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:
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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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