UK must play no role in Trump torture – Reprieve
January 26, 2017
The Prime Minister must ensure the UK plays no role in a revived US torture programme, human rights organization Reprieve has warned today, after President Trump said that he believes ‘torture works.’
Mrs May was questioned in Parliament yesterday ahead of a meeting with the President later this week, but did not say whether she would raise Britain’s opposition to torture during her trip.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson pointed to the UK’s torture policy – known as the ‘Consolidated Guidance’ – in response to questions from reporters. However, the Government recently scrapped statutory oversight of the policy, meaning there is no independent body tasked with ensuring it is applied.
The policy itself contains loopholes: it does not require the agencies to inform ministers when they know or expect Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CIDT) to take place. It also allows the agencies to continue working with torturers if they believe they can “mitigate risk” through “reliable reassurances.”
Mr Trump has said he intends to revive waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse.” In yesterday’s interview with ABC, the President reiterated his belief that torture “works”, and said he was “surprised” to find that his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is “not a believer in torture.”
In 2014, the US Senate’s Intelligence and Security Select Committee issued a report on the Bush Administration’s use of torture. The Committee’s conclusion was that the use of torture was “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.”
The British Government was subsequently forced to admit that it had sought redactions to material contained in the report which related to the UK, with then-Home Secretary Theresa May facing questions from the Home Affairs Committee on the matter.
In 2010, then-Prime Minister David Cameron established a judge-led, independent inquiry into British complicity in torture, but this was subsequently shelved and then scrapped altogether.
Commenting, Katie Taylor, a Deputy Director at Reprieve, said:
“The use of torture by the US – with the help of allies including the UK – marked a shameful chapter in our recent past, and did nothing to make us safer. Ministers have pointed to the UK’s policy against torture – but the reality is that this policy is riddled with loopholes and lacks any independent oversight. Theresa May must make clear to President Trump that the UK will play no part in a revived torture programme – and she must strengthen the Government’s torture policy to guard against the mistakes of the past.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org
2. A briefing on the UK’s current torture policy, the ‘Consolidated Guidance,’ can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2016_12_15_PUB-note-on-Consolidated-Guidance.pdf