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Ministers can collude in torture if ‘benefits justify accepting the risk,’ new report reveals

GOVERNMENT ministers can collude in torture when the “potential benefits justify accepting the risk,” an explosive new Ministry of Defence (MoD) document has revealed.

The Cabinet can also “pre-approve” a list of “high-threat” individuals about whom information may be shared despite a serious risk they could face mistreatment.

The directive appears to contradict previously published guidance that placed tighter restrictions on British involvement in torture.

The parallel secret policy, drawn up in November, was obtained through a freedom of information request by Dr Sam Raphael, co-director of the Rendition Project.

He told the Morning Star: “This secret MoD torture policy clearly authorises ministers to break the absolute prohibition on torture, enshrined in international and domestic law, when they judge that ‘the potential benefits justify accepting the risk and the legal consequences that follow.’

“This is a clear policy to enable collusion in torture, and is deeply concerning.

“Difficult questions need to be asked of the government as well as the watchdog, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office.”

The revelation comes a year after Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to issue an embarrassing apology over MI6 complicity in the rendition of a pregnant woman.

Fatima Boudchar was kidnapped by the CIA in 2004 after a tip-off from British spies. She was transported to Libya on a “ghost flight” and held in Colonel Gadaffi’s dungeons.

Rights group Reprieve is also alarmed by the new directive. Deputy director Dan Dolan said: “This previously secret document brings to mind the worst excesses of the War on Terror and tramples all over the government’s official policy.

“Ministers can’t authorise action leading to torture without breaking the law.”

Nadia O’Mara from Liberty echoed Reprieve’s concerns, saying it “underscores the need for an independent judge-led inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition.”

Labour shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the directive was “extremely concerning … There can be no justification whatsoever for torture.

“It is vital that the Defence Secretary comes to Parliament to clarify the government’s policy as a matter of urgency,” she said.

The Ministry of Defence has downplayed the significance of this disclosure, pointing out that the directive says it “amplifies” existing guidance. In a statement, the department claimed that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office was “entirely satisfied” with its standards.

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