Foreign Office is ‘complicit in British man’s Somalia torture’5 min read
A British citizen has claimed he was tortured in Somalia and questioned by US intelligence officers, raising concern that controversial practices of the post-9/11 “war on terror” are still being used.
The 45-year-old from London alleges he has endured hooding, sensory deprivation and waterboarding at the hands of the Somali authorities to persuade him, he believes, to cooperate with the CIA. Foreign Office officials are aware of the allegations of torture and US involvement, but their failure to act has raised questions over UK complicity.
David Taylor, whose name has been changed at his family’s request, has been detained without charge in Somalia for two years and fears that unless the UK government intervenes he will face execution in a military court or be rendered to the US. His family, based in London, say they are “heartbroken” over the situation and has accused the Foreign Office of “completely abandoning” him.
Legal documents outlining the case were sent to the Foreign Office last week warning it has until this Wednesday to respond to “ongoing failures” over its approach, or face a judicial review in the high court. The nine-page submission also says the alleged US interest in Taylor continues. It claims that on 30 June “two American officials who identified themselves as FBI agents” questioned him in Mogadishu.
The document states: “They asked the claimant whether he wished to live in the US. They also showed him pictures of various individuals asking him whether he knew them.”
One of the images was of Mahdi Hashi, a British-Somali citizen from Camden, north London, who was secretly rendered from Djibouti to the US in 2012 after extensive interrogation by CIA. He was imprisoned for supporting the terrorist group al-Shabaab but released last year. Although no formal reason – or evidence – appears to have been given for his detention, the use of such pictures and apparent CIA involvement suggest that US officials suspect Taylor of links to al-Shabaab.
Taylor’s son, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “My dad has been left to languish in a foreign prison, in dangerous conditions, without charge or any proper reason. He is a British citizen and he has had no support from his country. To know that my dad has faced torture, interrogation and violent threats to his life is terrifying and extremely distressing. I am heartbroken and afraid of what might happen to him if he stays there any longer. How can this still be allowed to happen?” He added: “I have been calling the Foreign Office daily to ask them to help me and I implore them to do everything in their power to please bring my dad back home.”
The Foreign Office has known of Taylor’s detention since April 2019, and of the torture allegations since at least last December when his ex-wife in London contacted them.
The document outlining the case from Fahad Ansari of Riverway Law states: “He has been denied any form of protection which has enabled him to be tortured, interrogated without a lawyer, and detained without charge for over two years in inhuman and degrading conditions, during the course of which he has been denied medical treatment.” Ansari, who speaks regularly to Taylor, says that unless the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, intervenes, “there is a real risk of his being tried in a military court and sentenced to death or extrajudicially rendered to the US”.
Taylor moved to Somalia in 2009 and remarried, but on 13 April 2019 he was arrested after travelling to Yemen seeking consular assistance to replace a lost passport so that he could return to London. He was taken to a military base and after three months, according to the legal documents, “was told that someone from the CIA wanted to see him. The official introduced himself as ‘John’. He had an American accent.”
On 19 September 2019, he was transferred to Mogadishu, then arrested, blindfolded, handcuffed and driven to a place he suspects was the town of Janale, around 60 miles south-west of the Somali capital.
“He found himself in a room with a white lady and a white man. The lady spoke in an American accent and identified herself as ‘Roxanne’. The claimant [Taylor] asked her to confirm the agency or organisation she represented but she refused to do so,” states the document.
Over the next five weeks, the document alleges, Taylor was interrogated daily by Roxanne with questions about himself and other British citizens. In between, he alleges, he was tortured by the Somali authorities. “On one occasion, he had a gun pointed to his head and was told that if he did not cooperate with the Americans, he would be killed straight away,” claims the document.
In late 2019, Taylor was transferred to Mogadishu Central prison where he remains in a cell with 59 other prisoners, including Islamist militants, with just one toilet. It is also the same cell where British citizen and security contractor Antony Cox had his throat slashed with a razor blade by two inmates linked to Islamic State in January 2019.Cox, who survived the attack, had been arrested with tear gas canisters in his bag as he tried to leave the country after working for a private US firm that trained African troops to fight al-Shabaab. It is believed he has since been released with no record of him being convicted.
Taylor says he has received death threats from other prisoners in the cell and has been accused of being a British spy.
Despite repeated requests from his UK lawyers that the Foreign Office contact Taylor, it is understood they have not yet done so.
Naila Ahmed of campaign group Cage, said if the US had such access to the Briton it would be highly unlikely the UK had been kept in the dark. “The circumstances around his torture, medical negligence and interrogation by the CIA and FBI, despite [Foreign Office] awareness of his predicament, suggest at best gross negligence and at worst British complicity in the most serious of human rights abuses. We call for his immediate repatriation to the UK,” she said.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We have tried a number of times to contact the British national and will continue to do so. The FCDO is also in contact with local authorities, and is providing support to the family.”
The CIA has been contacted for comment.