Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Torture inquiry 'must be open'

The United Nations has urged a transparent inquiry into claims of British complicity in allegations of torture

The inquiry into British complicity in allegations of torture will "only serve to cover up abuses and encourage recurrence" if it is less than open and transparent, a United Nations expert has said.

Juan Mendez, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, said "the way to deal with the cancer of torture is to fully root it out with a wide-ranging, independent and fully public inquiry".

His comments come after human rights groups and lawyers said they intended to pull out of Sir Peter Gibson's inquiry following the announcement this summer that the final decision on whether material can be made public will rest with the Government.

Groups including Amnesty International, Liberty, and Reprieve said it lacked credibility and threatens to be a "waste of time and public money".

Lawyers representing former Guantanamo Bay detainees also said they were pulling out, but a spokeswoman for the inquiry insisted it would still go ahead.

He said it offered detainees and anyone else with evidence "the only opportunity for them to give evidence to an independent inquiry". Speaking on a visit to the UK, Mr Mendez said: "The UK Government is doing absolutely the right thing in having an inquiry into these gravely serious allegations.

"I visited London last February and was very encouraged by the decision to launch a commission of inquiry. Since then, however, I have heard of limitations that may frustrate the very object of such an exercise. During my current visit I hope to learn more about the parameters that have been set for it.

"I've seen from my work around the world that the way to deal with the cancer of torture is to fully root it out with a wide-ranging, independent and fully public inquiry. States also have to institute several other preventive measures, as well as to prosecute officials who are identified as possible perpetrators of torture.

"A less than open and transparent inquiry would only serve to cover up abuses and encourage recurrence."

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry in July last year after claims that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed was tortured with the knowledge of the British security services while held by the CIA in Pakistan.

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