Concerns over torture guidelines
Government guidance on dealing with the overseas torture of detainees may breach international law and leave intelligence and military personnel exposed to legal challenge, a human rights watchdog has warned.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to David Cameron and security chiefs threatening legal action unless the wording is amended to comply with the UK's obligations.
It also called for a forthcoming inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture of terror suspects to be held in public wherever possible and its findings to be made public.
The Prime Minister announced the inquiry on July 6 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.
A number of other former detainees have since brought legal action against the UK Government, claiming they were subjected to similar mistreatment with the knowledge of MI5 or MI6.
Allegations have also been made of UK involvement in the extra-judicial transfer, or rendition, of terror suspects between countries since the 9/11 attacks on the US.
The guidance was drawn up in the wake of the complaints and published alongside the inquiry announcement. However, EHRC legal director John Wadham wrote to Mr Cameron and senior cabinet ministers expressing "serious concerns about the lawfulness of the guidance...and to request its amendment".
In separate letters to the heads of MI5 and MI6, Commission chairman Trevor Phillips said the advice was "unhelpful" to officers on the ground and could unwittingly leave them "personally liable for aiding and abetting torture".
The watchdog warned Mr Cameron that it intended to exercise its legal right to issue judicial review proceedings "if no satisfactory response" was received by a deadline of 5pm this Thursday, September 30.
The Government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile, criticised the commission for proposing to use taxpayers' money on a court case: "What I'm concerned about is the use of taxpayers' money by the EHRC to sue the Government. I would have thought that the EHRC could use taxpayers' money more beneficially by putting in a submission to Sir Peter Gibson."