Torture Inquiry – secret services to inquire into themselves

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REPRIEVE, the legal action charity which uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay is delighted by the announcement of an inquiry into torture allegations by the Tory led coalition.

It however insists that:

l it cannot restore the reputation of the British security services unless its findings are made public and

l the inquiry must address the official policy under which the intelligence agents were working at the time.

Reprieve’s secret prisons investigator Tim Cooke Hurle said: ‘The previous Government’s addiction to secrecy has eroded public trust in politicians and in our security services.

‘We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement, but without openness, transparency, and frank disclosure this inquiry will be seen as a whitewash.

‘We cannot learn from history unless we know what it is.’

Reprieve’s Executive Director Clare Algar said: ‘Reprieve is delighted by the announcement of a judge-led inquiry into allegations of torture complicity by our intelligence services.

‘It is essential that this inquiry look at the official policy and rules under which British agents were operating.

‘A new version of the rules has been published today, but the fact that the government refuses to publish the old rules suggests that they were embarrassing if not illegal.

‘The inquiry must address this, in public, if we are to learn from our mistakes.’

Reprieve’s Executive Director Clive Stafford Smith said: ‘This inquiry is welcome but the devil is in the detail: the idea that this inquiry must be heard in private is misguided and wrong.

‘For too long our politicians have confused national security with national embarrassment.

‘This creeping secrecy is the scourge of any open democracy and must be stopped if we are to rebuild trust in our government and our reputation overseas.

‘This inquiry is welcome but will only succeed if it is conducted with a genuine commitment to transparency and openness.’

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

The Liberty, human rights organisation issued a statement on the torture inquiry stating: ‘The Prime Minister today (Tuesday) announced an inquiry into concerns about collusion in torture by the British authorities during the War on Terror.

‘He also announced the publication of guidance to the intelligence services on the interrogation and treatment of detainees held overseas.

‘These concerns go back a number of years and relate to the treatment of people held at various times by the CIA (or with CIA involvement) in Guantánamo Bay or in third countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Morocco.

‘A number of legal cases on both sides of the Atlantic now show that British Government Departments and Security Services co-operated in the detention and questioning of suspects who were tortured elsewhere.

‘A combination of protracted litigation (defended tooth and nail by the previous Government) and embarrassing newspaper revelations have reduced public trust and security service morale – a situation unworthy of a mature democracy true to its values and united against security threats.

‘Some securocrats and politicians have even attempted to blame the human rights lawyers and journalists who uncovered the scandal rather than serious breaches of law and decency.

‘Whilst Liberty has spent nearly five years calling for a public inquiry into this shaming and counter-productive episode, today’s Prime Ministerial statement leaves room for considerable anxiety about the adequacy of the new Government’s proposed model.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: ‘An inquiry into British complicity in torture is welcome and overdue but this announcement leaves room for fears that Government is bending towards the Security establishment.

‘They wouldn’t be in this mess but for all the excuses for secret stitch-ups instead of open justice.

‘This inquiry can only be credible with the broadest remit, the most public proceedings possible and by full engagement with victims, witnesses and lawyers.

‘Any attempt to exempt intelligence from legal scrutiny is an attempt to exempt the security services from the rule of law.’

The Liberty statement continued: ‘The inquiry is to be chaired by Sir Peter Gibson. Whilst a former senior judge, his continuing role as Intelligence Services Commissioner since 2006 (not due to end until 2012) will hardly give torture victims and the wider public the sense of a fresh pair of eyes on a sore that has festered in the shadows for so long.

‘He has already been responsible for security service scrutiny for a number of years.

‘There is still a lack of clarity about the Inquiry’s remit and powers to require witnesses, including former Ministers, to attend and submit to questioning.

‘Concerns about the cost and length of a judicial inquiry no doubt stem from the recent Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

‘However that experience was the direct result of an inadequate Widgery Report so many years ago.

‘Any attempts to comfort the Security Services with gentle and narrow scrutiny now, will only lead to further and protracted litigation well into the future.

‘Arguments that a judicial inquiry would interfere with civil proceedings do not stand up to legal scrutiny.

‘There are no juries in these civil claims and the Government cannot expect to be protected from any new evidence that emerges in a public inquiry.

‘As for outstanding criminal investigations – to the best of our knowledge, no arrests have ever been made or charges brought.

‘Liberty first asked the police to investigate in November 2005. Unusually, in October 2008 the last Government asked the former Attorney General to look into the allegations made in relation to Binyam Mohamed and she in turn referred the allegations to the Metropolitan Police in March 2009. ‘The public interest into such grave matters cannot be postponed indefinitely whilst various authorities talk to themselves with no end in sight.’

‘Suggestions that a Green Paper next year might pave the way for legislation barring the British courts from looking at foreign intelligence are a grave cause for concern.’

As far as News Line is concerned the fact that the inquiry is to be chaired by Sir Peter Gibson a former senior judge, who has been the Intelligence Services Commissioner since 2006 indicates that this is to be an inquiry where the intelligence services will be inquiring into themselves with a view to whitewashing their activities, and giving them a clean bill of health for future operations both in and outside the UK.

MI5 and MI6 and the other intelligence organisations are a central part of the capitalist state.

Like the capitalist class who they serve, they are leopards who will never change their spots.

The only solution to their crimes is to disband them and the only way that this can be done is through a socialist revolution that smashes the capitalist state.