Prime Minister rejects fresh calls for independent torture probe

June 29, 2016

Image of Barbed wire

The British Prime Minister today refused to re-establish an independent, judge-led inquiry into UK involvement in the CIA torture programme – despite having promised on taking office in 2010 to do so.

Earlier this month, British prosecutors published the first official confirmation that the Government had been involved in the kidnap and ‘rendition’ of two families to Libya, and that ‘political authority’ had been sought in some form.  However, despite having received a 28,000 page file from London’s Metropolitan Police after a five-year investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to charge any suspect.

Today, Alistair Carmichael MP asked the Prime Minister whether, in the wake of the decision not to prosecute, he would “reconstitute” a judge-led inquiry into torture.  David Cameron had promised and set up such an inquiry in July 2010, shortly after taking office – however, it was wound up by the Government in 2012, before it could finish its work.  Its objectives have since been passed to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which is subject to a Government veto on all evidence it can see—and what it can publish.

In 2010, Mr Cameron told Parliament that “I do not think for a moment that we should believe that the ISC should be doing this piece of work,” adding that “For public confidence, and for independence from Parliament, party and Government, it is right to have a judge-led inquiry.”

However, today he claimed that “the right approach…is [that] the ISC has agreed to look at these issues…and I think they should continue to do so.”

The issue will be further discussed by MPs this evening, when they hold an adjournment debate on UK involvement in rendition.

While the CPS has announced that it does not intend to prosecute anyone, the victims of the 2004 Libyan renditions – which include four children who were aged 12 and under at the time, and a woman who was heavily pregnant – have demanded an independent review into the decision.  However, The Times recently reported concerns that the review will be carried out by CPS staff junior to those who made the original decision not to prosecute.

Commenting, Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and lawyer for the Libyan families said:

“The Prime Minister  said the ISC were not up to the job in 2010—and he was right. They failed to spot the abduction of two families happening right under their noses. The blinders the Government rules put on them, and the Government veto on any reporting, means that they have not a snowball’s chance of finding and publishing the truth.


“Still in Britain there has been zero accountability for torture.  It boggles the mind how the CPS saw a 28,000-page investigative file produced by diligent police as ‘insufficient.’ Their decision didn’t even get the victims’ names right, they’ve walked back their offer to meet the victims, and they have handed the review to people who answer to the two prosecutors who already made the decision. The CPS has left MI6 a law unto itself. We very much fear that the whole review will be one fat rubber stamp.


“We need an independent review of the CPS’ decision and a truly independent inquiry into how the Government allowed our country to become shamefully involved in CIA torture.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2. The following is a transcript of today’s exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions:

Alistair Carmichael MP: Before he goes though, will he attend to one matter that when he was in opposition he described as doing enormous damage to the moral authority of our country, and that is the involvement of our security services in rendition.  Now that the CPS have decided they are not going to prosecute Sir Mark Allen for what he did, will he reconstitute the Gibson Inquiry so we can know what was done in our name and on whose authority?

David Cameron: …He raises an important point about the Libya rendition issue. The Government cooperated fully with the police investigation into these cases, the CPS set out their position recently concluding there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.  I would say – and I can say these things now – I think there are very few countries in the world that would have had such an independent and thorough investigation into an issue like this.  I think the right approach, as Sir Peter Gibson finished the report of what  he was able to do, is the ISC has agreed to look at these issues raised in his report and I think they should continue to do so.