The Government is facing a legal challenge over allegations it potentially authorised the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment abroad.
It follows two reports chaired by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve in June, which found that when intelligence services such as MI6 or GCHQ referred a case about detainees abroad, they would routinely also request protection for their officers from domestic civil and criminal liability.
This is something provided under Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994, and potentially leaves the door open to extracting information through torture or other degrading treatment.
It goes without saying that this is something which goes against our human rights – Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention specifically prohibits this.
‘Hundreds of Cases of Complicity in Mistreatment’
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The reports, which didn’t find any evidence UK personnel had carried out mistreatment, did discover two cases where staff were “party to mistreatment administered by others”, 13 incidents where personnel saw mistreatment first-hand, and more than 230 cases where UK staff continued to supply questions after they knew or suspected mistreatment.
Speaking about the new call for legal action, the director of Reprieve, the charity behind the case, also referenced the plight of Adbul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar.
There still seems to be a failure at the top of Government to learn the lessons from past mistakes.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve
In March 2004 Belhaj, a Libyan dissident and head of an anti-Gaddafi opposition group, was detained and tortured by the CIA along with his pregnant wife. Theresa May was forced to issue an apology to the pair from the UK Government earlier this year, after British involvement was revealed.
Maya Foa explained: “In recent months the Prime Minister has had to apologise for the UK Government’s role in the ‘appaling‘ kidnap and rendition of a pregnant woman and her husband, tried and failed to get away with a ‘light-touch’ review of the torture policy, faced a damning report that revealed hundreds of cases of British complicity in mistreatment, and heard cross-party calls for a full judge-led inquiry into UK involvement in torture grow ever louder.
“Despite all this, there still seems to be a failure at the top of Government to learn the lessons from past mistakes. The public now need urgent reassurance that ministers cannot legally authorise involvement in torture or mistreatment in any circumstances.
‘Why Should My Officers Carry The Risks?’
Image Credit: Holly Hayes / Flickr
The reports also featured an MI6 official, who denied that Section 7 was ever used to carry out torture or degrading treatment, but added “we are always going to go for a Section 7. Because, you know, why should my officers carry risks on behalf of the Government personally? So we will go for belt and braces on this.”
We will go for belt and braces on this.
Repreive has now sent a formal letter of action to the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – the first step in any legal proceedings.
A spokesperson for the Government said that the security and intelligence agencies were subject to a “strict legal framework” with “robust independent oversight”.
They added: “All of their work must be necessary, proportionate and in accordance with the law. The government is carefully considering the intelligence and security committee’s reports into detainee mistreatment and rendition issues and will respond formally in due course. Consideration will also be given to the separate calls for another judge-led inquiry.”