Amnesty International has today described the government’s plans for an inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations as “secretive, unfair and deeply flawed”.The statement came as Amnesty and nine other organisations wrote to inquiry officials to say that because the proposed inquiry “does not have the credibility or transparency” to ensure “the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad” is brought to light, the organisations have said they do not intend to submit any evidence or to attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.
“This is a desperately-needed inquiry into extremely serious allegations but the arrangements for it are secretive, unfair and deeply flawed,” said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe. “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,” she said.
The letter says the recently-announced Terms of Reference and Protocol of the inquiry would not comply with the government’s own international obligations to properly investigate torture. Meanwhile, lawyers representing former detainees have written in similar terms to the Detainee Inquiry solicitor, Sara Carnegie. Amnesty and others initially welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of an inquiry last year, but campaigners were extremely disappointed by last month’s news that the inquiry would be highly secretive, with much of the proceedings held behind closed doors and any new disclosures requiring the government’s approval.The present arrangements for the inquiry also mean it will not be seeking evidence from overseas (despite the international nature of the alleged abuses), and will have no powers to demand the release of documents or compel witnesses to give evidence. Meanwhile, even the individuals who allege that the UK was involved in their torture or in other human rights violations have no status in the proceedings beyond that of other witnesses or ordinary members of the public. Neither they nor their lawyers will be able to see secret material or testimony relating to what happened to them.
The inquiry will examine the UK’s involvement with detainees in overseas counter-terrorism operations in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the USA, including those policies that governed the conduct of UK secret services in their operations abroad.