On 18th July 2019, the government shockingly sought to close down efforts to bring real closure on British complicity in torture, as already identified by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee last year.
Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, said:
The government acknowledged that complicity in torture would be ‘a betrayal of everything we stand for as a nation’. That is right, but that complicity has already been exposed. Today’s refusal to allow a spotlight to be shone on this darkest corner of recent British history is a betrayal of the country’s values and all torture survivors.
Dominic Grieve, chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, noted that his committee had been blocked in its attempt to interview key witnesses and emphasised that a judge-led inquiry would provide ‘an opportunity for full transparency’.
The government responded that this could not be done ‘without harm to the national interest’.
This is categorically wrong.
Harm to the national interest is done by the ongoing cover-up of what went wrong in past years. This refusal to let the facts be heard sends a damaging signal that future abuses can take place without real consequences.
At a time when President Trump says torture ‘absolutely works’ and has placed someone closely involved with the notorious rendition programme in charge of the CIA, it is more important than ever that our country has the courage to stand up to Washington by delivering on David Cameron’s promise of a judge-led inquiry into how our spies got involved in America’s torture programme.
This is not the end of the matter. No British government can turn its back on history in this way. Clarity and transparency will bring credit to whichever Prime Minister finally acts to deliver the truth once and for all.