamo Bay inmates win release of documents
• Censored memos and letters betray concerns

Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor

28, Sep, 2010 @7:33 PM

Article image
UK spies to be investigated over claims they were complicit in torture of CIA prisoner
Investigatory powers tribunal to examine complaint brought by Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who was tortured while detained by CIA

Harry Davies

31, May, 2023 @4:00 PM

Article image
Police investigating role of UK officers in torture of al-Qaida suspect
Met looking at how much MI5 and MI6 knew of mistreatment of Abu Zubaydah after 9/11

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

31, Mar, 2019 @5:30 PM

Article image
Guantánamo torture: UK wants claims of complicity to be heard in secret
Claimants' demand for open court disclosures of British collusion will harm intelligence links, foreign office says

Vikram Dodd and Richard Norton-Taylor

26, Oct, 2009 @8:40 PM

Article image
UK's secret policy on torture revealed
Exclusive: Document shows intelligence officers instructed to weigh importance of information sought against pain inflicted

Ian Cobain

04, Aug, 2011 @11:42 AM

Attorney urged to hand over torture evidence

Call for detailed allegations of MI5 and CIA wrongdoing against British Guantánamo Bay resident

Richard Norton-Taylor

05, Dec, 2008 @12:01 AM

MI5 and MI6 to be sued for first time over torture
A British man who was held in Guantánamo Bay has begun a civil action against MI5 and MI6 over the tactics that they use to gather intelligence.

Vikram Dodd

12, Sep, 2007 @12:31 AM

Article image
MI6 to be investigated over treatment of three more terror suspects

Inquiries to centre on mistreatment of prisoners at US-run detention centre in Bagram, north of Kabul, in 2002

Ian Cobain

23, Apr, 2013 @8:04 PM

Article image
MI6 to recruit hundreds more staff in response to digital technology
Worldwide intelligence agencies increasingly rely upon internet and social media rather than running of agents

Ewen MacAskill

21, Sep, 2016 @8:37 PM

Article image
The Gibson inquiry: a chance for truth possibly lost forever
Inquiry into MI5 and MI6 collusion with CIA rendition of terror suspects became convenient cover for British politicians

• Gibson inquiry abandoned

Richard Norton-Taylor

18, Jan, 2012 @4:01 PM