Allegations of UK Complicity in Torture - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


There have been a number of reports that UK security services have been complicit in the torture of UK nationals held in Pakistan and elsewhere. In this report we examine what it means for a state to be complicit in torture.

Complicity in torture is a direct breach of the UK's international human rights obligations.

In our view, complicity in torture exists where a state:

  • asks a foreign intelligence service known to use torture to detain and question an individual
  • provides information to a foreign intelligence service known to use torture, enabling that intelligence service to apprehend an individual
  • gives questions to a foreign intelligence service to put to a detainee who has been, is being or is likely to be tortured
  • sends interrogators to question a detainee who is known to have been tortured by those detaining and interrogating him
  • has intelligence personnel present at an interview with a detainee in a place where he is being, or might have been tortured
  • systematically receives information known or thought likely to have been obtained from detainees subjected to torture.

States are also complicit when they act in these ways in circumstances where they should have known of the use of torture.

The Government appears to have been determined to avoid parliamentary scrutiny on this issue. In order to restore public confidence and to improve compliance with our human rights obligations, the Government must take measures to improve the system of accountability for the intelligence and security services. The Government should

Aim to make the Intelligence and Security Committee a proper parliamentary select committee, with independent advice, and reporting to Parliament not the Prime Minister.

Publish all versions of guidance given to intelligence and security service personnel about detaining and interviewing individuals overseas, to allow others to ensure that it complies with the UK's human rights obligations.

Make public all relevant legal opinions provided to ministers.

Set up an independent inquiry into the allegations about the UK's complicity in torture. The inquiry should make recommendations to improve the Government's accountability for the security and intelligence services.

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Prepared 4 August 2009