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

1  Introduction

1. The UK signed the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) in 1985 and ratified it on 8 December 1988. We scrutinise the UK's compliance with the international human rights treaties to which it is a party and published a report on compliance with UNCAT in May 2006.[1] The report covered a range of issues and we published a follow up report in July 2008 dealing with allegations that members of the UK armed forces had used banned interrogation techniques in Iraq. The report focused in particular on discrepancies in the evidence given to the Committee by Adam Ingram MP, then Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and Lieutenant General R. V. Brims, then Commander Field Army, and facts which subsequently emerged in the courts martial of several soldiers in 2007.[2]

2. In this report, we follow up another aspect of our original report, concerning the obligation on the Government to refrain from acts of torture and protect against acts of torture by others, both within and outside the jurisdiction.[3] This work arose following media reports that members of the security services had been complicit in the torture or mistreatment of UK nationals in detention facilities in Pakistan. We held an oral evidence session on this issue on 3 February with Human Rights Watch and Ian Cobain, of the Guardian. Mr Cobain subsequently sent us a memorandum relating to similar allegations involving Egypt. We also received a helpful memorandum from Guardian News & Media about some of the legal issues that created difficulties for Mr Cobain's investigation into allegations of UK complicity in torture.[4]

3. We were also contacted by Mr Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who stated that, while in post, he made the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) aware that intelligence it received from Uzbekistan, via the CIA, had been obtained using torture. He submitted a FCO internal memorandum from Sir Michael Wood, then Legal Adviser to the FCO, which argued that the receipt of intelligence obtained, or possibly obtained, using torture did not contravene UNCAT.[5] Mr Murray gave oral evidence on 28 April and we also heard from Philippe Sands, Professor of International Law at University College London, a leading expert on international law, on the meaning of "complicity" in article 4 of UNCAT.

4. We have also kept track of other reports of possible UK complicity in torture overseas, including the case of Binyam Mohamed, who was released from Guantanamo Bay in February. We offered Mr Mohamed the opportunity to give oral evidence but were told that he was medically unfit to do so.

5. We set out all of the various allegations, without commenting on them, in chapter 2 of this report. The nub of the issue is what counts as "complicity" in torture. We analyse this issue and give our view in chapter 3. We deal with the Government's response, and the difficulties we have encountered in scrutinising the Government's policies and actions, in chapter 4. In our final chapter we set out the questions which still remain to be answered and recommend the form of inquiry which we think is required to get to the truth.

1   Nineteenth Report, Session 2005-06, The UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), HL Paper 185-I, HC 701-I (hereafter UNCAT Report). Back

2   Twenty-eighth Report, Session 2007-08, UN Convention Against Torture: Discrepancies in Evidence Given to the Committee About the Use of Prohibited Interrogation Techniques in Iraq, HL Paper 127, HC 527.  Back

3   UNCAT Report, paragraphs 38-67 in particular. Back

4   p. 50. Back

5   Ev 57. Back

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