Torture inquiry must reveal the truth
As the terms of the inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture are announced, Medical Foundation CEO, Keith Best, speaks about the need for the government to signify the UK's condemnation for torture through deeds as well as words.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of ensuring that we fully investigate the allegations of UK complicity in the torture of terror suspects.
At the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, we deal with the blunt reality of torture, day-in, day-out. Our client's suffering, scars and evident psychological damage tell of the legacy of this abhorrent practice that is sadly committed around the world with impunity. We see daily evidence that proves without a concerted effort to hold perpetrators to account, torture will never be prevented.
The UK government must play its part in signalling to the rest of the world that we will not be part of this vicious cycle and demonstrate, head-on, our condemnation for torture through our deeds as well as our words.
In William Hague's speech last week, in which he began to lay out the new coalition government's foreign policy, it was encouraging to note that the Foreign Secretary recognises the absolute importance of ensuring the UK's "consistent support for human rights". I was also pleased to hear him acknowledge that, once we veer away from what he described as acting with "moral authority", it then becomes very difficult to restore. This is indeed the task that the new government has ahead of it.
The Medical Foundation has long-called for a comprehensive, independent and transparent judicial inquiry into complicity in torture in the "war on terror'; I hope the announcement that it will be led by Sir Peter Gibson will preserve its impartiality and give it the impetus to reveal the truth.
It is of course too early to say whether the inquiry will be broad enough to ensure thorough scrutiny of complicity at all levels of government and the security services - and indeed, then, what will be presented to the public. It is vital that as much information as possible is released into the public domain, not only to allow the British people the scrutiny they deserve, but to send a strong message to countries around the world that the UK will not tolerate torture in any form.
The impact on the individuals with which this inquiry is concerned should not be forgotten. The spurious justification that the "normal rules don't apply' to alleged terror suspects is without foundation. Torture, regardless of the circumstances, can never be justified. The terms of the inquiry must enable full participation for survivors of torture and allow them to deliver testimony publically, whilst also ensuring they receive the appropriate clinical, legal and logistical support.
As a clinical organisation, we are also particularly concerned that the inquiry terms allow for consideration of any allegations of involvement by British clinicians in planning, supervising or advising on alleged torture practices.
If this inquiry does expose any complicity in torture by the British authorities then the true test will be still to come. Only after those responsible for complicity in torture face prosecution, will the government and security services be able to move forward with confidence, and only then will the UK's reputation be restored.