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Parliamentary report says government may be 'complicit' of torture

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-09

British MPs from the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) have warned the government that regularly using intelligence obtained through prisoners' mistreatment could make the country legally complicit of torture.

AFP - The British government was warned Sunday by a body of lawmakers that regularly using information gained through torture could be legally construed as complicity.

It was "imperative" that the government fulfilled its legal obligations to prevent torture and probe alleged incidents, the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) scrutiny body said in its annual human rights report.

The report comes as British intelligence agencies face allegations of involvement in the questioning of terror suspects in countries such as Pakistan, including supplying questions for interrogators.

"It is imperative that the UK fulfils its legal obligations in respect of the prevention of torture, including any duty to act positively to prevent it, investigate allegations that it has taken place, and expose it," the report said.

"We further conclude that there is a risk that use of evidence which may have been obtained under torture on a regular basis, especially where it is not clear that protestations about mistreatment have elicited any change in behaviour by foreign intelligence services, could be construed as complicity in such behaviour."

The committee acknowledged that using intelligence supplied by other countries which could avert a devastating terror attack but which may have been obtained through torture "raises profoundly difficult moral questions".

The government had a duty to use information, whatever its source, if it believed it could save lives, it said.

"At the same time, we strongly recommend that the government should continue to exert as much persuasion and pressure as possible to try to ensure world-wide that torture is not employed as a method of interrogation."

The FAC also accused the Foreign Office of "pulling its punches" over the "massive scale" of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, a key ally in the fight against international terror.

It expressed concern that allegations continued to be made about the use of the United States airbase on the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for US "rendition" flights carrying terror suspects.

Britain should also do more to address concerns over the treatment of detainees captured by British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and handed over to local authorities or the United States, the committee said.

Tim Hancock, the British campaigns director of human rights organisation Amnesty International, said the report added weight to their call for a full, independent inquiry into alleged "war on terror" human rights abuses.

"However, it's deeply worrying that the FAC seems content for the UK authorities to receive and act upon information that may be fresh from the torture chamber," he said.

"Britain should stand firm in its opposition to torture, both through our words and our actions."
 

Date created : 2009-08-09

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