Government U-turn on torture inquiry promise “scandalous”

December 19, 2013

Image of Barbed wire

Commenting on the publication of the preliminary work of the Gibson Inquiry into UK rendition in torture, and the announcement by Cabinet Office Minister Ken Clarke that the Government will no longer hold a judge-led inquiry into the issue but will instead pass the issue to the Intelligence and Security Committee, Clare Algar, Executive Director of legal charity Reprieve said:

“These findings show just how crucial it is that a fully independent and transparent inquiry is held into the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition.

“It is therefore scandalous that the Government has u-turned on its long-standing promise to hold a judge-led inquiry into torture, and is instead handing this to a committee of MPs which has consistently failed to provide real oversight of the security services.

“The Intelligence and Security Committee gave the agencies a clean bill of health on rendition, three years after MI6 orchestrated the kidnap and rendition to torture of Gaddafi opponents, along with their wives and young children.  When they called the intelligence chiefs to appear before them last month, it emerged that they were provided the questions in advance.

“The ISC has demonstrated neither the independence nor the ability needed to ensure this investigation will be anything more than a whitewash.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 /

2. On 6th July 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that “[An] independent Inquiry, led by a  judge, will be held. It will look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11.”

3. The Lib Dems’ 2010 Manifesto pledged to “Hold a full judicial inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture and state kidnapping as part of a process to restore Britain’s reputation for decency and fairness.” See p68

4. In 2007, 3 years after MI6 helped organise the rendition to torture of Libyan dissidents Sami al Saadi, along with his wife and four children aged 12 or under, and Abdelhakim Belhadj, along with his pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar, the ISC produced a report which said there as “no evidence that the UK Agencies were complicit in any “Extraordinary Rendition” operations.” – see p29 of report here:

5. In Parliament last November, George Howarth, a member of the ISC, admitted they hadn’t looked into the Prism/GCHQ revelations until it had been reported in the Guardian:

Mr Watson: I am reassured by my right hon. Friend’s thoroughness in the investigation. Was July the first time that the Committee had examined Prism, and was that after the Guardian revelations? [Laughter.]

Mr Howarth: It was after the Guardian revelations.

6. The ISC’s questioning of the heads of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in November was described as a “total pantomime,” after it emerged the questions were provided to them in advance: