Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Omar Othman's Extraordinary Rendition and Release

Like many other cases we have studied in class, When the truth's held captive: Omar Othman's release and Britain's Shame, by  Victoria Britain is an article about Omar Othman, a UK resident who was a victim of extraordinary rendition, subjected to torture, and held without trial for years.  Othman was initially allowed into the UK as a refugee "fleeing despots and torturers." Without any concrete evidence, not only was Othman held captive for years and  tortured but his entire family had to face embarrassment and public harassment.  Othman was a respected scholar and clerk and the Muslim community looked up to him and his principles and even the prison guards at the UK prison respected him. Furthermore, the only time that Othman was ever heard from was when "he came to the aid of the authorities by making public appeals for the lives and release of two British men held as hostages."  Prior to 9/11, the UK had seen a refugee in Othman but post 9/11 he was seen as an increasing threat that needed to be taken care of. Othman was imprisoned for years without trial and the two times that his lawyers did manage to get him out, he had to remain in house arrest. This was the man that Bob Quick, the former head of counter terrorism, described as " very dangerous....with extreme views." There is much in the media about how Othman cannot, under any circumstances, ever return to the UK. Other controversies around the case include his condemnation of ISIS.  Very little is said about holding the government accountable for what he endured.  It is appalling that this is what the media and the public focuses on as the issue of human rights, torture and discrimination is brushed aside, to keep the British government's involvement in the rendition and other such operations shrouded.  This is interesting, when taken into consideration that Britain has a sizable population that is radically anti-Islam.         
                It no longer amazes me that Othman, like many others we have read about, was held without trial and had to tolerate the horrors of torture, public defamation, indefinite detention, and separation from his loved ones. What does amaze me is that without any evidence or charges, not only him but his entire family and even his friends endured so much. His acquaintances were captured and tortured in Guantanamo, as officials sought more information on Othman. They were only released after threats of dragging the government along with its involvement in torture and other horrors of Guantanamo were made. Even the European Court of Human Rights denied Othman's appeal against deportation.

                It seems like those who condemned him were afraid  that he was a man of "significant influence" or that he had the ability to "influence views of others and their conduct." Yes, he was so influential that his prison guards treated him properly. He was so influential that officials thought him worthy enough to use him to make a public plea for the life of British nationals. Similarly, he was well respected by young British Muslims and the general Muslim community in Britain. Somehow, being a well-respected and religious Muslim has become the only criteria needed to condemn a well-respected man as "Al Qaeda's European ambassador." Ultimately, Othman was deported after officials in UK and Jordan came to a consensus that information that was retrieved by torture would not be used against him in trial.  His release by the Jordanian court has many implications. Beyond highlighting the British government's inadequacy in dealing with such cases, it paints a dim picture of what awaits ahead of us for the US and the UK. It is also in the hands of the civilian to be aware of these issues and to not let such gross ignorance impact our decision making process. We must educate ourselves on both side of an issue and question our government and demand accountability.  It is scary to think that ignorance has proliferated so widely, even among the most respected members of the government-- the people we trust to make the right decisions. As the article correctly points out, the U.S and the UK have no idea what they are getting into in the middle east. If we continue to hide behind the cloak of ignorance, self-deception, and ethnocentrism, the wars will never end. 


No comments: