UN condemns Britain for role in torture cases
Britain was condemned last night for its complicity in the American programme of rendition and alleged torture of hundreds of terror suspects, in a highly critical United Nations report.
The UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin said the US was only able to create its system for moving terror suspects around foreign jails because of the co-operation of allies, naming the UK alongside Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Canada and Georgia.
The report led to a clamour of calls for a full and independent investigation into the Government's involvement in the detention and movement of suspects since the start of the "war on terror" eight years ago.
Mr Scheinin's findings follow accusations made by British resident Binyam Mohamed, who claims to have evidence of MI5 telegrams sent to the CIA, which he says were used to direct his alleged torture during his 18-month detention in Morocco, before he was sent to the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Some individuals faced "prolonged and secret detention" and practices which breached bans on torture and other forms of ill treatment, the report says.
"Evidence proves that Australian, British and US intelligence personnel have themselves interviewed detainees who were held incommunicado by the Pakistani secret intelligence service ... where they were being tortured," the report concludes. "UK intelligence personnel, for instance, conducted or witnessed just over 2,000 interviews in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq."
Mr Scheinin says countries are "responsible" if they help other states carry out human rights violations.
"Grave human rights violations by states such as torture, enforced disappearances or arbitrary detention should place serious constraints on policies of co-operation by states, including by their intelligence agencies, with states that are known to violate human rights," he said. "The prohibition against torture is an absolute and peremptory norm of international law. States must not aid or assist in the commission of acts of torture ... including by relying on intelligence information obtained through torture,"
The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Ed Davey, called on the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, to make a decision now on whether to ask the police to investigate Mr Mohamed's allegations. He added: "It is shameful that we now seem to be reliant on outside organisations to uphold the rule of law in our own country."
The Conservative national security spokeswoman, Baroness Neville-Jones of Hutton Roof, said: "Constant allegations which are not answered are damaging the good name of this country and undermining the credibility of the Government's position that it neither practises nor condones torture."
Along with Romania, Poland, Germany and Italy, Britain is accused of using laws designed to protect national security to "conceal illegal acts from oversight bodies or judicial authorities, or to protect itself from criticism, embarrassment and – most importantly – liability".
The Foreign Office said: "We unreservedly condemn any practice of 'extraordinary rendition' to torture. We have always condemned torture. The UK Government, including its intelligence and security agencies, never uses torture for any purpose, including obtaining information. Nor would we instigate action by others to do so."