Joint Human Rights Committee Postpones Again Decision on Whether to Call My Evidence on UK Complicity in Torture 30


Considering for a second time whether to hear my direct evidence of conscious UK government complicy in torture, on Tuesday 10 March the joint human rights committee decided to postpone a decision again. At the same time they decided to rebuke me for questioning their motives and integrity.

This is the text of the letter from Andrew Dismore MP, Chairman of the JCHR:

BEGINS

Request to give oral evidence to the Committee

Dear Mr Murray

Thank you for writing to the Committee to offer to give oral evidence about the allegations of UK complicity in torture abroad. The material you sent has been circulated to Members of the Committee, who have now had time to discuss your request fully.

Select committees usually request oral evidence from some of the individuals and organisations who have submitted detailed written memoranda, which form the basis for the questioning and can be made available to the public and the press at the start of the evidence session. In your case, it would be helpful if you could expand on the bullet points that you have already submitted and set out in more detail the case you wish to put across to us. Written evidence should not exceed 2,500 words and we would ask you to supply us with a signed hard copy as well as an electronic version, preferably in Word.

In preparing your memorandum you should be aware of the Committee’s terms of reference, which relate to human rights in the UK and which encompass the compliance of public bodies (including the intelligence and security services) operating overseas with the UK’s human rights obligations.

Our starting point for this inquiry is that the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service are both public bodies for the purposes of the Human Rights Act and its agents are required to act in accordance with the Act. In addition, the agencies should comply with the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). Our 2006 report on UNCAT (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200506/jtselect/jtrights/185/18502.htm) includes sections on cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies and complicity in torture and abuse (paras 52-60) which are relevant to our current inquiry.

We are not able to consider the policies and activities of other countries in relation to the treatment of detainees. This would be a matter for the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

If you have any questions about submitting written evidence to the Committee, I suggest that you contact the Commons Clerk, Mark Egan, with whom you have already been in correspondence.

Finally, the comments you published about the Committee on your website last week were intemperate, unjustified and untrue. I have already drawn your attention to the Committee’s report on UNCAT, which clearly demonstrates that we have consistently sought to hold the Government to account on torture. I would also like to draw your attention to the membership of the Committee (http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights/joint_committee_on_human_rights_members.cfm): not only are there no Whips on the Committee, but Labour members are in the minority. The Committee deprecates your comments and hopes that you will take a more constructive attitude towards our work from now on.

We will publish this letter on our website (http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights/tortureiniraq.cfm) and I expect that you will do likewise. I would be grateful if you could direct readers of your website to this letter so that those who have emailed the Committee about your evidence can see my response. We are unable to reply individually to everyone who has emailed the Committee.

Yours sincerely,

SENT UNSIGNED

ANDREW DISMORE MP

Chair, Joint Committee on Human Rights

I telephoned the Committee Clerk to check what this meant. He confirmed that I have to submit a further memorandum of up to 2,500 words. Only after receipt of that memorandum will the Committee consider – again – whether to accept my evidence.

I had of course already submitted,this memorandum, with attachments:

BEGINS

I wish to offer myself as a witness before the Joint Commission on Human Rights on the subject of the UK government’s policy on intelligence cooperation with torture abroad.

I appeared as a witness in person before both the European Parliament and European Council’s enquiries into extraordinary rendition. My evidence was described by the European Council’s Rapporteur, Senator Dick Marty, as “Compelling and valuable”.

The key points I wish to make are these:

– I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004.

– I learned and confirmed that I was regularly seeing intelligence from detainees in the Uzbek torture chambers, sent me by the CIA via MI6.

– British Ministers and officials were seeing the same torture material.

– In October/November 2002 and January/Februray 2003 I sent two Top Secret telegrams to London specifically on the subject of our receipt of intelligence gained under torture. I argued this was illegal, immoral and impractical. The telegrams were speciifically marked for the Secretary of State.

– I was formally summoned back to the FCO for a meeting held on 7 or 8 March 2003 specifically and solely on the subject of intelligence gained under torture. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, FCO, Sir Michael Wood, Chief Legal Adviser, FCO, and Matthew Kydd, Head of Permanent Under-Secretary’s Department, FCO.

– This meeting was minuted. I have seen the record, which is classified Top Secret and was sent to Jack Straw. On the top copy are extensive hand-written marginalia giving Jack Straw’s views.

– I was told at this meeting that it is not illegal for us to obtain intelligence gained by torture, provided that we did not do the torture ourselves. I was told that it had been decided that as a matter of War on Terror policy we should now obtain intelligence from torture, following discussion between Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove. I was told that we could not exclude receipt of specific material from the CIA without driving a coach and horses through the universality principle of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement, which would be detrimental to UK interests.

– Sir Michael Wood’s legal advice that it was not illegal to receive intelligence got by torture was sent on to me in Tashkent (copy attached).

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/documents/Wood.pdf

On 22 July 2004 I sent one further telegram on intelligence got by torture, with a lower classification, following FCO communications on the subject. Copy attached.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/documents/Telegram.pdf

It was my final communication before being dismissed as Ambassador.

In conclusion, I can testify that beyond any doubt the British government has for at least six years a considered but secret policy of cooperation with torture abroad. This policy legally cleared by government legal advisers and approved by Jack Straw as Secretary of State.

Craig Murray

2 March 2009

Frankly my statement of 2 March seems to me concise, damning and to answer the exact questions that the Committee is supposed to be investigating. I cannot understand the lengthy passages in Andrew Dismore’s letter which appear to imply that my evidence is about a foreign country and not about the UK’s human rights compliance. I do not see how my evidence can go further to the heart of the subjects Dismore says the committee is supposed to be investigating.

Anyway, I will jump through the hoops and expand my above evidence into a memorandum which will say exactly the same thing.

Then the committee can discuss a third time whether to accept my evidence.

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30 thoughts on “Joint Human Rights Committee Postpones Again Decision on Whether to Call My Evidence on UK Complicity in Torture

  • David McKelvie

    I wish you the best of luck with this, Craig. We all really need for your evidence to be heard and the Human Rights Committee to report. I just hope that they will not slither away from under the mounting and damning evidence that UK agencies have been participating in and conniving at torture. Furthermore there needs to be arrests, indictments, and trials. I suspect, however, that these parliamentary bludgers lack the testicular fortitude to do the honourable thing.

  • Dr chris burns-cox

    It is high-time that members of select committees must decklare under oath any relationships,membership of organisations and financial connections relevant to their carrying out the duties serving the public of select committees.

    Plainly Mr.Dismore is not serving the public, as is his duty, in his role as chairman. What other influences does he have acting on him? Welld one Carig for outing the truth.

  • Jon

    The link supplied by Andrew Dismore is this:

    http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights/tortureiniraq.cfm

    His letter in PDF is here:

    http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/Craig_Murray.pdf

    Quite why Mr. Dismore thinks that “directing your readers” to his evasive and prevaricating response will help his position is beyond me. However, perhaps I should be nice to him, and give him the benefit of the doubt, lest he refuse to see you out of spite rather than deal honestly with (alleged) British complicity in torture.

    If any of the members of the committee are reading, then perhaps you might honestly ask yourselves – which of the two options above do you think most ordinary people would want you to opt for? Do we have a democracy yet?

    God, it’s no wonder people are angry. The opportunity for meritocratic involvement, which is meant to save us all from extremism, is looking decidedly broken. I am getting thoroughly bored of this! However if you can stand it, Craig, hang in there and send them their bloomin’ document. If it saves someone having a razor applied to their genitals whilst a British agent whistles a tune in the background, it shall be worth it.

  • dreoilin

    Craig, did you hold my comments for moderation or did they just disappear into the ether?

  • Craig

    dreolin

    sorry, no comments were held for moderation. That was an erroneous message – i am afraid they have vanished.

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Dismore is dissembling frantically.

    “Has been sent to Members”

    All of them? In which case has the Committee decided not to call you or is Dismore simply refusing to call you himself without taking instruction from his entire Membership? Has he actually asked them if they want to hear from you – or is he in the business of selecting what they may be permitted allowed to hear?

    “We are not able to consider”

    Why not? Terms of Reference are guidance, not rules. If a Committee refuses to consider such a serious matter it is abandoning its moral responsibilities. It may consider and then refer the matter elsewhere, of course.

    “Finally, the comments you published about the Committee on your website last week were intemperate, unjustified and untrue”

    Whose comments, yours or those of others? If Dismore thinks he’s being maligned he’s welcome to sue me any time. And he really doesn’t get this blogging thing does he? Does he seriously believe that you are responsible if someone else comments that he is a complete prat? What he’s trying to do is to deal with you as a ‘publisher’, of course.

    “We are unable to reply”

    A pity Dismore’s site didn’t make that clear before. But it will help him to keep the detail and numbers secret, naturally. Does his Committee get to see all of these e-mails? Of course not.

    I wouldn’t trust Dismore at all, ever.

  • harmonyfuture

    May I wish you the very best with your cause Mr. Murray. I was referred to your site by several posts on an Independent Article 4 days ago, the main referral from a poster in the US who sounded as if they cared very deeply for your plight. The policies of this Government have become increasingly moribund as they seem to struggle to exit from the multiple disasters they have wrought on this Country. One hopes there will be a day of reckoning for this administration, in order that we may restore our faith in those we elect, and hail those that stand up to anyone who abuses that position.

  • Tim Ireland

    dreoilin and others: This was my fault. Comments submitted earlier today were lost when I was wrestling with the spam problem that was crippling the site. Apologies for any data lost and time wasted.

  • Strategist

    “Anyway, I will jump through the hoops and expand my above evidence into a memorandum which will say exactly the same thing.”

    I would strongly encourage you to do so. Hang in there. It’s a bizarre response, but it seems clear you’ve got Dismore rattled enough not to dare to blank you out completely. Indeed, there’s a recognition that there is going to be a dialogue between you & the committee that will be done in front of a world internet audience.

    Forgive me for the following advice, I haven’t studied this carefully and my expertise in these matters is a millionth of your own, but…

    I’m getting the sense that he’s saying stop dissing me, I’m trying to give you an opening?? He’s saying: give me some evidence that responds to the terms of this particular inquiry in the very narrowest terms; give me no choice but to hear you. Don’t give those who would argue that you’re just firing off in any direction any more ammunition to use against you; don’t give those who would accuse me of treading all over the territory of somebody else’s committee ammunition they can use against me.

    I may be wrong. But this feels immensely more encouraging than the completely dead response I feared, that we consider your evidence is not material to this particular inquiry, and we’re going to blank you.

  • Steve Abbott

    Good luck with it Craig. Just one additional comment in addition to those posted above: Without wishing to be too uncharitable to the committee, I would worry about the request that you provide an electronic copy specifically in MSWord format. I note that Mr. Dismore himself uses pdf format, and I presume that that is specifically because it is not as prone and convenient for editing or redacting as is MSWord. Why, then, would he want your evidence in MSWord format? I hope Mr Dismore will not take offence at the suggestion that it does not seem confidence inspiring to specifically request an editable version of evidence submitted.

    Best Regards,

    Steve

  • Ruth

    I think Dismore is trying to dissipate your request and delay it hoping that those who support you will go off on another tangent.

  • Dodoze

    I copied my e-mail to the JCHR to my MP. While I will not, in this case of courtesy, disclose the name, this is from a Labour Member of the old post-GLC clan. And not necessarily “on-side”, it might appear, albeit circumspect.

    I quote: “Thank-you for your e-mail to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which you copied to me.

    As you may know, I do not sit on the JCHR, but I would hope that they would take evidence from Craig Murray, if he volunteers to give it.

    I have read Craig Murray’s book about his experiences in Uzbekistan when he was our Ambassador there and I am familiar with his views.”

  • gremlins3

    “I cannot understand the lengthy passages in Andrew Dismore’s letter which appear to imply that my evidence is about a foreign country and not about the UK’s human rights compliance.”

    Neither can I.

    As reported on the BBC this morning:

    “On Thursday, a Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice worldwide.'”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7940958.stm

    Is the JCHR therefore disregarding Government policy?

    If they cannot accept your (Craig) evidence on the grounds that it happened overseas (and isn’t this the whole point of extraordinary rendition anyway) then by the same token how can they investigate, say, Binyam Mohamed?

    Also, wouldn’t the policy decisions, which lie at the heart of the whole matter, have taken place in the UK?

  • Strategist

    A quote I heard on the BBC this morning, was something like “the British Govt never solicits torture from other countries’ security services”, Be worth getting the exact wording. Of course, but that’s a smokescreen. The question is whether they use information which is obviously obtained from torture.

    The quote was made in response to Binyam Mohammed’s accusation that MI5 were supplying the questions being asked him by the Moroccan secret police – he mentioned hundreds of photos of British Muslims, no doubt taken from MI5 surveillance work.

    But what the hell was an Ethiopian-British guy, arrested by the Pakistanis at the behest of the Americans, doing in Morocco anyway? Extraordinary rendition is blatantly the subcontracting of torture and no amount of dissembling can take that away.

    Britain was up to its neck in it and Ministers have been lying & lying & lying about this. We know this. But can Andrew Dismore find the moral fibre to let the evidence be heard?

  • Craig

    OK, I am going to start writing my formal statement now. I don’t think the request for it in Word is sinister – it’s just so they can publish it eventually. I think Ruth could well be right that there is a desire to kick me into the long grass for a bit. So the quicker I write the statement the better!

  • dreoilin

    ‘Apologies for any data lost and time wasted’.

    — Tim Ireland

    No problem. I was only saying that it sounds like Dismore who’s jumping through hoops – and prepared to break both hips if necessary – in order to keep Craig out. I admire Craig’s patience. I hope he gets all the moral support he needs, here and elsewhere, to keep banging on the door. Dismore’s excuses are patently rubbish.

  • Anas Taunton

    Torture justified by War on Terror and Labour friends of Israel are incompatible software, never mind Word.

  • Stephen

    This from the BBC:

    On Thursday, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice worldwide.

    “The security and intelligence agencies do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7940958.stm

  • Stephen

    Craig,

    You must and will press on with this. You are an inspiration.

    We need, however, to look at the long history of the British state’s use of pseudo-open investigations in order to keep the public in the dark.

    It is natural and right to be optimistic, at least in the first instance. On the other hand, optimism takes a certain kind of energy, and may be a waste.

    Best, then, would be to look back over the history of these investigations and enquiries. Has any of them succeeded in opening up our government to public scrutiny? Has there been a pattern of using these institutions to deter the public from involving itself in the affairs of state by creating the appearance of openness through excruciatingly slow processes which appease public anger for as long as possible before in the end concealing more than they reveal.

    More often than not these investigations produce very tame conclusions. Often the conclusions, such as they are, are not made public, or are published in redacted form. In those few cases where they are headed by honest individuals determined to adhere to the highest principles of their profession, those individuals are smeared and discredited, and their results locked away in a safe in the home office. Consider John Stalker, investigating the shoot to kill policy in Northern Ireland, whose twelve volume interim report remains unpublished, and who was himself smeared as a bribe-taking homosexual on the eve of publication before losing his job as deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police. This recalls your own experience, come to think of it.

    In conclusion, I think what is needed is a civil society investigation into these pseudo-public ivestigations to reveal them for the ruse they are.

    Best Wishes,

    Stephen

  • Strategist

    Thanks for getting the exact wording, Stephen

    “The security and intelligence agencies do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.”

    This wording is clearly designed not to rule out using information derived from torture if it just happens to be made available to them. However, this is precisely what the Govt is bound by international treaties it has signed to do.

  • Craig

    Stephen,

    I agree. To be honest, I am partly meeting an existentialist urge to bear witness to the truth; I am hoping desperately it may do something to make the world a better place, but my expectations are low.

  • Polo

    Craig

    While there may be nothing sinister in the request for MS Word Doc, do be careful to make sure that anything you send has been cleansed of all “markup” information. They might just be trying to see how changes are made and who by.

    I have seen journalists recreate the path of a document right through the ranks of my own (Irish) administration and work it up into a fantastic thriller.

    PDF usually ensures that all that goes out is the actual final text.

    Good luck with your submission. Sock it to them.

  • David

    In your submission you used 468 words, which leaves room for expansion. But why not just call you? It seems just a stalling tactic to me, considering they have already heard three witnesses on 3 February (Ian Cobain, of the Guardian, and Brad Adams, Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch). Where are their written submissions? What did they have to do to be heard?

    I think something unusual is happening here: the Committee is receiving an unaccustomed amount of scrutiny from the public they are supposed to serve. They know it, and they don’t like it. When the public actually start paying attention to what is done in their name, these public servants might start doing their jobs with some degree of integrity. Right now they need more attention, which anybody can help with by circulating this story to family and friends, linking the JHCR site http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights.cfm, and setting it as their home page, reading and questioning their meeting minutes, and so on.

    I hope you continue with this pursuit Craig. The current impasse seems discouraging, but in fact it is not.

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