Reprieve is delighted by reports of a planned inquiry on torture allegations, and has written to the Coalition Government proposing an open and transparent structure under the Inquiries Act 2005

June 29, 2010

Reprieve has today written to the Coalition Government, proposing a structure for a full independent inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture by the British Intelligence and Security Services.

In urgent letters to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Secretary, Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith offers Reprieve’s expertise in helping to design an effective inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.

Reprieve has already written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office twice before with this offer, and insisting that a full reckoning with the past is needed if we are to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them. Following the Baha Mousa inquiry model, we propose a thorough inquiry must be structured along the following lines: 

1)The inquiry must be led by a judge or former judge, with appropriate legal representation on the panel.

2) The inquiry must allow as much evidence as possible to be made public.

3) All relevant documents must be disclosed to the inquiry by the Government, including contemporary legal advice regarding any policies. The inquiry Chair must be authorized to determine which information is made public.

4) The inquiry must encourage the most comprehensive testimony possible. To that end, it must balance various complicated interests. Reprieve has conducted a great deal of legal research on this issue, and we believe that something similar to the Baha Mousa rule, whereby witnesses receive full protection against self-incrimination, is important to ensure that witnesses are forthright.

5) The inquiry must publish a report, making necessary recommendations on law or policy.

The parameters of the inquiry should be along these lines: 

“To investigate complicity in rendition, or torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by HMG since 9/11, as it relates to the treatment of prisoners abroad, without replicating other inquiries; to review the legality and advisability any formal or informal relevant policies, procedures, advice or guidance given by HMG; to consider individual cases to understand the manner in which this guidance has been applied or misapplied; and to make recommendations.”

This provides room for the inquiry to delve into the key questions that remain unanswered, including:

    The evolution of the rules of engagement that were provided to British agents in the field who had to interrogate prisoners in the custody of another state, or who were present at such interrogations.  The rules and practice concerning transfer of individuals in UK custody to the custody of other countries, and the adequacy of any safeguards designed to ensure that the rights of such prisoners were respected.  The rules and practice concerning cooperation with other governments known to be abusing prisoners, whether this involved sharing intelligence concerning prisoners, or submitting questions for them. The rules and practice governing UK involvement in the ‘rendition’ program.- Who was responsible for developing and authorizing these rules.- The extent to which existing mechanisms, including Ministerial accountability and the Intelligence and Security Committee, have been adequately equipped to ensure oversight of the work of the intelligence services.

Reprieve’s Executive Director Clare Algar said:

“Reprieve is delighted by reports of a judge-led inquiry into allegations of torture complicity by our intelligence services and hope that it is as open and transparent as possible. Torture, and complicity in torture, is morally repulsive, counterproductive, and illegal under both national and international law, and these allegations are, sadly, too numerous to ignore. We cannot learn from history, and avoid repeating our mistakes, if we do not know what that history is.”

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099.Notes for Editors:Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email:

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner