Reprieve is seeking the disqualification of Sir Peter Gibson as the judge leading the UK’s inquiry into allegations of torture

July 20, 2010

In a letter copied to the Prime Minister, Reprieve has requested that Sir Peter Gibson step aside as the judge leading the Torture Inquiry, as his impartiality is fatally compromised.

As the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC), it has been Sir Peter’s job for more than four years to oversee the Security Services; he cannot now be the judge whether his own work was effective. Reprieve has identified a number of reasons that his recusal is required:

Firstly, David Miliband has stated publicly that Sir Peter has already conducted a secret inquiry, at the previous government’s request, into allegations of misconduct. Yet because it is secret, none of us may know what his conclusions were.

Secondly, Sir Peter has – in each of his three annual reports – opined that all members of the Security Services are “trustworthy, conscientious and dependable”, thereby entirely prejudging the issues before the inquiry. Contrast this to the criticisms levelled by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

Thirdly, part of Sir Peter’s job, as ISC, was to oversee ministerial authorizations that would allow the Security Services to violate the law abroad, including sanctioning British involvement in abusive interrogations. Since evidence will be presented that such interrogations have continued during Sir Peter’s tenure, he either validated these actions, or he has been hoodwinked as ISC. Either way, he should be a witness at the inquiry.

Clive Stafford Smith, Director, Reprieve, said:

“Welcome though the Torture Inquiry is, the current structure is a sham. Sir Peter Gibson was perhaps the least appropriate judge to evaluate the Security Services. The government must get serious about learning the mistakes of the past, rather than try to cover them up, or we are in for a long, hot summer.”

Omar Deghayes, former Guantánamo Bay prisoner, said: 

“The Inquiry will send a great message to the world that Britain will not tolerate torture – but only if it is clearly separate from the Secret Services and gets to the real truth about what happened. We hope the inquiry helps everyone to come clean about their mistakes, so that we can put them behind us and look to a good future.”

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:

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