Freedom from Torture - Call to Prime Minister May to demand a public inquiry into torture

Call to Prime Minister May to demand a public inquiry into torture

Freedom from Torture has united with other human rights groups to urge Prime Minister Theresa May to hold an independent public inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition. The call comes shortly before the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is expected to release two reports on Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition.

On Wednesday, 13 June, Freedom from Torture joined with co-signatories Amnesty International, Reprieve, Redress, Liberty and Rights Watch (UK) in a letter to Theresa May (PDF), warning against allowing the reports to be heavily redacted before publication.

While our organisations respect the Committee’s diligence and professionalism in carrying out its inquiry, we do not believe a full public reckoning can be achieved through a process involving such stringent Whitehall oversight and institutional secrecy.

The group stated that an ISC investigation, no matter how thorough, was no substitute for a public inquiry and called for an independent public inquiry to help prevent future abuses.

We believe that if the UK is to prevent future cases arising, and speak with credibility against torture overseas, the government must provide for a full public inquiry into the UK’s own involvement in these practices.

Freedom from Torture is particularly concerned that torture survivors should be able to participate in any inquiry and that their testimony should be heard in full. The letter said:

There can be no full reckoning for the UK’s involvement in torture without providing survivors of these practices a sensitive and appropriate forum in which their testimony could be heard. As we stated when the investigations began, the Committee’s scope and structure prevented it from meeting appropriate standards ofopenness, independence, and survivor participation.

The expected publication of the reports comes in the wake of the unprecedented government apology, on 10 May, to Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, Gaddafi opponents, who were kidnapped and rended to Libya in 2004 with the active support of MI6.

Libya Mr Belhaj was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to death. He was released only after the overthrow of Gaddafi. Mrs Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time, was released shortly after giving birth. In addition to the apology, the UK government also paid £500,000 in compensation to Mrs Boudchar.

At the time of last month’s apology, Sonya Sceats, Freedom from Torture's Chief Executive, said:

We welcome the public apology from the Attorney-General but it must be the beginning not the end of a proper accounting for the sinister pattern of UK complicity in the years after the 9/11 attacks.

There can be no defence of torture and the wider lessons from such shameful lapses must be learned to guard against a repetition. It is vital that today's announcement is followed by a comprehensive truth-telling in line with the UK's unbreakable legal obligations to investigate torture and hold those responsible to account.

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