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Default HR Groups Boycott Farcical UK Torture Enquiry - 08-06-2011, 06:01 PM

Human rights groups to
boycott inquiry into British
torture and rendition


Lawyers and human rights groups are to boycott the inquiry into the UK's
alleged role in torture and rendition since the 9/11 terror attacks, saying it
lacks credibility and transparency, and arrangements for it are "secretive,
unfair and deeply flawed".

Key sessions will be held in secret and the cabinet secretary will have the
final say over what information is made public. Those who alleged they
were subject to torture and rendition will not be able to question MI5 or
MI6 officers, and will foreign intelligence agencies will not be questioned.

The decision not to participate, reported by the Guardian last month, was
confirmed in a joint letter to the solicitor for the inquiry, which will be run
by the retired judge Sir Peter Gibson. Ten groups including Liberty,
Reprieve and Amnesty International said they did not intend to submit any
evidence or attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.

They said the inquiry's protocol and terms of reference showed it would
not have the "credibility or transparency" to ensure "the truth about
allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of
detainees held abroad" was brought to light.

The human rights groups said the inquiry would not comply with the
government's international obligations to investigate torture. Lawyers
representing former detainees have also complained about the nature of
the inquiry, which was initially welcomed when it was announced by David
Cameron last year.

Former detainees and their lawyers will not be able to question intelligence
officials and all evidence from current or former members of the security
and intelligence agencies, below the level of head, will be heard in private.

The inquiry will not start until the end of a current police investigation.

The human rights groups say in their letter: "We are particularly
disappointed that the issue of what material may be disclosed to the public
will not be determined independently of government and, further, that
there will be no meaningful participation of the former and current
detainees and other interested third parties.

"As you know, we were keen to assist the inquiry in the vital work of
establishing the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in
the mistreatment of detainees held abroad. Our strong view, however, is
that the process currently proposed does not have the credibility or
transparency to achieve this."

A second letter, written jointly by Christian Khan and other lawyers
representing former Guantánamo Bay detainees, said: "We consider it
impossible to advise those whom we represent that the structure and
protocols now confirmed for the Gibson inquiry can achieve what are
essential ingredients for a public inquiry into grave state crimes."

Detainees would not even know "if the individuals being questioned are the
right ones".

The lack of input for detainees, "simply serves to demonstrate that there is
no comprehension on the part of the government of the gravity of the
crimes which representatives of the state may have committed", they said.

"We had hoped as lawyers to assist in a transparent exercise of vital
importance. It is a matter of profound regret that our assessment is that
the inquiry does not provide the means by which this can be realised.

"In the absence of there being any alteration to the protocols, our advice
is compelled to be that it is inappropriate for our clients to submit
evidence."

Several high-profile human rights lawyers signed Khan's letter, including
Louise Christian, Irene Nembhard, Gareth Peirce, and Tayab Ali and Sipna
Malik.

Amnesty's UK policy advisor, Tara Lyle, said: "This is a desperately needed
inquiry into extremely serious allegations but the arrangements for it are
secretive, unfair and deeply flawed. We need an inquiry that is as open
and effective as possible, not this semi-secret process that lacks scope
and ambition.

"Those that suffered terrible abuse are set to be let down by this inquiry,
while the general public is likely to be denied the opportunity to learn what
went wrong during this dark chapter in our history."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "If this inquiry proceeds
without the participation of the victims it will be nothing more than a
waste of time and public money. Until a credible, independent process is
established this shameful chapter of the war on terror continues."

Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary who chairs the intelligence
and security committee, denied the inquiry was secretive and said the
campaigners were being unrealistic.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I cannot recollect an inquiry
that's been proposed to be so open as we're having in this particular case.

When was the last time the head of MI5 and the head of MI6 – the prime
minister has made quite clear – can be summoned to this inquiry and be
required to give evidence?" There had to be "some element of trust" when
the authorities were dealing with top secret information, he added.

A statement from the inquiry said the decision by solicitors and human
rights groups was regrettable and said it was hoped they would reconsider.

"The inquiry will go ahead," the statement said. "It will examine the
relevant documentation held by government. It will hear the key
government witnesses. The inquiry offers the detainees and anyone else
with evidence relevant to its terms of reference the only opportunity for
them to give evidence to an independent inquiry.

"The detainees and the NGOs have alleged the involvement or awareness
of the UK government and its security and intelligence services in relation
to the mistreatment and rendition of detainees held by other countries.
The inquiry would welcome such evidence."


Human rights groups to boycott inquiry into British torture and rendition | Law | guardian.co.uk


---
To advise others is an easy matter, the difficulty is accepting advice -- since it is bitter for those who follow their
own inclinations and desires
.


-Imam al Ghazali
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