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Monday, April 27, 2009

David Davis, the 42 Day Terror Detention Plan, and the US Bullying the UK over Torture

At the Global Conference dinner tonight, part of which was a panel discussion on sports philanthropy by Andre Agassi, Mia Hamm, Tony Hawk, and Annika Sorenstam, I sat next to a conservative member of Parliament, David Davis. He told me this story:

Tories in turmoil as David Davis resigns over 42-day vote, UK Guardian, June 12, 2008: The shadow home secretary, David Davis, threw the Conservative leadership into turmoil today by unexpectedly announcing his resignation as an MP, forcing a byelection in his constituency over the government's 42-day terror detention plan.

Davis's move - to "take a stand" on what he said was the "relentless erosion" of freedoms by the government - was taken against the wishes of David Cameron, who beat him in a Tory leadership election in 2005.

Cameron made his disappointment clear by replacing Davis as shadow home secretary with the shadow attorney general, Dominic Grieve, and saying Davis had no guarantee of returning to the front bench if - as all parties expect - he wins the byelection. ...

Davis seemed unaware he had consigned himself to the backbenches, telling the BBC: "I may or may not be on the backbenches … This issue matters more to me than my job."

Labour attempted to undercut Davis by announcing that they, like the Liberal Democrats, would not contest the byelection... But Davis's decision to resign and stand again - a move last seen on the British mainland in 1982, and not since 1973 on a single issue of principle - injects new unpredictability into British politics. ...

A Conservative source said Davis had had only three hours' sleep on Tuesday night and was going through some kind of personal crisis. Davis brushed the suggestion aside, saying: "Pop psychology in politics is very amusing but rarely right."

In his resignation statement, delivered outside the Commons at 1pm, Davis said: "I will argue in this byelection against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government." He said the undermining of civil liberties through moves such as detention and the introduction of ID cards "cannot go on".

"It must be stopped, and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to take a stand," he told reporters...

He said his current issue is torture:

Ministers face torture pressure, BBC: UK ministers must answer allegations that Britain was complicit in torture, a senior Conservative MP has said. David Davis said a High Court ruling on Wednesday alleged that Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident held in the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, had been tortured. ...

The judges said the UK's attorney general has begun a criminal investigation into possible torture against Mr Mohamed. Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said the attorney general would be investigating the issues of "torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

The judges said they wanted the full details of the alleged torture to be published in the interests of safeguarding the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability.

But they had been persuaded that it was not in the public interest to publish those details as the US government could then "inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains". ...

No 10 said it was not aware of any threat from the US government to withdraw intelligence co-operation with Britain if details of the case were revealed. ...

Mr Davis said a High Court ruling, which pointed to complicity by the UK and US authorities in his torture, was prevented from being published after the US put pressure on the UK. ...

He said Mr Miliband should make a statement to MPs about the issue as soon as possible to "explain what the devil is going on". He said the UK government should make it "plain" that it did not support torture in any circumstances.

Mr Mohamed, 30, has been held in Guantanamo for four years... But war crimes charges against him were dropped in October. ...

Last August, Lord Justice Thomas said evidence relating to the case should be disclosed, saying it was "essential". However, the British government argued the disclosure of certain material would cause "significant damage to national security".

Mr Davis said it appeared the Bush administration had "threatened" the UK government about the repercussions should details of the case be made public.

"Frankly it is none of their business what our courts do," he said, adding this was "plain fact" not merely an allegation.

"They should not seek in any circumstances to put pressure on British courts. That's completely beyond the rule of law."

He said Mr Miliband must explain why this had happened and whether the new Obama administration supported its predecessor's stance on the issue.

"While he is at it, he [the foreign secretary] should explain what degree of complicity we have in this," he told the BBC.

Mr Davis said the government had taken a "highly principled public stand" against torture but must "come clean" about whether there were cases where British agencies ever knew about instances of torture by others. ...

Civil liberties campaigners described the judges' remarks on the case as "astounding". Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the Bush administration had tried "to bully" the British courts and President Obama must make it clear he would not do the same.

And Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said all the documents in the case must be published immediately. "There is no other terms for what the US intelligence services are doing than blackmail," he said. "It is simply incredible that the US government would have halted intelligence co-operation with the UK if this information had been made public."

I encouraged him to pursue this, and the torture issue more generally, relentlessly.

Where are the US conservatives with this kind of courage? He said that when he first came out against the 42-day detention plan, the reaction on conservative blogs was very negative. However, the comments on those blogs disagreed overwhelmingly, and in no uncertain terms, and that grassroots support as he called it along with the support of a paper (the Daily something? - sorry - I don't recall) he compared to getting the support of Fox news caused the conservative blogs (and others in the media) to change their position. And once that happened, it was "checkmate" for those within the government who opposed him.

    Posted by on Monday, April 27, 2009 at 09:53 PM in Economics, Terrorism | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (7)

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