Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
16 NOVEMBER 2005
Q20 Mr Maples: Have you got this written
down anywhere you can send to us?
Ms Allen: We have documentation
about those cases.
Q21 Mr Maples: Could you send it to us?
Ms Allen: Yes.
Q22 Mr Maples: Human Rights Watch: what
is your view?
Mr Crawshaw: Echoing what Kate
Allen has just said, we have one report which was just called
"Techniques used at Guanta«namo". I think it is
important to remember that torture is not just applying electrodes
to the testiclesyou know, the obvious things that we know
about, those kinds of brutal thingsbut that is part of
what the US administration has used, but only when it goes to
the furthest extreme, though even those ones have been used, to
put it this way, a number of the techniques that have been used
have led to both self-incriminating evidence which was completely
falsein other words the pressures were great enough that
they confessed to things which they had not done and provably
had not doneyou know, having been together with Osama bin
Laden at a particular time when demonstrably, and as, indeed,
the British authorities later confirmed, they had actually been
somewhere else. Those kinds of pressures are banned for the same
reasons. Some of the Committee may have seen there was a Channel
Four programme called "Guanta«namo Guidebook" which
did a kind of reconstruction, which was interesting in the way
that it was done, showing that even though what might seem not
very strong, only over a period of 48 hours people were actually
backing out. People who defined themselves as hard guys who would
not give in at all were backing out.
Q23 Mr Maples: Have you got anything
in any report which you could send to us?
Mr Crawshaw: Absolutely, yes,
on the techniques, but broadly also I would urge the Committee
to consider the extent of the denial which is going on when we
have entirely credible accounts of what has happened. Just to
pick up a point you made a little bit earlier, not everybody has
been tortured at Guanta«namo. That is not the suggestion.
Some people have got off relatively lightly and others have not.
I think what we are seeing a pattern of is the belief somehow,
which does seem to me a quite extraordinary belief to have reached
in the twenty-first century, that at some points the ends justify
the means. I would leave with the Committee the phrase that you
may well be familiar with, but Cofer Black, who was the senior
CIA official after 9/11 said, "After 9/11 the gloves came
off." That was said as a colloquial phrase, but actually
it is a very vivid phrase. The gloves are about the Queensbury
Rules and obeying the rules, and after 9/11 it was felt the rules
no longer mattered, and I deeply regret that we have heard from
the Prime Minister what may appear to be a similar kind of suggestion,
that rules of the game have changed. The gloves should not come
off. If we want a safer world, you do not do it by saying, "Let
the gloves come off and let them have what is coming to them."
Q24 Mr Maples: I think it would be very
helpful to us if both your organisations could let us have further
evidence which you have in writing.
Mr Crawshaw: We would be happy
to do so.
Q25 Sandra Osborne: Could I ask you about
the US practice of extraordinary rendition and the UK's role in
that, because media reports recently have suggested that aircraft
involved in operations have flown into the UK, at least 210 since
9/11, which is an average of one flight per week. It is suggested
there is a 26 strong fleet which has used 19 British airports,
the favourites being the two Glasgow airports, Glasgow Prestwick
and Glasgow Airport, where flights have flown in and out more
than 75 times and 74 times respectively. However, the Foreign
Secretary told this Committee that the policy is not to deport
or extradite any person to another state where there are substantial
grounds to believe that the person would be subject to torture.
The British Government is not aware of the use of its territory
or airspace for the purposes of extraordinary rendition. The Government's
denial of the use of UK airspace therefore appears to fly in the
face of media reports and growing evidence that it is not in actual
fact the case that UK airspace has been quite extensively used.
What role do you think the UK are playing in the process of extraordinary
Mr Crawshaw: I think as regards
the use of the airspace, as you say, the evidence is there and
it is suggestive. I would not feel able confidently to say who
was in those planes or what, but I think, if we are going put
it bluntly, the public deserves answers. I think Britain deserves
answers to explain if not that, what were these flights about,
because the evidence is suggestive there. If I may I will also
pick up on what you said about the Foreign Secretary saying that
people would not be sent back from Britain to a place where they
would be at risk of torture. It may be that the Committee wants
to address this in a separate section, but certainly that is simply
an untrue statement as we have it at the moment. It is simply
inaccurate to suggest that the British government is not going
in that direction. They have been pressing for these diplomatic
assurances. The version that they have constantly asserted is
that these diplomatic assurances received from governments where
somebody might be deported to are so constructed to ensure that
torture will not take place. In reality all the evidence that
we will be seeing has shown that these things absolutely do not
work, and, indeed, really that they cannot work. I am happy to
explain it at great length if you would like, but I think it is
a non-starter. You were asking people to talk of an illegal practice
which they are already committing and should not be committing
but on this particular occasion with this particular person they
would not carry out that illegal practicein other words
the tortureand that it will be possible to check on those
because you will go into the person's prison cell and say, "Have
you been tortured recently?" and expect to get an accurate
answer from that person. There will be no interest from either
the receiving country's side let alone the sending country's side
(in this case the UK) in getting to the bottom of the facts. If
you send them to places where torture is widespread, then that
is what will happen. We have already had a couple of notorious
examples, one from Sweden to Egypt, another one was a Canadian
Syrian being sent back, being picked up en route back home to
Canada and being the deported to Syria on what John Ashcroft called
the "appropriate assurances that had been received",
this from the place that had already been described by the US
Government as the "axis of evil", but they decided to
believe Syria on this occasion on torture. So the idea of, "Oh,
we are not doing that. We would not dream of sending someone back
to somewhere where they might be tortured", is simply inaccurate.
Put differently, I think they feel that the British public perhaps
does not mind so much because they assume that those people deserve
to have whatever happens to them happening to them, and that is
a quite different argument which I would like to hear rather more
bluntly put by the British Government. If that is what they are
thinking, then they should say that and not pretend that the torture
will not in fact take place.
Ms Allen: On the use of airspace,
I have nothing to add to that except to thank the Committee for
asking those questions of the Foreign Secretary and pursuing these
issues. I do not know whether, Chairman, it would be appropriate
to comment on diplomatic assurances at this stage.
Q26 Chairman: You can do that now, yes.
Ms Allen: I think that in any
previous year that we have been in front of the Committee we would
have been congratulating the UK Government on its programme of
work to eradicate torture around the world, and, unfortunately,
and quite shockingly, we cannot be in that position this year
because of the practice of diplomatic assurances. Those assurances
have already been signed with Jordan and Libya and we understand
they are to be pursued next with Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
As Steve Crawshaw has said, we consider these assurances not to
be worth the paper that they are written on. Just to let you know
in terms of our concerns about Libya, we are dealing at the moment
with the case of Mahmoud Mohamed Boushima, who left this country
to return to Libya. He had been here since 1981 following his
opposition to the Libyan regime. On 10 July he went back to Libya
with assurances from the Libyan Government that he would be safe.
He has been detained by agents of the Internal Security Agency.
He has been held incommunicado. His family do not know where he
is and have had no contact with him. He has no access to lawyers.
He has been in that situation for four months. That is the Libyan
Government that our government is signing diplomatic assurances
with and intending to return people to. In Jordan we have evidence
of torture, ill-treatment, incommunicado detention, especially
of political offenders, and I think that anybody who would be
returned from this country would certainly fall into those categories.
We find the approach of the UK Government to diplomatic assurances
on the issue of torture to be an absolute coach and horses through
any attempt to eradicate torture and in fact to give succour to
those regimes that do practice torture; so we are deeply shocked
by this turn of events in terms of the foreign policy of this
Q27 Chairman: It has been reported that
the UN Commission on Human Rights is inquiring into the British
Government's role in extraordinary rendition. Do you have any
evidence that that is happening?
Mr Hancock: I believe it is the
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Terrorism which was created
by the Commission on Human Rights, and, yes, I do understand that
they are doing a general inquiry into counter-terrorist measures
and how they comply with human rights and that as part of that
he is looking into extraordinary rendition and indeed the UK.
Q28 Chairman: Do you have any indication
of when they are going to produce a report?
Mr Hancock: No, I would think
there will need to be a report back to the Commission next year,
but I do not have any more information on timing.
Mr Crawshaw: As the Committee
will perhaps be aware, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred
Novak, has been absolutely clear-cut. The man, if you like, with
the international authority on the issue of torture has been very,
very clear-cut on how unacceptable the diplomatic assurances are,
and it was dismaying, and it was the first time I have seen a
British government minister being so publicly contemptuous of
a senior UN official. We have sadly seen in other countries that
one has had that response, but it was a determination not to hear
what Manfred Novak was saying on this which was very, very clear-cut.
I would be very pleased to be able to say something on the torture
issue about the UK silence on US abuses, but you may be coming
to it. If not, can I say my two seconds worth?
Q29 Chairman: Yes, say it now.
Mr Crawshaw: I have written it,
but I think it is so important. I never expected to be so shocked
by what I read in this Human Rights Report, which has so much
to be welcomed within it, as the inaccurate characterisation of
the US inquiries into the abuses and torture, not just at Abu
Graib but also elsewhere, suggesting that these have been "substantial
inquiries" which have "prosecuted and punished those
responsible" is utterly inaccurate, and we have now seen
recently that the US, with the latest wave of revelations, which
Human Rights Watch partly helped to bring to the public arena
after the person who tried privately to do so was knocked back
by his superiorsthe UK Government not only fails to comment,
which was the problem we had with Guanta«namo, but actually
characterises the problem as though it has been addressed, and
it simply has not. I find it extraordinary.
Chairman: Thank you; that is a useful
introduction to Richard Younger-Ross who is going to ask some
question about Iraq.
Q30 Richard Younger-Ross: In Iraq there
are still a number of detainees held by the US and others. My
understanding is that the holding of these is illegal under the
Geneva Convention, which only applies if detention without charge
occurs in the case of international armed conflict or occupation.
Can you outline what your view on that is and, in particular,
how you believe those who are still being held are being treated?
Has the abuse of them occurred earlier? Has that abuse ended?
Mr Hancock: I would think that
the US and, indeed, UK governments would point to the fact that
the power to detain security detainees was part of an exchange
of letters between the governments of Iraq and the Government
of the US and the multinational forces there at the time of the
UK resolution that authorised the handover from occupation to
the interim governments. At the time Amnesty International had
a range of concerns about this, including who has responsibility
for treatment of these detainees, who has oversight of them? There
is a range of questions there. I will look at how live those concerns
still are, whether we have been reassured, and let you have further
information on that. We are still concerned about the way in which
detainees are being treated. We do not think, as Steve touched
on just now, that all the inquiries and all of the learning about
Abu Graib has been done, particularly by the US Government, and
so in no way would we say we are comfortable with the US in particular
continuing to hold detainees.
Q31 Richard Younger-Ross: You say that
you are not comfortable. Do you have any evidence, or any hard
evidence, that abuses are still taking place?
Mr Hancock: It is difficult to
come by, because we are unable to get into Iraq; but certainly
people who do come out talk about ill-treatment.
Mr Crawshaw: What we do of course
have evidence of, and some of that came out yesterday, is that
in Iraqi custody there are some very, very serious abuses going
on. More of that came out yesterday. We had done a report on that
in January, which both the British authorities and indeed the
Iraqis were saying they were taking very seriously, but the problem
is still absolutely endemic in Iraq itself.
Q32 Richard Younger-Ross: They said they
were taking it seriously. Do you believe that the British Government
is doing enough?
Mr Crawshaw: On the Iraqi custody
Q33 Richard Younger-Ross: Yes.
Mr Crawshaw: On the Iraqi custody,
I think that the British Government did play a positive role.
There is of course a problem, not specifically now with the British
but certainly again with the Americans. The American abuses that
they have themselves carried out make it extraordinarily difficult
for the Americans then to play a leading role, as they might have
been able to do in the past, of saying, "This is not the
way a modern civilized society should be behaving", and it
has become almost part of the pattern, if you like. But on the
narrow point, we wereI have put it in my written submission
but I am happy publicly to flag it here againpleased that
the British Government took very seriously the revelations in
our report and were seeking to address them. There is no question
that not enough has been done.
Q34 Richard Younger-Ross: Moving on to
Saddam's trial, I understand that the trial has now been suspended
because of fears over safety which followed the abduction and
murder of Saadan Sughaiyer al-Janabi, who was a lawyer representing
one of the ousted Iraq president's co-defendants. Do you feel
that the trial should have been suspended? How do you think that
trial should now progress?
Ms Allen: We, from Amnesty, had
observers at the first day of the trial on 20 October, and were
very encouraged by that first day of the trial and the reception
amongst the Iraqi population about Saddam being brought to account.
The trial was then adjourned so that the defence would have further
time with the evidence, and we were very pleased that that had
happened. I think that the murder of some of the lawyers involved
is deeply to be regretted, and I think that the court needs to
consider what protection it needs to be able to restart this process;
because it is absolutely important that Saddam Hussein is brought
to account. We would also, in terms of that particular trial,
very clearly say that we would hope that the UK Government would
exert its influence to the utmost to ensure that the death sentence
is not delivered to Saddam Hussein.
Q35 Richard Younger-Ross: A number of
human rights organisations and political parties believe that
there should be an extraction process for the troops out of Iraq.
However, others fear that if there is an extraction process there
will be less stability and greater human rights abuses during
that process. Have you looked at that, and what is your view in
terms of what is likely to happen to human rights in Iraq, if
and when the troops start to withdraw?
Mr Crawshaw: From Human Rights
Watch's point of view it is a political question. It is clearly
a very important political question. Both the coalition forces
and the Iraqis themselves need to understand that one of the bases
for any kind of security has to be an observance of the rule of
law. We saw an extraordinary US failure on this in the period
immediately after the fall of Saddam, and somehow believing that
short cuts could be taken there. We see it now with the Iraqi
authorities, with the kind of torture and so on that we have seen.
I think that it would not be for us to judge when is the right
moment for an international force to be there or not to be there;
but whoever is there and responsible needs to understand that
if you have a situation of enormous insecurity, which clearly
is the case in Iraq at the moment, the way past that is not to
short-cut and think that you can use violent methods or a lack
of due process. To pick up also on your question on Saddamagain
it is a pity to flag things afterwards but, frankly, these were
things that we were flagging in advanceit does emphasise
how important are the issues of security, both for lawyers but
also for witnesses. Thank God, we have not yet had problems of
the lethal kind with witnesses; but that is something which we
flag very strongly: that this matters enormously. It is not just
what happens in the courtroom; outside the courtroom becomes just
as important for that trial to continue. It does seem to us that
beyond welcoming, as Amnesty does, the trial itself, we have had
concerns about some of the standards of proof required; but broadly
we welcome the fact that a trial is happening. Certainly, if people
are going to be killed for giving testimony or for defending some
of the defendants, that does not help anybody forward at all.
Ms Allen: On the FCO report and
the entry in terms of Iraq, from Amnesty we would question the
broadly positive tone of that entry. We consider, as Human Rights
Watch does, that the security situation in the country is dire;
there have been no reductions in terrorist attacks, and we have
reported recently on the activities of armed groups. Like Human
Rights Watch, I think that it is a judgment which it is impossible
for us to be making; but what we would want to ensure is that
the concerns about the human rights of Iraqi citizens are at the
centre of those decisions and the way in which they are made,
and that they are demonstrably at the centre of those decisions
and the way in which they are made.
Q36 Richard Younger-Ross: Finally on
Saddam's trial, do you feel that other charges should have been
brought? Do you have any fears about the charges that have been
Ms Allen: No, we see some very
clear charges being brought of alleged murders, and we are very
happy to see those brought before the court. If there are future
charges, then those should take their place too.
Q37 Chairman: Switching focus, the Human
Rights Annual Report of the FCO talks about the revolutions in
Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. Do you have any concerns that,
although the process of democratic change there has been very
welcome, there are outstanding human rights problems? I know Human
Rights Watch has commented on this. I would be interested to have
a perception from you as to how you see the process going on now.
Mr Crawshaw: Clearly there are
lots of problems but again, as a human rights organisation, one
does grasp at the times when you can say that the glass is at
least half-full and not pretty much on empty. Broadly, the fact
that those changes have taken place is to be welcomed. In other
words, Georgia has moved forward from where it was before. There
were huge problems there. Ukraine ditto. Kyrgyzstan is in a much
more ambiguous position. In effect, we have two governments in
Kyrgyzstan at the moment, fighting with each other for the battle
of the soul, as it were. Are there problems still? Yes, absolutely.
Georgia would be a case in point. We had widespread torture continuing
after their peaceful revolution, and so things need to be addressed.
One thing that we at Human Rights Watch certainly noticesince
we take our victories where we can, as it wereis that the
response to our concerns is very, very different in tone from
what it was before. That may be different from reacting in deeds,
but there is a willingness to engage with the issues: a broad
understanding that human rights matter, in a way that some of
the other central Asian states, which still have their old Soviet
leaders running themand in some ways more brutal even than
during the Soviet erado not. Those have not yet had change
and clearly are a source of instability themselves. The very fact
of that repression is a source of instability, undoubtedly.
Q38 Chairman: I want to switch focus
to a number of other countries. Can we ask you about your assessment
of human rights in Turkey? Clearly they have improved enough,
and quite significantly, for the EU to open accession talks. What
would you regard as the priority areas? Do you think that if the
EU goes cold on Turkey's membership, under the Austrian presidency
or later, this will act as a disincentive to improvements in Turkey?
Ms Allen: What I would say from
Amnesty International is that we have welcomed the Turkish Government's
commitment to bring their laws and their practices into line with
human rights. We very much welcomed the ending of the death penalty
and some real progress that has been made over the last couple
of years in Turkey, as that country in particular has sought to
meet the Copenhagen principles. What we feel at the moment is
that there has perhaps been a slowing of the reform process. What
we think the priorities should be are the creation of effective
human rights institutions. We would like to see an independent
police complaints commission that could investigate torture and
ill-treatment, particularly perpetrated by the police forces.
We welcome the Turkish penal code but, again, we have seen the
very high profile case recently of the writer Orhan Pamuk for
"insulting Turkishness". We have also welcomed the Turkish
signature to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
Chairman: There is a division. We hope
that we have only one, but we are not certain about that. We will
break for 15 minutes. If there are two divisions, it will be longer.
The Committee suspended from 3.37 pm to 4.01
pm for a division in the House.
Q39 Chairman: I think, Ms Allen, you
were in the middle of answering on Turkey.
Ms Allen: Yes. We have very much
welcomed some of the progress in Turkey. We are concerned that
it might be slowing down. I outlined our particular concerns,
and would just add that we are very concerned about the situation
of women and ensuring that there is protection for women, particularly
from violence in the family. Those are our main issues. You asked
whether the accession should proceed and what would happen if
it did not. What we are concerned to ensure is that Turkey continues
its progress towards meeting the criteria, and certainly that
those criteria are not reduced in any way. We very much hope that
that progress will enable Turkey to continue its wish to join