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New Amnesty briefing urges full inquiry to end secrecy over UK abuse involvement

Amnesty International today (23 March) released a new briefing outlining its call for a full, independent and impartial inquiry into UK involvement in human rights abuses overseas post-11 September 2001. The briefing outlines ten key questions that an inquiry should seek to answer.

Amnesty International UK Head of Policy and Government Affairs, Jeremy Croft, said:

“Our briefing today sets out the arguments for a full, independent and wide-ranging inquiry into the UK’s involvement in human rights abuses like renditions, unlawful detentions and torture overseas post-11 September 2001.

“There is compelling evidence that the UK has been involved in these human rights violations. Yet the government’s response has been one of denial and of hiding behind a wall of secrecy.

“It has shown no real commitment whatsoever to principles of transparency and accountability. The government is attempting to have victims’ civil court cases, concerning credible evidence of the UK's involvement in human rights violations, heard in secret.

“The UK has a duty under domestic and international human rights law to conduct such an inquiry. But moreover, the public needs to be assured that UK personnel are acting within the law and with respect for basic human rights.”

Amnesty's briefing states that an inquiry should seek to answer, at a minimum, the following questions:

1. What have been the UK government’s policies and practices in response to grave violations of human rights such as torture or other ill-treatment, enforced
disappearances, renditions and unlawful detentions perpetrated by the USA and other states against people, including UK nationals, held overseas since 11 September 2001? Have they changed since then? If so, when, how and why?

2. In relation to seeking to obtain, receiving and using information that may have been extracted under torture or otherwise obtained unlawfully, what was the UK government’s policy and practice prior to 11 September 2001? Have these changed since then? If so, when, how and why?

3. What steps did the UK government take when in 2003 the ICRC first raised concern about grave human rights abuses at the hands of Coalition Forces in Iraq, including in relation to torture practices at Abu Ghraib?

4. What were the terms of the agreement/s the UK signed at the request of the US administration in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 purportedly under the principle of collective defence under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty?1

5. Were there further bilateral secret agreements on cooperation in the context of the US-led “war on terror” between the UK and the USA, and if so, what did they entail?

6. What oversight mechanisms were in place to ensure that adequate record-keeping was maintained with respect to counter-terrorism policy and practices? In cases where record-keeping was poor or non-existent, how does the government explain these inadequacies?

7. How many times since 11 September 2001, and precisely in what circumstances, have authorisations under section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 been issued?

8. What was the guidance regarding the role of the security services in the treatment and interviewing of detainees held overseas prior to 11 September 2001? Has it changed since then? And if so, when, how many times, in what respects and why?

9. What has been the role of military intelligence agencies and agents in all and any of the above?

10. What has been the role of lawyers and civil servants in all and any of the above?

Read the report (pdf)

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