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MI6 consulted David Miliband on interrogations

Former foreign secretary was consulted before ‘difficult’ attempts to gather information from detainees in certain countries

Ian Cobain in London and Fariha Karim in Dhaka

guardian.co.uk,

Tuesday 21 September 2010 22.10 BST

David Miliband

David Miliband was consulted by MI6 prior to ‘any particularly difficult’ attempts to gain information from detainees in countries with poor human rights records. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

David Miliband was consulted by MI6 prior to ‘any particularly difficult’ attempts to gain information from detainees in countries with poor human rights records. David Miliband gave the green light to proceed with intelligence-gathering operations in countries where there was a possible risk of terrorism suspects being tortured, the Guardian has learned.

During the three years Miliband served as foreign secretary, MI6 always consulted him personally before embarking on what a source described as “any particularly difficult” attempts to gain information from a detainee held by a country with a poor human rights record.

While Miliband blocked some operations, he is known to have given permission for others to proceed. Officers from MI5 are understood to have sought similar permission from a series of home secretaries in recent years.

Today, 24 hours before the Labour leadership election closed, Miliband took the unprecedented step of returning to the Foreign Office to study files relating to three British citizens who were tortured in Bangladesh and Egypt while he was foreign secretary. After spending almost two hours examining the papers, he issued a statement in which he said the documents contained no evidence that UK ministers were asked to grant permission for any of the men to be detained, and said that it would be wrong to suggest that he had ever sanctioned torture. The statement does not address the possibility that intelligence extracted under torture was later received by the UK authorities.

Miliband’s spokeswoman said: “David would never ever sanction torture and it is completely wrong to suggest, imply, or leave a shadow of a doubt otherwise.”

It is understood that the files do document allegations of mistreatment made by the detainees, however. These are contained in papers detailing the Foreign Office’s efforts to seek consular access to the prisoners. The papers do not rule out the possibility that MI5 was involved in any of the cases as its activities would have to be approved by the Home Office, rather than the foreign secretary.

The confirmation that there was close ministerial supervision of counter-terrorism operations conducted in partnership with countries with poor human rights records comes as a judge, Sir Peter Gibson, appointed by David Cameron, prepares to mount an inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition since 2001.

One source with detailed knowledge of Miliband’s deliberations acknowledged that he was asked for permission only when the suspect was held in countries with poor human rights records. He was not consulted on “routine co-operation”, even with such countries, according to the source. It is understood that his judgment on whether to approve UK involvement in an interrogation took into account factors such as which unit was holding the detainee and the specific region of a country in which they were being held.

Miliband has spoken several times in recent weeks about the responsibility he bore to balance the need to defend the security of the UK and the British people, with what he describes as the need to “uphold the values of the nation”. Last month he said: “The greatest two responsibilities of government are to ensure the security of its people, and to uphold the values of a free society. And that’s what I did in all of the exercise of the powers that we did.” In one interview he added that he believed he always made “the right call” when asked to make these judgments.

As foreign secretary, Miliband fought an unsuccessful legal battle to prevent the public seeing part of a court judgment that showed MI5 was aware Binyam Mohamed was being tortured in Pakistan before one of its officers was sent to interrogate him. He also resisted calls for the publication of the secret interrogation policy governing MI5 and MI6 officers, on the grounds that to do so would “give succour to our enemies”. Since then he has been sensitive to questions about the role he played in authorising counter-terrorism operations.

Miliband declined to answer a number of questions put by the Guardian 12 days ago about his role in granting MI6 permission to proceed with such operations, and his assertion that he always struck the correct balance. As a consequence it was unclear whether he knew that people were being tortured. He also said he was unable to say how often MI6 asked for permission to proceed with such operations, and how often he refused. Earlier this year, Bangladeshi authorities told the Guardian that during 2007-08 they investigated around 12 British nationals resident in Bangladesh at the request of British intelligence officers. One senior counter-terrorism official in Dhaka said that the question of whether any of these individuals posed any risk to the UK “could not have been dealt with by British law – because of the question of human rights”. The official declined to elaborate. There is evidence that at least two British citizens have been tortured in Bangladesh during the last 18 months. Miliband said today that the files he scrutinised contained no evidence of ministers being asked for permission to detain those two men, nor a third Briton detained and tortured in Cairo in July 2008.

One of the men tortured in Bangladesh, Faisal Mostafa, was detained in March last year. Mostafa has twice been cleared of terrorism offences at trial in the UK. He says he was suspended from his wrists for days at a time, hung upside down, subjected to electric shocks, beaten, deprived of food and exposed to bright lights for long periods. Since his return to the UK he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic shock.

He also has wounds in his right shoulder and hip that he says were inflicted by a drill. Mostafa, a chemistry lecturer from Greater Manchester, says he was questioned largely about associates and activities in the UK, with his interrogators particularly eager to learn about the activities in the UK of the Islamist groups Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, and the East London mosque at Whitechapel. In April this year, a restauranteur from Birmingham was detained in Dhaka and taken to a detention centre known as the Taskforce for Interrogation Cell. Gulam Mustafa, 48, who is no relation, had been under suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity for at least three years; in May 2007 the Bank of England had employed counter-terrorism powers to impose financial sanctions upon him, freezing his assets and prohibiting others from making funds or financial services available to him. On 2 May Mustafa was transferred to a prison hospital, where he spent the next three months being treated for injuries sustained during his interrogation. As well as being suspended from his wrists, beaten and subjected to electric shocks, Mustafa’s friends allege that he was water-boarded, and that his knees were crushed.

Last night a spokeswoman for Miliband issued a statement: “Torture is a moral abomination and also illegal. There is an international ban on torture and every government and every human being should abide by it. The British government and all its agencies certainly do. “The UK has detailed procedures that uphold the moral and legal conduct of the intelligence agencies and those responsible for them. When David was foreign secretary he followed them scrupulously. There are no Foreign Office papers seeking permission from ministers to enable the arrest of these three individuals or question them overseas.”The statement does not address the possibility that intelligence extracted under torture was later received by the UK authorities.

“In God we trust”

Munem Wasif / Agence VU for Fabrica

Munem Wasif has been steadily pursuing the work which established his reputation from his very first pictures. He continues to work in his own country, Bangladesh, and while he travels to present exhibitions and give talks, he feels he must report on situations seen from the inside; and since September 11, Islam has become a central issue, seen from the outside, in the context of the “War on Terror,” leading to problems and prejudice.

Wasif, as a bearded Bangladeshi, says he has often been aware of the way people look at him with suspicion or even hostility, for example in the Paris underground, and even more so with immigration police checking passports. This is striking as external signs such as the headscarf, cap or beard can often be interpreted as signs of fundamentalism and therefore danger, rather than as a sign of cultural identity. (…)

“Our hearts and minds, and even our visual constructs are now occupied by Western thoughts and ideas that give the impression that madrasahs are the cradle of terrorism. But the life of children in madrasahs is much the same as the life of other children: they play in wide open spaces, read books, sing out loud and play badminton enthusiastically. In Bangladesh, Islam is like the many colors produced by a mirror in the sunlight. There are both headscarves and lipstick, and we wear jeans as well as having a beard. […] In our country people pray at graves without thinking about reincarnation, but there are also fakirs and saints in mazars who continue to sing and pray for eternal peace.”

Wasif frames his shots very strictly but with flexibility, paying special attention to light; he likes contrasts and there is great elegance in the composition of his works, both classical and discerning. This produces strong visual logic in his stories, making them compelling without being demonstrative. He shows us the presence of Islam as it is in the life of people, not as a sign of oppression.

Christian Caujolle

Visa pour l’image, Perpignan International festival of photojournalism

28th August to 12 September, 2010.

“Capturing the Cultural Narrative.”

A lecture by David Bathgate

02 September Thursday 11:00 – 13:00

At Pathshala South Asian Media Academy

David Bathgate studied anthropology and joumalism at the Pennsylvania State University in the U.S., eaming a doctorate and masters degree, respectively, in those two disciplines. Today, David works regularly in Asia and the Middle East, as well as Europe, for publications such as Time, Newsweek, Geo, Stem, Focus and The London Sunday Times Magazine. In addition, he regularly conducts workshops and seminars on photography, photojournalism and visual communication in places like Dharamshala, India and at institutions like, Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, Pathshala – South Asian Insitute of Photograpy, in Dhaka, Bangladesh and AINA in Kabul, Afghanistan. He is represented by Corbis Images (Paris Bureau).

GMB Akash in Matera, Italy

Survivor, an exhibition by GMB Akash, runs at the Galleria di Porta Pepice in Matera, southern Italy, from 14th September to 31st December 2010.

Akash winner (ex-aequo) of the Vevey International Photography Awards 2009-2010.

Born to Workis an intrusion into the world, as secret as it is horrifying, of child labour in Bengladesh. From the young prostitutes of the streets of Dakha to the garbage collectors no more than three feet tall, G.M.B. Akash‘s desire is not limited to denouncing by the means of photography. He also wishes to illustrate the complexity of a situation: from the poverty of parents that need an additional salary to the factory director that must produce at lower cost for his Western clients, its causes are multiple.

“Generation in Transition”

You are cordially invited at the presentation session titled “Generation in Transition” by twelve young photographers. This session is curated by Munem Wasif. The presentation will be followed a critical discussion by Abir Abdullah, Tanzim Wahab and Munem Wasif.

1. Finding Neverland – Jannatul Mawa

2. A Hall Full of ‘Cinema’ -Kauser Haider

3. Desperate Urbanization- Rasel Chowdhury

4. High Life -Md. Anisul Haque

5. A Corridor of Memories – Syed Ashraful Alam

6. Frozen Spaces – Adnan Wahid

7. My City of Unheard Prayers – Syed Asif Mahmud

8. Shelter and Guide – Soumitra Barua

9. Haunted – Tamim Jamshed

10. Fatalistic Tendency – Tushikur Rahman

11.Tales of the Night – Protik Sarker

12.Confession of a Fragile Existence – Arifiur Rahman

The show will take place at Pathshala, Tuesday Evening , August 10, 2010 from 4.00 pm to 8:00 pm. The seats are limited, we are humbly requesting you to come at sharp time.

Pathshala South Asian Media Academy

16, Sukrabad, Panthapath, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Presentation by Jonas Bendiksen

Pathshala, South Asian Media Academy

Sunday, 08 August 2010, 5.00pm – 7.00pm

Jonas Bendiksen is Norwegian and was born in 1977. He began his career at the age of 19 as an intern at Magnum’s London office, before leaving for Russia to pursue his own work as a photojournalist. Throughout the several years he spent there, Bendiksen photographed stories from the fringes of the former Soviet Union, a project that was published as the book Satellites (2006).

Here and elsewhere, he often focuses on isolated communities and enclaves. In 2005, with a grant from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, he started working on The Places We Live, a project on the growth of urban slums across the world, which combines still photography, projections and voice recordings to create three-dimensional installations.

Bendiksen has received numerous awards, including the 2003 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, New York, and second place in the Daily Life Stories for World Press Photo, as well as first prize in the Pictures of the Year International Awards. His documentary of life in a Nairobi slum, Kibera, published in the Paris Review, won a National Magazine Award in 2007.

His editorial clients include National Geographic, Geo, Newsweek, the Independent on Sunday Review, the Sunday Times Magazine, the Telegraph Magazine, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

He lives in Oslo with his wife, Laara, and son, Milo.

Julia Margaret Cameron Award

Documentary and Editorial: THIRD PRIZE

Taslima Akhter, Bangladesh, “Life & Struggles of garments’ workers 06”

Najma Akhter, 23, a garment worker , is sleeping with entire family - her children, her parents and her siblings. Altogether, 11 family members share this one room. Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh. © Taslima Akhter

Andrew Biraj wins SAJA 2010 Journalism Award

WINNER: Category 6

Outstanding photograph about South Asia, or South Asians in North America (single or series)

A woman sits between carriages as the train travels to Mymensing from Dhaka September 20, 2009. Millions of residents in Dhaka are travelling home from the capital city to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday today, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

‘Stone Women’ published in Economica

The International Museum of Women

By Khaled Hasan

Photographer Khaled Hasan depicts a stone mining community in Jaflong, Bangladesh, where the unregulated industry is harming the environment and leading to exploitative conditions for workers.

Stone mining is one of the leading industries for the small community in Jaflong in eastern Bangladesh. During the monsoon season, the river currents wash down precious rocks and pebbles from India into the Jaflong area. At dawn every day, more than a hundred little boats with laborers enter the Piyain River, buckets and spades in hand, collecting stones that will be ground up and sold to create concrete.

But the industry is incredibly harmful to both the workers and the environment. Stone mining creates air pollution and noise pollution, destroys the landscape, and exploits labourers. Stone miners work incredibly hard, and the industry is entirely unregulated: labourers receive no legal or health benefits, and the stone crushing machines create huge, hazardous clouds of dust.  More than 2,000 women work the stone mines, and they receive less pay per hour than the male workers. Many women raise their families near the stone mines and struggle to make ends meet and provide for their children with their low daily wages.

But the industry is incredibly harmful to both the workers and the environment. Stone mining creates air pollution and noise pollution, destroys the landscape, and exploits labourers. Stone miners work incredibly hard, and the industry is entirely unregulated: labourers receive no legal or health benefits, and the stone crushing machines create huge, hazardous clouds of dust.  More than 2,000 women work the stone mines, and they receive less pay per hour than the male workers. Many women raise their families near the stone mines and struggle to make ends meet and provide for their children with their low daily wages.

In this series of images, I wanted to represent the hassles, hard work, and happy moments of this marginalized part of society.

Khaled Hasan

———————

Photography Exhibit Opens July 6 in Boston

“CRISIS & OPPORTUNITY: DOCUMENTING THE GLOBAL RECESSION”

at the Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA

WHO:  Featuring Work by Call for Entries Winners: First Prize Winner: Tomasz Tomaszewski (Poland)

Honorable Mentions:  Khaled Hasan (Bangladesh), Shiho Fukada (Japan), and Michael McElroy (USA)

WHERE: Photographic Resource Center, 832 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA

Exhibition runs July 6-August 8, 2010

WHEN:  Opening Reception

Thursday, July 15, 2010. Open to the public.

5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Competition judges included:  Award winning photographers Lori Grinker, Ed Kashi, Lucian Perkins, and Shahidul Alam; Craig Cohen of powerHouse Books; and Whitney Johnson, Photo Editor of the New Yorker magazine.’

WHAT: This exhibition of work by four photographers was organized in 2009 by SocialDocumentary.net. Judges reviewed projects focused on the topic of the global economic collapse. Crisis and Opportunity features work by Tomasz Tomaszewski of Poland, the first prize winner, and by Khaled Hasan of Bangladesh, Shiho Fukada of Japan, and Michael McElroy of the United States. The exhibition demonstrates the ripples felt worldwide by individuals subject to overwhelming life changes due to unseen economic forces.

First Place Winner

The Labendy Factory was once a flagship of Polish heavy industry. Today it has lost more than 70% of its workers. Photo by Tomasz Tomaszewski

Specializing in press photography, Tomasz Tomaszewski has had his photos published in the world’s major magazines appearing in several dozen countries: Stern, Paris Match, Geo, New York Times, Time, US News & World Report, and numerous others. He has also authored a number of books – including Remnants, The Last Jews of Poland; Gypsies, The Last Once; In Search of America; and has co-illustrated over a dozen collective works. His numerous individual exhibitions have been held in the U.S., Canada, Israel, Japan, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Poland. He is the winner of Polish and international awards for photography. For over twenty years, he has been a regular contributor to National Geographic Magazine, where 18 of his photo essays have been published. Tomaszewski teaches photography in Poland, the U.S., Germany, and Italy.

This series of photographs, Hades ?, was taken from March through August 2009. Tomaszewski’s pays homage to people performing hard manual labor, the workers who once were very proud of their positions and are now losing their jobs due to changes in the global economy from the recession.

Tomaszewski chose Upper Silesia, Poland, where the work ethos, traditions, and related customs are most alive and colorful. In recent years, half of the existing coal mines in this region were shut down, as well as 70% of the heavy industry. Very little is done by the state to help those who have lost their jobs.

Click here to view the exhibit.

Honorable Mentions

End of Labor: Dumping Ground of Old Men in Japan

Photographs by Shiho Fukada

“It’s a sad tale told with clarity, visual intelligence and emotion.”

-Ed Kashi, Judge and SDN Advisor

Shiho Fukada is a freelance photographer based in Beijing. She is a native of Tokyo with a degree in English literature, and worked in the fashion and advertising industries in New York before becoming a photojournalist in 2004. Her work has been featured in numerous publications internationally including the New York Times. She moved to Beijing in February 2009.

Once a thriving day laborer’s town in Osaka, Kamagasaki today is home to about 25,000 mainly elderly day laborers, with an estimated 1,300 who are homeless. It used to be called a “laborer’s town” but now it’s called a “welfare town,” a dumping ground of old men. Alcoholism, poverty, street death, suicide, TB and most of all, loneliness, prevail here. These men don’t have family ties and live and die alone as social outcasts from the mainstream “salary man” culture. Labor towns, like Kamagasaki, are on the verge of extinction in Japan. According to the most recent government report, Japan’s economy, the world’s second largest, is deteriorating at its worst pace since the oil crisis of the 1970s, setting off more unemployment among the young and educated and layoffs among large corporations. It is even more hopeless for graying men of the construction industry here to find work.

Click here to view the exhibit.

Living Stone: A community losing its life

Photographs by Khaled Hasan

Alfaj Hossain is a stone collector living in Banglabazar, two and a half kilometers from Jaflong. He either walks or takes a boat ride from his home to work. Every day he collects three boats full of stones and earns 150 taka ($2.17) per boat.

Photo by Khaled Hasan

Born in 1981, Khaled Hasan began his career as a photographer in 2001. He is a graduate of the South Asian Institute of Photography. His goals have always been to document a culture with his photographs and to be a messenger of the community. He works as a freelance photographer and has been published in Sunday Times Magazine, American Photo, National Geographic Society, Better Photography, Saudi Aramco World Magazine and others. His awards include the 2008 All Roads Photography Program of National Geographic Society; Alexia Foundation Student Award (Award of Excellence);  2009, Grand Prix winner of “Europe and Asia – Dialogue of Cultures” organized by Museum of Photography (Russia); Mark Grosset Documentary Prize 2009 exhibited in Les Promenades Photographiques Festival 2009 in France, and others. His photographs have also been exhibited widely around the world.

This story is about a hard working community of Jaflong located on the northeastern part of Bangladesh. At dawn every day, more than a hundred little boats with laborers enter the Piyain River, buckets and spades in hand. This is one trade which has a geological limit. The stones that tumble down the riverbed from India are decreasing in volume and the laborers are already taking the risk of invading the no-man’s land along the Indo-Bangla border, a contested area between Bangladesh and India. Many laborers were killed by Indian Border Security Force in that area. More than 5,000 men, women and child stone-laborers are engaged here. Uncontrolled and unstoppable, stone extracting and crushing at Jaflong has been posing a serious threat to public health, and to the environment and agriculture in the area.

Click here to view exhibit.

An American Nightmare

Photographs by Michael McElroy

“A very touching, memorable story that brings the issue of healthcare and the impact of the recession to the forefront, ” said Lori Grinker, judge and SDN Advisor

Michael F. McElroy is a contract photojournalist based in Miami, FL and represented by Zuma and Wonderful Machine. His work encompasses news, portraits, documentary and urban landscapes. McElroy spent 2008 covering the presidential elections and in 2009 he has been working on stories about the economic crisis and how it affects people and the American landscape.

His work has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, Monocle, Wallpaper, Revue,The Guardian, Associated Press, Black Enterprise, Ad Week, Esquire, Zoo Weekly and other national and international magazines.

His awards include Pictures of the Year, Ernest Haas Awards, American Photo, Society for News Design Annual Creative Competition, Editor & Publisher, Communication Arts Photo Annual, and Atlanta Photojournalism.

McElroy’s winning exhibit, An American Nightmare, focuses on the problem of affordable healthcare in the U.S. and loss of dignity. Across the country more and more people are falling through the cracks, losing their homes, jobs, and healthcare. There was a time when we believed in the American dream and the pursuit of a better life. Unfortunately that dream has become a nightmare for countless families who have seen everything they’ve worked so hard for slowly slip away.  Howard Mallinger is one of those Americans whose dream has been shattered. This is his story.

Click here to view exhibit.

About SDN

SocialDocumentary.net (SDN) uses the power of photography to promote global awareness. SDN’s members include photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students who create and explore documentary websites investigating critical issues facing the world today. Recent exhibits have explored oil workers in the Niger River Delta, male sex workers in India, Central American immigrant women during their journey north, and Iraqi and Afghan refugees in Greece. SDN was launched in October 2008. Glenn Ruga is the founder. SDN is based in Lowell, MA

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