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THERESA MAY must set up “an independent inquiry to get at the full truth” of Britain’s complicity in torture and rendition, human rights groups demanded last night after a damning new report exposed the role of spooks and ministers.
A coalition of human rights groups said that the report by Parliament’s intelligence and security committee had “revealed shocking new details of UK complicity in torture and rendition, with UK agencies far more deeply and systemically involved in the US torture and rendition programme than had previously been publicly known.”
They charged that “these revelations only expose the tip of the iceberg” and that a real probe should be started.
The committee’s report warns that the “terms and conditions imposed” by the government meant it “is not, and must not be taken to be, a comprehensive account” of British complicity in torture.
The government’s restrictions, including refusing to allow the questioning of officers involved, forced the committee to “draw a line under the inquiry.”
Liberty advocacy director Corey Stoughton said the government had “crippled this inquiry from the start, constraining its scope, withholding critical information and creating obstacles.”
Still, the report contains shocking facts about how involved Britain was with the enormous torture and kidnapping programme set up following the September 11 2011 attacks.
From 2002, British intelligence officers grilled up to 3,000 people held by the US at prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at its notorious Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.
The MPs and peers uncovered 232 cases where British spies continued to submit lists of questions to be asked of people they knew or suspected were being tortured and 198 cases where Britain’s spy agencies were handed material they knew had been extracted from people who had been tortured.
They found two incidents where British spies “were party to mistreatment administered by others” — one of which has not been fully investigated and the committee suggested could be reopened.
And the report notes three cases where the intelligence agencies paid or offered to pay the costs to conduct a rendition operation involving “the real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
That is alongside the 73 renditions the report says Britain was involved in or refused to stop, including British citizens and residents.
Labour shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said the need for a full inquiry was “inescapable” and it “should investigate the historic allegations of torture and rendition, review the operation of the secret courts set up under the Justice and Security Act 2013 and make recommendations for the future.”
A coalition of human rights groups, including Reprieve, Liberty, Amnesty International and others, warned that any probe “will fail to live up to public expectations unless it meets baseline standards of independence and effectiveness.”
It should be headed by a judge, “have an independent, judicial mechanism for open proceedings and publication” and involve survivors of torture.
But Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said an inquiry would only be “part of the answer.”
“The real problem is that government ministers acted with impunity during the war on terror,” she said.
“Tony Blair and Jack Straw behaved despicably during this war, using lies and deception in their every endeavour to support a right-wing US president.
“Now, with Theresa May and Donald Trump, we’re seeing it all over again.
“After the Chilcot inquiry, surely this is more evidence that Blair should be in the dock, not feted by the BBC, as should all those responsible.”
And Cage research director Asim Qureshi said the report was “another example” of the “culture of impunity when it comes to the lived experiences of those who were harmed by agents of the state.”
Mr Straw, who as foreign secretary was responsible for MI6 from 2001 to 2006, claimed that much of the report was news to him.
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