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The parliamentary committee tasked with monitoring the intelligence and security services has issued a call for evidence on Britain’s treatment of terror suspects during the so-called War on Terror.
The intelligence and security committee (ISC) launched an inquiry into the handling of detainees following the publication in December of the interim report of the aborted Gibson inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture.
That inquiry, pledged by David Cameron in 2010, was scrapped in 2012 but its interim report suggested that British intelligence officers had been told they could turn a blind eye to breaches of the Geneva Conventions by CIA agents interrogating suspects in Afghanistan in 2002.
The report called for further investigations into 27 areas of concern, including whether the British authorities were aware of “inappropriate” interrogation techniques or detention conditions being used by allies, whether British agents were given proper training on their responsibility to ensure detainees were not mistreated and whether ministers allowed Britain to become involved in the “rendition” of suspects — extrajudicial transfer from one country to another.
The ISC said it has now received written responses from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ on all 27 issues.
It is calling for written evidence to be submitted by the end of October and will take evidence from witnesses in hearings — some public — “in due course.”
However human-rights groups and lawyers representing detainees have long been critical of the ISC for what they see as a lack of independence and said the current process is no substitute for a full and independent inquiry.
Reprieve executive director Clare Algar said: “The ISC was asleep on the job when Britain participated in some of the worst excesses of the War on Terror. Years after the UK worked with the CIA to render women and children to Gadaffi’s prisons, the ISC was still giving our security services a clean bill of health.
“The bottom line is that this committee lacks both the powers and the independence to get to the truth. Its primary role now is as a fig leaf to cover the Prime Minister’s broken promise of a comprehensive independent inquiry into Britain’s complicity in torture.”
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