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Guantanamo payments 'necessary'

Secret payouts to 16 former detainees held at Guantanamo Bay are necessary to enable the security services to concentrate on protecting Britain and will pave the way for an inquiry into allegations of torture, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has said.

Weeks of negotiations have led to a settlement which will avoid the need for protracted legal battles that could have run up a bill of £50 million over the next five years, Mr Clarke said.

But shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan asked for details of the payments, saying there was a "public interest in knowing the total sums involved in this settlement".

The deal, which is subject to a legally binding confidentiality agreement, was reached after Prime Minister David Cameron gave the go-ahead for the talks, saying the intelligence and security services were being "paralysed with paperwork" from individuals pursuing civil cases.

"No admissions of culpability have been made," Mr Clarke said. The detainees' allegations included claims that the Government knew they were being illegally transferred to Guantanamo Bay but failed to prevent it.

The settlement of the claims will pave the way for an independent judge-led inquiry into allegations of British complicity in the torture of detainees held by other countries in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks.

Police inquires were still ongoing, Mr Clarke said, but it is hoped former Appeal Court judge Sir Peter Gibson will start the inquiry's work by the end of this year and report within 12 months.

The Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, and the Security Service, MI5, said the settlement will allow both agencies "to concentrate on protecting national security".

Binyam Mohamed, Bishar Al Rawi, Jamil El Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga are said to be among the 16 former detainees receiving settlements. Not all are British nationals, with some said to be asylum seekers.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "This settlement could bring a broader inquiry and the end of the torture scandal a little bit closer. But if the slow, morale-sapping bleed of revelation and litigation is to end, the Gibson process must have all the power and authority of a court."


From Belfast Telegraph