Nine leading human rights NGOs have today warned that Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is “not…adequate” to the task of investigating the UK’s involvement in rendition and torture, and said they will boycott its inquiry into the issue as a result.
In a letter to the ISC, the NGOs say that “the Committee has neither the powers nor the independence necessary to get to the truth of Britain’s involvement in the rendition and torture of detainees abroad.” As a result, they warn, “Any investigation conducted by the ISC will be inherently flawed.”
The letter criticises the current Government’s “u-turn” on its promise to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into the abuse of detainees as part of the US-led ‘War on Terror.’ The Prime Minister had pledged to establish such an inquiry shortly after coming to office in July 2010. However, in December 2013, then-Cabinet Office Minister Ken Clarke said that the task would instead be handed to Parliament’s ISC, which is composed of MPs and peers who are only appointed with the consent of the Prime Minister.
Due to the “inherent” limitations of the ISC — which the letter points out is subject to a Prime Ministerial veto in terms of its membership, the evidence it is allowed to examine, and the information it is allowed to publish — the NGOs say they will be boycotting its inquiry, writing that:
“we as a collective of domestic and international nongovernmental organizations do not propose to play a substantive role in the conduct of this inquiry.”
The organisations — which are the AIRE Centre, Amnesty International, Cage, Freedom from Torture, JUSTICE, Liberty, Redress, Reprieve, and Rights Watch (UK) — also point out that the lack of meaningful participation with detainees means it is “difficult to see how any inquiry could learn lessons from the past and work toward providing redress and reparation for victims of abuse.”
Commenting, Reprieve Executive Director Clare Algar said: “Sadly, by u-turning on its promise to hold a proper, independent inquiry into UK involvement in torture, the Government has left us with no choice but to boycott. The ISC is entirely under the thumb of the Prime Minister, and as a result any inquiry it carries out is highly likely to be a whitewash, which would do more harm than good. There is still time for the Government to think again and resurrect their promise of a proper torture inquiry — we urge them to do so.”
Notes to editors
2. The NGOs’ letter to the ISC is available on request.