Inquiry will not get to truth about torture unless Prime Minister acts now

February 24, 2011

Reprieve is alarmed that the panel setting up the UK inquiry into torture complicity has refused to abide by international and domestic legal standards, claiming that it is bound only by what Prime Minister David Cameron has told it to do.

Ahead of a key meeting between the inquiry panel and the Prime Minister, nine NGOs have written an urgent joint letter warning that the inquiry must make dramatic changes to its structure “to prevent any appearance of [the government’s] ongoing collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts”.

The inquiry, set up by Prime Minister David Cameron and led by former Intelligence Services Commissioner Sir Peter Gibson, appears doomed to fail due to extraordinary restrictions proposed by the government. They include an insistence that neither ex-detainees, nor their lawyers, will be able to hear or question the testimony of intelligence officials. The inquiry also lacks powers to compel evidence from government sources or from private individuals and corporations. Much government documentation will be reviewed in secret, with no scrutiny by the public or by victim’s lawyers. Under these circumstances it is difficult to see how the inquiry can possibly get to the truth.

Even more disturbingly, the inquiry relies on the Government to decide what evidence should be kept secret — meaning that its findings may not necessarily be shared with the British public.

Reprieve investigator Tim Cooke-Hurle said: 

“Faced with allegations of serious crime, an Inquiry that reaches its conclusions behind closed doors and on secret evidence cannot have the confidence of the public and victims. Unless the Prime Minister acts promptly, this torture inquiry, set up outside normal legal frameworks, will fail. If the Prime Minister really wants to restore the reputation of British Intelligence, then why waste the opportunity by allowing a whitewash?”

For more information please contact Reprieve’s Press Office info@reprieve.org.uk .

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 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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