The documents showed that responsibility for torture went right to the top − sanctioned by Kenya’s governor, Evelyn Baring, and authorised at cabinet level in London by Alan Lennox-Boyd, then secretary of state for the colonies in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.
When told that torture and abuse were routine in colonial prisons, Mr Lennox-Boyd did not order that such practices be stopped, but instead took steps to place them beyond legal sanction. “Compelling force” was allowed, but defined so loosely as to permit virtually any kind of physical abuse.
Why did the British keep these documents, instead of destroying them? Plenty else was burned, or dumped at sea, as the British left Kenya.
The answer lay in the unease of some British colonial officers. Many did not like what they saw. When the orders to torture came down, some realised the jeopardy they were in. These men worried that it was they, not their commanders, who would carry the can.
They were right to worry. Official reports from the 1950s always blamed individual officers − the “bad apples in the barrel” − for acts of abuse. But the blame lay not with junior officers forced to implement a bad policy but with the senior echelons of a colonial government that was rotten to the core.
Quoted from ‘Atoning for the sins of empire‘ by David M Anderson, New York Times, 12 June 2013.
Let’s be clear. Torture was and is standard practice for imperialists trying to hold on to their colonies. Eventually, the truth always comes out. And, of course, when they are forced to admit to past atrocities, present-day rulers always look sad and try to pretend that this sort of thing is an aberration from the long-distant past.
“Of course, it was all a long time ago. Nothing like that could ever happen now,” we are told. No, our lovely boys in Afghanistan / Iraq / Libya / Syria are perfect gentlemen, bringing peace and democracy to grateful natives, while our ‘precision’ bombs ’surgically remove’ ‘high-end targets’ to great local jubilation. It’s not imperialism, it’s a noble mission to help those poor benighted souls, who, for some strange reason, are incapable of managing their affairs without our altruistic input.
Castlereagh? All in the past. Abu Ghraib? Bad apples. Guantanamo Bay? A special case. Bagram? Nothing to see here. Over and over and over again.
Right now, though, it’s exceedingly good to see some Kenyans finally getting a small acknowledgement for the extreme brutality they suffered at British hands. Now if imperialist multinationals could stop looting the country the Kenyan people might have a fighting chance of building a decent life for themselves …
Video: ‘UK in payout talks for Mau Mau victims of torture’ (Press TV)
Article: ‘The Kenya files’ (Proletarian)
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Bani Walid has been retaken by Gaddafi loyalists, and there have been huge pro-Gaddafi demonstrations in Benghazi, supposedly the most pro-rebel town in Libya. At the same time, it is reported that the different tribes involved in the so-called Transitional National Government are at each other’s throats.
In the meantime, it has come out that torture is rife in the prisons run by the Transitional National Government, with Médecins Sans Frontieres withdrawing its services in protest at the fact that it was being sent prisoners for treatment after torture, purely for the purpose of making sure they didn’t die so that torture could continue as soon as they had been treated.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
It has been admitted, not that it wasn’t already known, in the report (arranged by the king) of an independent commission into the uprising in Bahrain that the country’s security forces used disproportionate force and resorted to torture to extract forced confessions from detainees.
The report admitted that 35 people died during the protests, including five security personnel, while five detainees were tortured to death. Other detainees endured electric shocks and were beaten with rubber hoses and wires. Hundreds of people were also injured.
The purpose of this ‘independent’ report is to scapegoat “rogue elements” in respect of the violent abuses of human rights that were displayed for all to see on TV screens all over the world. This scapegoating will then allow the fascistic Bahraini monarchic government to present itself as a ‘respectable’ member of the ‘international community’ as it prepares aggression against Syria – supposedly in the interests of the ‘human rights’ that were so clearly flouted in Bahrain, with the assistance of that other bastion of Arab ‘democracy’ Saudi Arabia.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
Having with the help of the Saudi army put down the Arab spring protests of the downtrodden masses of Bahrain, the authorities, who were clearly terrified by the popular uprising, are now turning on anti-government activists quite literally with a vengeance.
In a country whose population is only half a million, 34 people have been killed, over 1,400 have been arrested and 3,600 have been fired from their jobs. Those arrested have been subjected to torture, of which four have already died. Among those arrested were dozens of doctors and nurses from the Salmaniya Medical Complex (Bahrain’s largest public hospital), who have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment between five and 15 years for treating demonstrators wounded by violent attempts to disperse them. Eight prominent protest leaders have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The sentencing of medical personnel is all part of a government campaign to deny medical treatment to anybody injured in the ongoing and growing protests. However, the punishment meted out to the doctors and nurses so clearly exposes the fascistic nature of a regime that western imperialism is anxious to support that pressure has been brought on the Bahraini government to back down. As a result, it has announced that the cases are to be re-tried.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October
Over the past month it has become clear that the supposed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya has not happened. Instead, a full-blown, nominally civil, war has been unleashed, in which a fractious, squabbling and divided minority of mainly fundamentalist extremists in alliance with Nato are fighting the vast majority of the Libyan people, who are still led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
In that war, allegedly unleashed by Nato ‘to protect civilians’, at least 50,000 have now been killed and even more injured.
Even the bourgeois media admit to the fact that the loyalist forces are holding on to the oases of Hun and Sabha as well as the major cities Sirte and Bani Walid, in spite of the fact that both the latter have been subjected to barbarous Nato bombardment and a cruel state of siege, deprived of food, medicine, fuel and water. But still the defenders hold out, and are putting Grad multiple rocket launchers, mortars and RPG-7s to effective use against the marauders.
The New York Times encapsulated the atmosphere in describing the life of the bourgeois journalists reporting from the region:
“Like dogs tearing off to retrieve imaginary sticks thrown by their masters, television crews and photographers have repeatedly rushed to the front lines to cover the fall of the holdouts, only to discover that the attackers were merely on the outskirts, and not even planning to stay there beyond dark. In some cases, as happened at least three times in the past week, they actually pushed well into the downtown areas, only to be repulsed.
“The photographs produced are very picturesque — flames licking the skies from the twin barrels of the former rebels’ 30mm antiaircraft guns — but what is not as clear is that many such pictures are posed, or taken while the former rebels are doing what they seem to do best, or at least most often — firing light and heavy weapons into the sky in celebration of every victory, including imaginary ones.” (‘Anti Gaddafi forces capture, then lose, last redoubts’ by Rod Nordland, 17 September 2011)
Despite Nato’s supposed victory in Libya, it was forced on 21 September to announce a three-month extension of its bombing campaign.
Moreover, even the bourgeois media are having to admit that the so-called rebels are committing atrocities, although they are ashamed to admit either the extent or the barbarity of these, and try to excuse them as ‘revenge’ for what loyalist forces did to them.
The New York Times has admitted to the wanton destruction of homes in Tawerga, and the disappearance of men rounded up and not heard of since. The fact that rebels, for all that they are supposed to be devout muslims, are going from house to house rounding up young girls in their hundreds for rape, torture, disfigurement and agonising murder is naturally hushed up.
Meanwhile, an independent news website, mathaba.net, has reported that on 28 September a mass demonstration in support of Gaddafi took place in Tripoli, brutally suppressed by the rebels and Nato firing on the unarmed demonstrators. The website reports that the “response by the masses was ongoing throughout the day and night, with shooting in various parts of Tripoli, sending rats running, abandoning some of their check points, with Nato air force terrorists no longer knowing where to hit”.
On the same day, loyalists were able to destroy an enemy aircraft.
The following day, 29 September, there was fighting throughout Tripoli, and the 32nd Reinforced Brigade of the Armed People (known as the Khamis Brigade) is said to have destroyed the remaining Nato-rebel checkpoints. It also claims to have taken control of a building that for the past three weeks has housed the Tripoli headquarters of Nato and the CIA and been used as a command and control centre to guide the Nato ground operation in Libya. The all-green flag of the Jamahiriya (self-governing society of the people) has been hoisted above the building.
Loyalists have taken over many other parts of Tripoli, though not yet the central market area, and the green flag can be seen once again flying proudly in many districts.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October
A three-year inquiry into the death of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa at the hands of the British army in Iraq has finally admitted a degree of serious culpability, while endeavouring to confine the blame to the first battalion of a regiment (the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment) that has since been disbanded.
The inquiry found that the regiment was using the ‘five techniques’ (for torturing prisoners): ie, hooding, white noise, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and painful stress positions. This is contrary to the Geneva Convention and has been expressly banned for use by British soldiers since Edward Heath’s time, when army guidelines were revised to outlaw inhuman practices that had been in regular use in northern Ireland and were instrumental in exacerbating the resentment of the local population at the British occupation.
Essentially, the enquiry found that Mr Mousa, a widower and father of two young sons, had been beaten to death. However, the inquiry concluded that while the beating was the “trigger” for his death, his overall “vulnerable state” of exhaustion, dehydration, renal failure and exertion brought on by his treatment at the hands of the army contributed at least as much.
Orders banning the ‘five techniques’ were observed only in the breach. Mr Mousa and nine others picked up at the hotel where he worked were all subjected to this torture as well as to vicious beatings in an open building with no doors, where senior officers could have come in at any time to see what was going on.
The inquiry took the view that even if they did not know, they should have done. And in fact, the very fact that the ill treatment was taking place so openly provides irrefutable evidence that the soldiers administering the torture were confident of their superior officers’ approval.
It remains to be seen whether anybody will face criminal prosecution for these crimes, or for any of the hundreds of other cases of prisoner abuse that have taken place not only in Iraq, but everywhere that the British army has been present as an occupying force.
The inquiry was at pains to say that this behaviour is exceptional, and that the army as a whole is really very gentlemanly. Very many thousands of oppressed people all over the world have personal experience of the reality, which is very different.