Government to announce final torture inquiry decision ‘this week’

July 15, 2019

Image of Belhaj giving his apology to the parliament

The Government will make a definitive statement setting out its decision about a judge led enquiry later this week, de facto Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington MP announced today in Parliament.

The commitment came in response to an Urgent Question asked by Kenneth Clarke MP, who noted that it is ten years since then-Prime Minister David Cameron committed to holding a fully independent judge-led inquiry into British complicity in US rendition and torture, and over a year since Theresa May’s Government announced it would decide within 60 days whether or not to hold such an inquiry.

In response to Mr Lidington’s announcement David Davis MP told the House of Commons:

“It’s clear that from the PM’s apology to the Libyan victims alone that the British Government came perilously close to a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids torture, but also its facilitation or complicity in it.” And that “If we do not get an independent judge-led inquiry in the statement later this week, I will seek advice on whether we have broken those articles and if need be take the proper judicial mechanisms to make sure the Government is put back within the bounds of the law.”

In 2012 Kenneth Clarke, at the time Justice Secretary, announced that he was scrapping the so-called ‘Gibson Inquiry’ after NGOs including Reprieve boycotted it on the basis that the vast majority of the inquiry would be held in secret and thus unable to fully investigate victim claims.

In 2014, the Government announced an inquiry run by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), but in delivering its report the ISC accepted its findings could only be treated as provisional, as Downing Street has blocked it from interviewing multiple witnesses.

Despite this, both inquiries resulted in a drip-feed of information about the hundreds of cases in which the UK was complicit in CIA torture and rendition, suggesting there is more information that remains hidden.

Dan Dolan, Deputy Director at Reprieve, said: “The Government has twice launched inquiries which fell short of its own commitments and obligations under domestic and international law. Will the statement this week be third time lucky or will victims of torture and rendition be let down again? Only an independent, judge-led inquiry, with full powers to interview witnesses and secure all the evidence, can draw a line under this dark period of Britain’s recent history – and ensure it does not become a part of this country’s future.” 

ENDS