Today’s decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to charge anyone in relation to its investigation into UK officials’ involvement in the rendition to Libya of Sami al Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj and their families in 2004 further highlights the need for an independent enquiry, said Amnesty International today.
Responding to the decision Amnesty International UK’s Legal Programme Director Rachel Logan said:
“Today’s decision underscores the need for an independent inquiry that is thorough, effective and can get to the bottom of the grave allegations of UK involvement in rendition and torture.
“The police investigations were narrow in scope - focussed on whether they felt there was a realistic prospect of convicting an identified individual, to the criminal standard of proof, in these cases; the need properly to investigate the UK's responsibility for violations of its human rights obligations in relation to these matters remains.
“The previous and wholly flawed detainee inquiry was shut down early because of these ongoing criminal prosecutions, leaving serious unanswered questions behind.
“That obstacle has now been lifted and a new effective independent inquiry must be established. Any plan for further enquiry to be carried out by the underpowered and secretive Intelligence and Security Committee is woefully inadequate. The families have suffered enough. It’s time for the truth.”
On 12 January 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Metropolitan Police Service announced it would be launching a criminal investigation into the rendition and torture and ill-treatment of Sami al Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj in 2004. As a result of this decision the Detainee Inquiry was brought to a close in light of new criminal investigations into alleged UK involvement in the rendition to Libya of Sami al Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj in 2004.
The Detainee Inquiry was established to investigation allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations with respect to individuals detained abroad in the context of counter-terrorism operations.
In the period that followed the establishment of the Detainee Inquiry, chaired by the retired judge Sir Peter Gibson, Amnesty - along with several other NGOs - repeatedly raised concerns about the inquiry’s failure to discharge the UK’s international legal obligation to ensure a full, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment. In particular, NGOs highlighted the need for an independent mechanism for determining what material should be disclosed
Following the closure of the Detainee Inquiry, the Prime Minister announced that the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) would examine the allegations of UK complicity in the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held overseas. The ISC has previously failed to fully investigate - or was not provided adequate information to fully investigate - prior allegations of torture, ill-treatment, rendition and surveillance in the context of counter-terrorism and national security. Despite some changes to the ISC (as part of the Justice and Security Act 2013), the government still retains the right to withhold information from the ISC where material is considered to be “sensitive” or on grounds of national security (Schedule 1 (4)(5)). Sensitive information includes information provided by a foreign intelligence agency which objects to its further disclosure.
Amnesty and a number of other NGOs have publically stated that they do not consider it appropriate to provide further information to the ISC investigation.
The UK government has stated that following the outcome of the ISC investigation it will take a view as to whether a further judicial inquiry remains necessary to add any further information of value to future policy making and the national interest