4 Aug 2011

Campaigners plan torture inquiry boycott

Human rights campaigners are threatening to boycott an inquiry into allegations British terrorism suspects were illegally tortured on foreign soil. They say the inquiry is flawed.

Guantanamo - Getty

The inquiry, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in July last year and headed by senior judge Peter Gibson, will look into allegations made by several Britons of Pakistani descent that they were tortured in custody in Pakistan with complicity from British officials.

It will also look at allegations of mistreatment of those held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The authorities say they would never use, or encourage others to use, torture to obtain information and Mr Cameron said it was important that the inquiry cleared up any questions of wrongdoing and restored Britain’s moral standing.

Disappointed at secrecy

In a letter to the inquiry, which is headed by senior judge Peter Gibson, 10 groups including Amnesty International, Reprieve and Liberty said they were disappointed about a number of aspects of the torture inquiry, including the fact that the Government would remain involved in decisions on what material could be publicly disclosed.

The general public is likely to be denied the opportunity to learn what went wrong during this dark chapter in our history. Amnesty International’s Tara Lyle

Amnesty International UK Policy Advisor Tara Lyle said: “This is a desperately-needed inquiry into extremely serious allegations but the arrangements for it are secretive, unfair and deeply flawed.

“We need an inquiry that is as open and effective as possible, not this semi-secret process that lacks scope and ambition.

“Those that suffered terrible abuse are set to be let down by this inquiry, while the general public is likely to be denied the opportunity to learn what went wrong during this dark chapter in our history.”

Years of waiting

Lawyers are also concerned that there would also be no meaningful involvement of former and current detainees.

Tayab Ali of Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, the lawyer for alleged torture victims Rangzieb Ahmed and Salahuddin Amin, said: “It is unfortunate that we have waited many years for a public inquiry, only to be informed that we could not have effective participation in the process. My clients have been the victims of horrific mistreatment and it is in the public interest to uncover the extent of British complicity in what was done to them.”

The inquiry team issued a statement saying they would go ahead with their work and hoped the groups would reconsider their decision not to submit any evidence or attend any further meetings.

“The inquiry offers the detainees and anyone else with evidence relevant to its terms of reference the only opportunity for them to give evidence to an independent inquiry,” the statement added.