In an extraordinary move yesterday, the British government agreed to pay an undisclosed but significant amount of compensation to British residents and citizens who were subject to extraordinary rendition, some of whom were sent to Guantanamo Bay.
The former detainees sued on the basis that the British government colluded with the United States government in their torture. The British government denies this deal was an admission in any way that they are guilty of the detainees’ claims. Rather, the decision to spend millions on confidential payouts was apparently driven by a desire to save the taxpayer money, (a court case would take significant resources over a matter of years and was estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars) as well as a desire to shield British foreign services from the scrutiny of the courts, since a previous ruling stated the British government would not be permitted to withhold any information in a court case.
This settlement also allows an inquiry into the very allegations the former detainees were making against the government to proceed – namely, whether the British government colluded with the United States or other governments to torture detainees.
While this is the largest scale settlement of its kind to come out of the War on Terror, it is certainly not the first. Canadian Maher Arar was detained by the US as he passed through JFK in 2002 and renditioned to Syria, where he was detained for a year and subjected to torture. Upon his release, the Canadian government held an inquiry into Arar’s rendition and ultimately apologized and paid him $10.5 million in compensation. The United States, however, has not apologized for their treatment of Arar and has to this day refused to remove him from terror watchlists.
What do you think? Was this a deal with the devil? The best out of a bad lot? Or are these former detainees entitled to compensation?
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