Britain gives details of secret service torture probe

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Britain unveiled details Tuesday of a judicial inquiry into claims its security services were complicit in the torture of suspected violent extremists after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that the probe, to be led by retired judge Sir Peter Gibson, was expected to start before the end of the year and should report within 12 months.

He also announced plans to look again at how British courts handle intelligence and admitted that relations with the United States had been "strained" over the disclosure of secret information.

In February, a British court ordered publication of previously secret information about US interrogators' treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who is a British resident, to the White House's dismay.

"While there is no evidence that any British officer was directly engaged in torture in the aftermath of 9/11, there are questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done," Cameron said.

"The longer these questions remain unanswered, the bigger the stain on our reputation as a country that believes in freedom, fairness and human rights grows."

Cameron also announced publication for the first time of guidance for intelligence and military personnel on how to deal with detainees held by other countries.

This includes a stipulation that British agents "must never take any action where they know or believe that torture will occur".

He additionally indicated that compensation could be offered to people who have brought civil court actions over their treatment at Guantanamo.

Cameron's coalition government, which took power in May, had already indicated it wanted to hold the inquiry, which has also been backed by human rights organisations like Amnesty International, but his statement outlined how it would work for the first time.

© 2010 AFP

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