MI6 consulted David Miliband on interrogations - cause for concern?

The Guardian’s front page today carries some interesting allegations that that David Miliband, when he was Foreign Secretary, personally authorised interrogations of detainees in countries with poor human rights records.

Apparently he spent two hours yesterday at the FCO, scrutinising the papers from several cases where detainees alleged torture. Acording to a statement he then issued, he could find no trace of his ever having authorised MI6 interrogation of three particular detainees who were tortured in Bangladesh and Egypt.

This statement is carefully worded. While Mr Miliband clearly states that torture is abhorrent and illegal, and that he didn't authorise detention or torture in these three specific cases, the question remains whether he gave the green light to receiving information from others, or gave the go-ahead to MI6 interrogations, in other cases when the Foreign Office would have good reason to believe – or even knew – that detainees had been tortured.

What’s more, international law requires the UK (and other states) to actively prevent torture, not just to avoid doing it themselves or condoning it from others.

What this story does show – other than that the battle for Labour Party leadership is perhaps turning nasty – is that decisions on individual interrogations went right to the top of government.

The Gibson Inquiry recently announced by David Miliband’s successor William Hague, into UK involvement in human rights abuses against detainees held overseas since 2001, must have strong powers to question ministers and MI6 personnel and access all relevant information, in order to get to the truth about the UK's policies and practices.

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