Britain to hold inquiry into claims its spies colluded in the torture of terror suspects

By Jill Lawless, AP
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UK to hold inquiry into torture complicity claims

LONDON — The British government is set to formally announce an inquiry into whether its spy agencies colluded in the torture of terrorism suspects overseas — a probe that could complicate intelligence-sharing with the United States.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said he would make a statement on the treatment of detainees in the House of Commons later Tuesday.

Foreign Secretary William Hague announced in May that there would be a judge-led inquiry, but said details were still being worked out.

Downing Street would not give advance details of Cameron’s statement or say whether an inquiry would be held in public. But it is likely to arouse fears in Washington that secret information could be released.

British spies have not been accused of torturing detainees, but several former suspects have alleged that British officials were complicit in their mistreatment while they were held by agents from the U.S., Pakistan and other countries, because officials knew of abuse but did not stop it.

A dozen men have filed lawsuits against the British government, and police are investigating the actions of two officers from the MI5 and MI6 spy agencies.

Cameron’s statement is also likely to give details of new guidelines for British spies on how to avoid being complicit in torture — another promise made by the new government. Downing Street said it would “provide clarity for the security services to get on with the vital job they do for this country.”

Campaigners have long pressed for an inquiry to examine the extent to which Britain was involved in the “extraordinary rendition,” secret detention and alleged mistreatment of suspected terrorists.

Their call was supported by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, who formed a coalition government after May’s national election.

Britain’s former Labour Party government, which was in power from 2007 until May, strongly denied Britain deliberately colluded in torture. But evidence made public through lawsuits brought by former detainees has kept up pressure on the authorities.

Earlier this year, senior judge David Neuberger ordered the release of a previously secret summary of CIA documents on the treatment of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, one of those suing the British government.

Under long-standing conventions, nations don’t disclose intelligence shared by their allies, and the White House reacted angrily to the release.

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