‘No10 is acting like it’s afraid to turn over too many stones for fear of what it might find underneath’ - Kate Allen
Amnesty International and eight other human rights organisations have written to the Prime Minister David Cameron calling on him to establish a judge-led inquiry into the UK’s alleged involvement in rendition and torture.
Amid fresh concern at the scale of US torture since the publication last week of a Senate Intelligence Committee report into CIA torture, the nine organisations (see signatories below) are insisting that the present parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) investigation into the issue is insufficient to allay public concern or to deliver justice.
Referring to the ISC investigation and an earlier “Gibson” inquiry, the letter insists that “neither the ISC, nor its unfinished predecessor under Sir Peter Gibson, came up to the mark” over what was needed to address the issue. The letter says that the government “rightly came into office determined to get to the bottom of this issue”, but notes what it says is a “failure as a country to put our own house in order”.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“David Cameron needs to listen to what people from all over the country are saying - that we need an independent, judge-led inquiry with real powers to get to the bottom of this issue.
“The British public is being fobbed off with an under-powered inquiry from the Intelligence and Security Committee. It’s a cop-out and everyone can see that it is.
“Credible allegations of UK complicity in torture are a festering sore.
“No10 is acting like it’s afraid to turn over too many stones for fear of what it might find underneath.
“David Cameron should honour the commitment he made in 2010 when he promised the public an independent, judge-led investigation - no ifs, no buts.”
The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister is below.
Over 23,000 people have supported a new petition calling for the UK government to hold a fully independent judge-led inquiry into UK involvement in rendition and torture. See: www.amnesty.org.uk/torture-inquiry
Text of letter to Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister,
We write as a coalition of human rights NGOs to jointly urge you to establish an inquiry into UK involvement in rendition and torture, with the powers and independence it needs to get to the truth, and a mechanism to allow the meaningful participation of victims.
As we have liaised with your Government previously on the characteristics necessary for a meaningful and effective inquiry, we will not go into those in detail again. However, we attach our recent letter to the Intelligence and Security Committee, and would simply note that neither the ISC, nor its unfinished predecessor under Sir Peter Gibson, came up to the mark.
As you will know, we welcomed your announcement in July 2010 that an independent, judge-led inquiry was to be established, and sought for a long period to come to agreement with the Government on its protocol and terms of reference. Ultimately, and unfortunately, we found ministers unwilling to make the necessary compromises for Sir Peter Gibson’s inquiry to gain our confidence.
We would note at this point that the ISC falls yet further short of the necessary standards - and in saying so, we are taking into account the minor changes to the ISC made by the Justice and Security Act 2013. And in any case, it is undeniable that its current workload means that it will be unable to complete its inquiry within the necessary timeframe for a matter of such importance.
But more importantly, we would like to remind you of your 2010 statement which in our view was correct - that is:
“I do not think for a moment that we should believe that the ISC should be doing this piece of work. For public confidence, and for independence from parliament, party and government, it is right to have a judge-led inquiry.”
Your Government rightly came into office determined to get to the bottom of this issue, something crucial not only for accountability but also to restore Britain’s reputation in the world. Yet last week’s publication of the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has highlighted not only the horrors of the CIA’s torture programme, but also the UK’s failure as a country to put our own house in order.
We therefore urge you to deliver on your promise of an independent, judge-led inquiry with the powers necessary to get to the truth, before next year’s General Election. We are all of course willing to meet with you, your ministers or officials to discuss again what form of inquiry is necessary to ensure this.
We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
Clare Algar, Executive Director, Reprieve
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
Shami Chakrabarti, Director, Liberty
Andrea Coomber, Director, JUSTICE
Matthew Evans, Director, The AIRE Centre
Carla Ferstman, Director, Redress
Susan Munroe, Chief Executive, Freedom from Torture
Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director, Cage
Hanne Stevens, Director (Interim), Rights Watch (UK)