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British court rules torture suits can go on

LONDON — Former Guantanamo detainees can proceed with lawsuits accusing Britain of complicity in torture overseas, the High Court ruled Wednesday, rejecting a government request to suspend the action.

Britain had asked a judge to direct the six men, and six others who plan to launch similar cases, to halt their lawsuits and focus on reaching out of court settlements, allowing an independent inquiry into the accusations to begin.

But High Court Judge Stephen Silber ruled that the men can press ahead with their cases. Some documents giving a taste of what might be released in the inquiry also were released, showing an often-confused government position under former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that a retired judge will lead an independent inquiry into how much the government knew about claims that some detainees were badly treated or tortured by allies, including the United States.

Cameron said two inquiries into alleged criminal wrondoing by British spies must be completed before the inquiry can begin.

In the most prominent case, ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed alleges Britain was aware he was beaten, subjected to sleep deprivation and had his genitals sliced with a scalpel while he was held in Pakistan in 2002.

So far about 50,000 documents have been prepared for hearings and around 900 documents have been released to lawyers representing the men, though many are heavily censored.

A series of the documents handed to lawyers were made public for the first time Wednesday after they were discussed in a court hearing.

One set of memos discloses how Britain declined to raise objections over the transfer of British citizens to the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba.

British court rules torture suits can go on 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 8:14pm]
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