Torture Inquiry criticised as ‘deficient’ as key anti-Gaddafi figure withdraws

January 6, 2012

Image of a prison cell window with bars

Human rights groups, including Reprieve, have today criticised the Government’s Detainee Inquiry as ‘deficient’ and lacking in the necessary powers to get to the truth about Britain’s involvement in torture and rendition.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the groups state that “the powers currently given to the Inquiry are seriously deficient and that it will be unable to properly fulfil the UK’s human rights obligations.”

The group – which includes UN mandate-holders, former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, leading academics in international law and directors of several human rights organisations – has urged the government to remedy key shortcomings in the way the Inquiry will operate to ensure an effective and transparent process in which victims can meaningfully participate.

The criticism comes as yet another victim of rendition and torture, Gaddafi opponent Abdul Hakim Belhadj, has made it clear that he will not participate in the Inquiry due to its clear shortcomings. Mr Belhadj, who was rendered along with his pregnant wife back to Gaddafi’s Libya by the UK and the CIA, is the latest in a long list of survivors to refuse to participate in the Inquiry.

Key flaws include the government reserving for itself the final say on what material is published, rather than an independent mechanism. In its current form, the Inquiry will allow no opportunity for survivors or their representatives to cross examine or otherwise test evidence from members of the UK security services, almost all of which will be given secretly.

Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said:  “We have all attempted to engage constructively with this inquiry for as long as we felt was possible, but the sad fact is that this got us nowhere. An inquiry as inadequate as the one currently established risks a whitewash that will do more harm than good – not least in terms of restoring public trust and Britain’s reputation around the world. We can only hope that the Prime Minister listens, sees sense, and gives this inquiry the clout it needs to really make a difference.”

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 10822. 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 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.