Reprieve applauds legal challenge to government torture guidance

September 27, 2010

Reprieve fully supports the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s warning to the British government about the legality of its guidance for intelligence agents.

The current guidance allows government ministers to authorise actions which put prisoners at serious risk of abuse, overriding the concerns of intelligence agents in the field.

Prisoners and intelligence agents are at risk as long as the flawed guidance remains in place, and the Commission is therefore right to threaten legal action.We urge the Coalition Government to address this issue immediately.

Reprieve’s Executive Director Clare Algar said:

“We are delighted that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has taken this very important step to protect the rights of prisoners and British intelligence agents alike.

“The UK’s current guidance on torture is indeed illegal. It contains a glaring loophole allowing government ministers to authorise actions which expose prisoners to abuse, overriding even the most serious concerns of intelligence agents in the field. This is bound to lead to ministers signing off on acts that will get intelligence agents mixed up in torture.

“It is vital that the guidance is amended so that it is in line with international law if we are to avoid future abuses. If the government refuses to amend it, then it is right that the EHRC should step in.”

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.’

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; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner