British rights groups, lawyers boycott torture inquiry

4th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

British rights groups and lawyers said Thursday they would boycott an inquiry into alleged secret service involvement in the torture of terror suspects, accusing it of lacking credibility.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and legal charity Reprieve were among 10 groups which said they would not submit any more evidence or attend further preparatory meetings for the inquiry, which is yet to start.

"We were keen to assist the inquiry in the vital work of establishing the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad," they said in a joint letter.

"Our strong view, however, is that the process currently proposed does not have the credibility or transparency to achieve this."

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry last year to address allegations that secret services were complicit in the torture of violent extremists on foreign soil after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Led by retired judge Peter Gibson, it will begin after the completion of police investigations into alleged British complicity in torture.

Calls for a probe mounted after a British court decided in February last year to allow the publication of previously classified details about the treatment of British resident Binyam Mohamed.

Ethiopian-born Mohamed, who was represented by Reprieve, alleged he was tortured with the knowledge of British security services in Pakistan and Morocco.

In their letter Thursday, the rights groups criticised the inquiry's terms of reference published last month.

Under the terms, the final decision on whether to put material uncovered by the inquiry into the public domain will rest with the government. In addition, former detainees and their lawyers will not be able to question intelligence officials.

"We are particularly disappointed that the issue of what material may be disclosed to the public will not be determined independently of government," the rights groups said.

"Further, that there will be no meaningful participation of the former and current detainees and other interested third parties."

In a second letter, solicitors who represent former Guantanamo Bay detainees also said they would not participate in the inquiry.

"We consider it impossible to advise those whom we represent that the structure and protocols now confirmed for the Gibson inquiry can achieve what are essential ingredients for a public inquiry into grave state crimes," it said.

The letter was signed by leading British human rights lawyers, including Gareth Peirce and Imran Khan.

The inquiry said it regretted the decision but insisted it would go ahead.

Mohamed's is the most prominent case of alleged complicity by British agents in torture.

He spent time in Afghanistan in 2001 before being detained in Pakistan the following year, where he claims he was interrogated by an officer from British security service MI5 whose role was to support US interrogators.

He was later transferred to Morocco, where he alleges he was tortured by local officers who asked him questions supplied by British agents.

He was then imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for more than four years before being released last year.

Allegations have also been made of British involvement in the extrajudicial transfer, or rendition, of terror suspects between countries.

Britain insists it does not participate in, encourage or support the use of torture.

© 2011 AFP

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