Torture Inquiry: Survivors sidelined in secretive process
The publication of the terms of reference and protocol on evidence for the so-called 'Detainee Inquiry' – investigating allegations of British complicity in torture of those detained at Guantánamo and elsewhere in the counter-terror context – has reinforced fears that Sir Peter Gibson's inquiry will be a secretive process that sidelines the torture survivors.
Freedom from Torture regrets that despite months of warnings from human rights organisations and lawyers for the survivors about the need for a truly public process, the government has bowed to pressure from the security services and reserved for itself the final say on how much evidence can be shared with the survivors themselves and the British public. This move has seriously undermined the inquiry before it has even begun.
Freedom from Torture CEO, Keith Best, expressed his concern in light of the disappointing news.
"It is impossible to draw a line under this episode if the survivors themselves are robbed of justice through excessive secrecy. The rules make it clear that the survivors will be shut out whilst crucial testimony is taken from those involved in their torture, whilst their lawyers have been excluded from debates about what evidence can be made public. The government has effectively ignored the advice of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, who visited the UK recently and urged that this inquiry must be 'victim-centred'."
Effective participation of survivors in investigations relating to torture is also a clear requirement of international law, but the government has repeatedly denied that the inquiry has been set up to comply with any international legal duties.
Keith Best added:
"It is plainly contradictory for the Prime Minister to state that a key task of this inquiry is to restore the UK's reputation as a country that believes in human rights and the rule of law, while government lawyers tell the inquiry to ignore international human rights standards on how investigations into allegations relating to torture must be run. If the government is serious about re-establishing the UK's credentials as an upholder of the torture ban, it must deliver an inquiry that complies with international law."