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These are not the words of the hon. Gentleman. They are not my words or the words of any Minister or Government official. They are the words of the judge who considered the national security evidence against Abu Qatada in proceedings under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. The hon. Gentleman asked for evidence. Under that Act, that was the view of a member of the independent judiciary. The judge made those comments, and Abu Qatada has since been detained pending his deportation to Jordan.

The hon. Gentleman made certain remarks about Mr. al-Rawi and MI5. I am not going to go into intelligence matters here. The House would not expect me to do so; nor am I going to.

Simon Hughes: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McCartney: If it is on that issue, there is no point in my giving way.

Simon Hughes: It is not. The Minister said that he or other Ministers had communicated their concerns about Mr. al-Rawi’s health to the American Government in December. It would be some consolation, and would back up what he has said, if he would undertake to communicate the concern felt across the House and specifically to report back to my hon. Friend in a public as well as a private way on the response of the United States Government to this debate tonight.

Mr. McCartney: The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. There is no doubt that the contents of this debate will be made available by me to those who are carrying out discussions with our colleagues in the United States. All the matters that have been raised here will be part of that. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that nothing that has been said here will remain silent. The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton has raised this matter for specific reasons, and some of the issues that he has raised are reasonable. They are issues that he has raised with us before, and I give him a commitment that we have raised them with the United States, and will continue to do so. They are part of the reason why we are trying to conclude the discussions and to get the gentleman returned to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Davey: I am grateful to the Minister for his answer to my hon. Friend. Will he pledge to come back to me with some more details? First, I know that Bisher’s mother and sister, and the rest of his family, are keen to have the report on Bisher’s health. Secondly, will the Minister and his officials ask the Americans directly whether a UK consular medical expert can visit Mr. al-Rawi in Guantanamo Bay?


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Mr. McCartney: I cannot give such a specific commitment. As I have said, however, discussions are ongoing with the American authorities. The hon. Gentleman is asking us to do something to which we are already committed, and that we are doing. As I have confirmed, we are raising with the American authorities the health and security of Mr. al-Rawi in the context of discussions about his return to the United Kingdom. I cannot go further than that, but his point is well made.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to his constituent being mistreated. The House may recall that, in December 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated publicly that the United States does not authorise and condone torture of detainees. The US Detainee Treatment Act of 30 December 2005 requires that no individual in the custody or under the physical control of the US Government shall be subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The Act made established US policy a matter of statute.

The British Government's position on torture is clear and has not changed: we condemn unreservedly the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle; we condemn it not just in principle but in practice. We do not use it or encourage others to use it. We expect all countries to comply with their international legal obligations. We continue to work around the world to eradicate torture. We were among the first to ratify the new optional protocol to the UN convention against torture and we worked hard to persuade others to ratify it so that it could come into force last year. We have also worked with non-governmental organisations and others to tackle torture in a range of countries: for example, we worked with Essex university to produce a handbook on the medical investigation of torture, which I launched in June 2006. In my role as a Foreign Office Minister, I was committed to dealing with that issue.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the reservations and understandings made by the US when it ratified the convention against torture. Just as states have a free choice as to whether to ratify treaties, it is generally open to them to enter reservations on ratification, as long as those reservations are not incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.

Mr. Davey: Perhaps I am anticipating what the Minister was about to say. Can he confirm that the British Government have signed up to all aspects of the UN convention against torture, including psychological torture? On that point, there is a difference between the rules that the British Government say that they abide by and those that the Americans abide by.

Mr. McCartney: As I made absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman, this Government were one of the first to ratify the protocol. I will write to him on the details of what we ratified.

The whole purpose of the handbook that I launched last year was to provide Governments, NGOs and other organisations across the globe with a practical tool to help to identify the victims of physical torture, mental torture or both. It is a major piece of work to assist the victims of torture, and those who represent them, to identify and eradicate it. I will write to the hon. Gentleman in more detail to ensure that all his
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points are covered fully. I am totally committed to dealing with these issues, and the publication was produced to address those matters covered by the protocol to the convention against torture, to which the Government so readily signed up.

The message that I want to leave with the hon. Gentleman and the House is that we are proactively
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and in good faith—I underline that—seeking to achieve his constituent’s release from Guantanamo Bay and return to the United Kingdom. I will continue to work with him and keep him in contact so that he can inform his constituent’s family on the details of his return.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at nine minutes past Ten o’clock.


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