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ministers sweep torture proof under the rug

Gibson inquiry shut down despite first report's shocking findings

Ken Clarke scrapped a planned torture inquiry yesterday on the day a retired judge said Britain was complicit in the rendition and abuse of alleged terror suspects.

A preliminary report published by Peter Gibson, who was tasked with chairing a public inquiry into British involvement in torture, called for further investigation of 27 issues.

"In some instances there was a reluctance to raise treatment issues for fear of damaging liaison relationships or that when these issues were raised, only limited details were provided," the report read.

British agents "continued to engage with detainees held by liaison partners in various locations after ill-treatment had either been witnessed or alleged and then reported to head office.

"It is not clear ... that anything was done following a concern raised by officers."

Despite this, Cabinet Office Minister Mr Clarke said that the Gibson inquiry would not go ahead.

Instead the responsibility will be handed to Parliament's intelligence and security committee (ISC), which has been heavily criticised for giving spy bosses an easy ride.

Mr Clarke claimed Mr Gibson's report "paints a picture" of agencies struggling to adapt to the hunt for terror groups and said it was a matter of "sincere regret" if "mistakes and failures were made."

But human rights groups accused the government of attempting to suppress evidence of wrongdoing.

Legal action charity Reprieve executive director Clare Algar said the report showed how crucial it was to hold an independent inquiry.

She said ditching the inquiry was "scandalous," and the intelligence committee "has consistently failed to provide real oversight of the security services."

Amnesty International Europe director John Dalhuisen called it "yet another effort by the UK to shirk its responsibilities.

"Handing the investigation over to the ISC raises the prospect that much of the truth may remain buried, and that no full judge-led inquiry will ever materialise."

Freedom From Torture chief Keith Best said the announcement had left victims "in limbo."

He said: "The government has sat on the findings of Sir Peter Gibson's aborted inquiry for 18 months.

"This time could have been used to design a new human rights-compliant inquiry that would be credible both in the eyes of those who were subjected to torture and the British public.

"However, it appears that the government has been busy trying to concoct an even less transparent and independent process."

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