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Announcement on prosecutions underlines detainee inquiry's 'paramount importance'

Responding to today’s announcement from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Metropolitan Police Service that the Crown Prosecution Service will not be charging identified individuals employed by the Security and Intelligence Agencies in relation to allegations of criminal conduct relating to detainees held overseas, Amnesty International UK Policy Adviser Tara Lyle said today:

“Today’s decision just underlines the significance of the ‘Detainee Inquiry’, making it of paramount importance that it is thorough, effective and properly conducted.

“The police investigations are necessarily narrow in scope and only considered whether there was a realistic prospect of a conviction of an identified individual on the criminal standard of proof.

“The need to properly investigate the UK’s broader international responsibility for violations of its human rights obligations in relation to these matters remains

“The key means of cleaning this up after numerous allegations that British officials were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad is an inquiry, which would be more far-ranging and look at systemic issues, including both individual cases and the broader policy and practices of the Agencies.  

“The really worrying thing is that the Detainee Inquiry in its present form simply isn’t up to the job.

“Given the international nature of these allegations, it is also concerning that other governments appear not to have fully cooperated with the CPS investigation, contrary to their own international obligations.”

The present arrangements for the Detainee Inquiry to be heard before Sir Peter Gibson mean it will not be seeking evidence from overseas (despite the international nature of the alleged abuses), and will have no powers to demand the release of documents or compel witnesses to give evidence.

Meanwhile, even the individuals who allege that the UK was involved in their torture or in other human rights violations have no status in the proceedings beyond that of other witnesses or ordinary members of the public. Neither they nor their lawyers will be able to see secret material or testimony relating to what happened to them.

In a letter to the Detainee Inquiry in August last year, Amnesty and nine other organisations said that because the proposed inquiry “does not have the credibility or transparency” to ensure “the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad” is brought to light - the organisations have said they do not intend to submit any evidence or to attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.

The letter made it clear that the inquiry’s “Terms of Reference and Protocol” would not comply with the government’s own international obligations to properly investigate torture.

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