Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Friday, December 30, 2005

'I am Craig Murray!'

Last month I posted a short piece about some possible political consequences of the rise of blogging, and over the last couple of days we have had a quite remarkable example of what power this modern communications media has. This is what all the fuss is about, as reported by the Times Online:

'Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan whose controversial memoirs have been blocked by the Foreign Office, today side-stepped the ban by releasing the most controversial documents in full on the internet.

The first contains the text of several outspoken letters that Mr Murray sent back to London between 2002 and 2004, warning that information being passed on by the Uzbek security services had been obtained through torture.

The second allegedly contains the legal opinion from Sir Michael Wood, a legal adviser to the Foreign Office, who argues that the use of information extracted through torture does not violate the UN Convention Against Torture.

Although much of the material has been published by human rights organisations and elsewhere, Mr Murray's web-based publication has placed the names, dates and times of discussions into the public domain.'

As the courageous, strong and indefatigable former British Ambassador himself noted, 'in March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.

After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.'

This is the second document, the summary of legal opinion from Michael Wood arguing that it is legal to use information extracted under torture:

'From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor

Date: 13 March 2003

CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield


1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.


M C Wood
Legal Adviser'

In short, the British Government's friends in power in Uzbekistan are torturing bastards, but because they are our torturing bastards and the information they find out through torture is potentially useful in the West's 'war on terror', any evidence proving they are torturing bastards has to be covered up. What is it to be covered up with? Well, blind nationalism normally does the trick. We can imagine Tony Blair and Jack Straw imploring us to just close our eyes to this stuff, lie back and think of England. Using evidence gained through torture - would we ever condone that stuff? It is 'not cricket' is it, and would we, with our tradition of 'fair play', ever stand for that? Of course not - we represent 'Civilisation' against the 'barbaric' Other! Please do not forget this - I know it is hard sometimes to spot the difference what with Abu Graib, Guantanomo Bay, and now this little memo - but do try to make the effort. Remember - careless talk costs lives, or, as they say in Uzbekistan, careless talk will cost you your life...

Anyway, when Craig Murray published this information on his blog it got picked up by other bloggers who published the memos and letters, which helped ensure that it got out there and is now slowly being picked up in the mainstream press. Blogging seems to have left the Blair regime unable to stop censoring a key thorn in its side - as a British blogger I thought this deserved noting on my blog and as a socialist I was feeling a little guilty at my remaining silent while fists were flying into the air in solidarity with Craig 'Spartacus' Murray. For more background, see here and here.



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