Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Calls For Public Inquiry on UK Complicity in Torture 56


The parliamentary joint committee on human rights has this morning published its report on UK complicity in torture. The headline is a call for a full public inquiry on the subject.

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The most salient fact in the entire report does not feature prominently. Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnson both refused to appear before the committee to answer the damning evidence given by witnesses, myself included.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF9spgagSHI

Arguably, if we had a proper system of parliamentary accountability, the JCHR inquiry would have itself been the public inquiry they want. For ministers simply to refuse to appear speaks volumes for the government’s evasiveness on torture, and determination that the truth should not come out. The greatest danger of this is that individual MI5 and MI6 officers are under investigation by the Metropolitan Police for collusion with torture. We will end up with the Abu Ghraib result, with minions being jailed, while the politicians who authorised the torture policy get off scot free.

Not that I believe a public inquiry will achieve much – it will be yet another whitewash, like the John Chilcot Iraq “Inquiry” entirely consisting of safe establishment yes-men. But it would be a step on the way to public acknowledgement of the role of Straw and Blair in bringing back torture as an accepted tool of governance in the UK.

The Committee report might have been expected to be scathing about Johnson’s and Miliband’s refusal to give evidence. In fact the report spends far more time attacking me for the vigour of my efforts to give evidence:

Mr Murray was a convincing witness when he appeared before us and his allegations are supported by some documentary evidence. His credibility has not been enhanced by his somewhat bizarre dealings with the Committee, however. When he first approached us about giving oral evidence we asked him for a written memorandum, which is standard practice for select committees. His response was to publish a story on his blog entitled “Parliamentary Joint Human Rights Commission Struck By Cowardice” which alleged that we were consulting party whips about how to deter him from giving oral evidence.40 This

was entirely untrue, as our subsequent decision to ask him to give oral evidence, despite his

comments, demonstrated. In May, Mr Murray published further comments on his blog,

suggesting that our Chair was a “stooge” of the Uzbek regime and had somehow been

implicated in his dismissal as UK ambassador.41 Again, these comments are entirely

without substance and may only serve to damage Mr Murray’s credibility and reputation.

I have to say this smacks of desperation in an effort to discredit evidence which the Committee admits was both “Convincing” and backed by documentation. Whoever drafted this also uses the old tricks of misrepresentation. I never said the Committee was “Consulting party whips”. I said that New Labour whips were leaning on New Labour members of the Committee not to hear my evidence – that I know for certain is true. I tried to give the same evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2005 and was refused. The JHRC took three meetings spread over a month deciding whether to hear me. If we had not brought pressure, I should be quite clear that I do not believe that they would have called me.

As for Committee chair Andrew Dismore, I stand by my posting about Dismore, his links to the Uzbek Embassy and the speeches he has made in Parliament on Uzbekistan promoting the Uzbek government line.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/05/andrew_dismore.html

I believe it was wrong of Dismore not to mention his links to the Uzbek Embassy in chairing the evidence session I gave. Interestingly the Committee’s carefully worded paragraph does not actually deny Dismore’s links to the Uzbek Embassy.

It amazes me that the Committee spent so little energy in decrying the refusal to testify of Johnson and Miliband, to cover up a policy of torture, and so much energy attacking me for comments about the committee on my blog. What a bunch of self-regarding political pygmies they are.

In fact, despite the de rigeur attack on Craig Murray’s credibility, my testimony forms part of the very weft of the whole report. Remove the sideswipe at me, and it is a very good report. In particular, no amount of rubbishing me could wish away the existence of the Michael Wood letter to me, giving the FCO’s legal endorsement of the use of torture material.

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I leaked this classified document by publication to the internet over four years ago. It was instantly posted and mirrored by thousands of sites around the World, making it impossible to keep it secret. But this report published today is the first official acknowledgement of the existence of this document and first official attempt to come to terms with what it means. It also, of course, shatters the government’s argument that I am making it all up (a line Jack Straw still regularly deploys).

The Committee made excellent use of the Michael Wood letter:

Other key unpublished documents are copies of the relevant legal advice given to the

Government about the relevant human rights standards concerning torture and complicity

in torture. As we mentioned above, there is already in the public domain the

memorandum from the Senior Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office, Michael Wood, dated

13 March 2003, which says:

Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that

his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on

Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe

that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing

is Article 15 which provides [for the inadmissibility in evidence of any statement

which is established to have been made as a result of torture.].

This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement

established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as

evidence.

89. We accept, as Professor Sands pointed out in his evidence to us, that this short memo

responding to a specific query should not be treated as a formal, fully reasoned legal advice.

However, we are concerned that this response from the Foreign Office’s most senior lawyer

makes no mention of the requirement in Article 4(1) UNCAT that States criminalise

“complicity or participation in torture”. As Professor Sands commented: “In a formal and

limited sense Mr Wood’s response is correct, but it seems not to address the issue in the

round. … there may be circumstances in which the receipt or possession of information

that has been obtained by torture may amount to complicity in torture, within the meaning

of Article 4(1).”

90. The memo from the Foreign Office Legal Adviser raises a number of important

questions. As Professor Sands also said in his evidence, it may well be that Sir Michael

Wood, other lawyers or the Law Officers address the meaning and effect of Article 4 of

UNCAT in other more reasoned opinions, but this memo does not address that and

therefore “it does not give a complete answer.”125 We do not know whether other, more

reasoned advices were given to ministers or to the intelligence and security services. It is

important, in our view, to ascertain whether the Government was ever advised as to the

possibility that systematic reliance on information which may have been obtained under

torture risks at some point crossing the line into complicity in torture for which the UK

would be responsible under the relevant legal standards.

While a public Inquiry would be useful, I believe the major part of the truth about our ministerially approved policy on the use of torture could simply be revealed by releasing the minutes of my meeting of 7 or 8 March 2003 with Sir Michael Wood, Linda Duffield and Matthew Kydd at which I was told of the policy. The top copy includes a manuscript note which makes plain that Jack Straw had ordered the meeting and gives his views. I suggested that the Committee call for this minute, but they do not seem to have done so.

A final point worth mentioning is the continued UK media blackout. I have given 17 media interviews on the Committee’s report so far. including to CNN, but they have almost all been foreign. Only LBC radio in the UK has interviewed me. Neither do I exist in any of the press reports except a brief mention in the Herald.


56 thoughts on “Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Calls For Public Inquiry on UK Complicity in Torture

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  • anticant

    “They hate us because of our freedom”. The trouble is, lots of people – especially in America – honestly believe this tripe. They have to; otherwise, their rose-tinted view of the world would be shattered and they might even have to realise that they could be wrong, which would never do.

  • tony_opmoc

    This is a massive victory for Craig Murray, and far more important than a by-election result.

    Your evidence has been taken extremely seriously, because they know its true. Their attempts to criticise you at a personal level for what you write here on your blog are absolutely hilarious. In this instance they are behaving like a bunch of 14 year olds at a debating society, saying that Snotty Murray has been accusing us of not keeping to the rules – and WE are going to show him – by dragging him in for interrogation. Of course if Snotty Murray hadn’t been snotty – he would have been totally ignored.

    Well Done Craig. You’re a hero. They have to take you seriously now. Your actions have almost certainly already saved numerous people from brutal torture, and THAT is by far the most important Result of Your Actions.

    I just hope the REAL perpertrators at the Top of the decision making process – are not only cowering in remorse, but also worried sick about being Prosecuted and JAILED. You have made this possibility far more likely.

    Thank You So Very Much,

    Tony

  • Polo

    @dreoilin @tony_opmoc

    Bush actually identified the aggression as a crusade in the early days before the penny, sort of, dropped.

    I assume when Dismore speaks at the moment it is as chair of the Committee and he has to reflect the Committe consensus in some way as opposed to his own personal views. Stiff upper lip, old chap. I love it. St. Augustine doesn’t even half tell it.

    The incompetent Lewis, in all his wrigglings, has blown the gaff. Listen again. Torture is justified to protect the citizenry, but I can’t say this openly, or I would embarrass my boss and we might be thrown out of the UN – God forbid”

    Am I committing a sin in taking pleasure in his bureaucratic evasions? If so, half a Hail Mary should sort it out.

    Craig, take heart, you’re making a difference.

  • Polo

    For those not familiar with the idiom, half a Hail Mary is the equivalent, in confessional penitential terms, of a halfpenny award in a libel case.

  • tony_opmoc

    According to the New American – a publication I know nothing about – in its article “Communism Still Stands in the “Stans”” published today…

    “The U.S. government used Uzbekistan as a location for its “extraordinary rendition” program for terrorism suspects in the years after 9/11, but after British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray exposed some of the worst forms of torture in human history, even the Bush administration ceased using Uzbekistan as a destination for U.S. detainees.”

    What the hell are all our other Diplomats doing across the World? Are they all afraid of getting fired for doing their jobs properly and standing up against blatant EVIL?

    My uncle used to be in the diplomatic service, though he retired about 40 years ago. He was both a Gentleman and a man of Integrity. He would be rolling in his grave if he knew the appalling levels to which the Country he was very proud of has sunk.

    He would however, definitely buy Craig Murray a drink.

    Tony

  • John D. Monkey

    Polo

    Ivan Lewis is not incompetent, he’s actually one of the more intelligent and thoughtful of the New Labour lot. But he is first and foremost a careerist, as are almost all government ministers, and he’s spouting this crap because it’s his job, not his view. He was probably reading from a brief. Politics is like that.

    To hear him trotting out the government line (straight out of “1984” – war is peace, torture is protection, etc.) therefore saddens but doesn’t surprise me.

    Plus ca change…

  • MJ

    “They hate us because of our freedom”. The trouble is, lots of people – especially in America – honestly believe this tripe.

    anticant: but it’s not tripe, it’s perfectly true. They do hate us and our freedoms. The perpetrators of 9/11 are the very same people who are conducting the “war on terror”. With the Patriot Act in the US and the various “anti-terror” legislation over here they are doing their utmost to destroy our freedoms – and with no little success.

  • anticant

    I entirely agree. We are a lot less free than we were before 9/11, for the reasons you state – more’s the pity.

    My point was that it’s rubbish to believe that those in the Muslim world who attack the West (= defend themselves) hate us because they envy our freedoms, real or imagined; we’ve given them plenty of other more solid grounds for hating us. But many Americans are utterly incapable of imagining that the whole world doesn’t wish they were Americans too. Well, I don’t for a start.

  • dreoilin

    “But many Americans are utterly incapable of imagining that the whole world doesn’t wish they were Americans too. Well, I don’t for a start.”–anticant

    Nor do I. But they refuse to believe me. (They’re inculcated with that stuff from birth and all through schooling, if you ask me.) Finally, I asked them what they had that I hadn’t. I was given a long list.

    One by one I demonstrated that we have the same if not better — e.g. worldwide we’re ranked higher than they are in press freedom, education, and health care. Finally one item remained.

    They are allowed to keep guns and we’re not.

    (As far as I know, there are 30,000 gun-deaths per year in the US.)

  • anticant

    On holiday in Italy a couple of years ago there was nearly a lynching party when a large loud-mouthed American tourist announced: “Well, we don’t care about anyone else. We’re SAFE under the American flag!”

  • John D. Monkey

    dreolin

    I love the USA but don’t think I will ever understand how it “ticks”.

    You have to spend a long time there to appreciate the place guns have in the national consciousness. It goes well beyond any rational explanation I can detect, and is deeply embedded in their history and social / legal structures.

    This is puzzling to the rest of us, as the people of the USA are incredibly friendly, helpful and open; they just seem to take the ominpresence of guns for granted in the same way we europeans view the need to minimise their place in our socieites.

    The text and interpretation of the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) is still fiercely argued over by the different lobbies. Whatever the merits of these arguments, however, the fact is that it would now be impossible effectively to control or limit gun ownership as it is so widespread.

    Your figure is broadly correct. Up-to-date figures are hard to come by, but in 2001 there were 29,573 recorded deaths from firearms – suicide 16,869; homicide 11,348; accident 802; legal intervention 323; undetermined 231. (CDC, 2004)

    The surprising stat from this is the relatively small number of deaths from accidents, but this probably reflects under-recording, especially as about 200,000 people are injured with firearms every year.

    On your wider point, I’m not sure that many “ordinary” US citizens (as opposed to those who do engage in politics and foreign affairs) give any thought as to whether the rest of the world wants to be Americans. They know very little about the rest of the world (the news media carries very little foreign news unless it relates directly to the USA), and care even less. The USA is so huge it’s almost a world in itself.

    Inasmuch as they think about these things at all, I suspect they are not worried either way what the rest of the world thinks about them, as they think the rest of the world is unimportant.

    And if they do think about it, some I have spoken to seem to be rather proud of this as it demonstrates that the USA is special: at times it’s a bit like the Millwall Syndrome (“no-one likes us, we don’t care”).

  • dreoilin

    “as they think the rest of the world is unimportant”–John D

    And that’s what I find sickening, frankly.

    Everything you’ve mentioned fits what I know of the USA, although I’ve never set foot in the place. The ignorance combined with arrogance that I’ve met online has put me off for life. (Despite the fact that, being Irish, I have no less than 21 first cousins there.)

  • dreoilin

    As I understand it the 2nd Amendment was to allow for armed militias, in case the Gov’t got too big for its boots or went off the rails. It wasn’t designed for individuals to keep assault rifles in their wall cabinets …

    If it was used as intended, perhaps the USA wouldn’t be in the government-by-corporation mess it’s in now.

  • John D. Monkey

    dreolin

    I’ve travelled a lot in the USA and despite its insularity it’s a wonderful country. Don’t take the arrogant online neo-con trolls as representative of the US generally.

    That insularity is not sickening in my view, just sad. As I said, individual UAS citizens are some of the nicest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world; I would point mainly to their education system and the influnce of religion for the character of the USA as a nation.

    I have read a fair bit about the subject and I conclude that the critical bit in the Second Amendment ought to be the meaning of the word “infringed”. And while I’m not a scholar of 18th century legalese, as I understand it “infringed” meant at the time “not UNREASONABLY constrained”. So my interpretation of the text is that any Government controls on arms should be reasonable. That then gets you into what’s reasonable, but the NRA and others have cut off discussion of this line of thought…

    As I implied, it’s far to late for the USA to change all this even if there was a will to, which there isn’t. There are far too many weapons around and tens of thousands (millions?) of people who agree with Charlton Heston and the NRA: “you’ll get my gun out of my cold, dead hand.”

  • dreoilin

    “That insularity is not sickening in my view, just sad.”–John D

    We’ll have to agree to disagree, John. Their insularity leads to the kind of discussion (including among Democrats) that I’ve seen online regarding loss of life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They talk about “deaths” of around 4,000 “people” in Iraq, and don’t bother mentioning (when it hasn’t been mentioned previously in the discussion, either) that they’re talking about American lives only. That’s sick in my view. Any reference to lives lost is in the (unspoken) context that they’re talking about Americans. And they can brush off any other deaths because as you said earlier, “they think the rest of the world is unimportant”.

    The NRA is welcome to promote their agenda. If they want to keep guns and kill each other off, it’s not my concern. It’s hardly a human rights issue – except for those on the receiving end who may think they have a right to live without the fear of a neighbour having a bad day and shooting up the local school.

  • anticant

    ‘It’s a bit like the Millwall Syndrome (“no-one likes us, we don’t care”)’.

    I think it’s rather the opposite – more “we’re such lovely people that anyone who knows us couldn’t possibly not like us”.

    Many Americans ARE lovely people – I’ve had some charming and warmhearted American friends – but it takes a great deal to dent their too-rosy image of themselves, which is why so many Americans simply refuse to believe that dishonest, wicked or cruel things are done in their name (e.g. G.W. Bush saying after Abu Ghraib “This isn’t the America I know”).

    The problem is that whichever party is in office American government, business and finance are run by ruthless people who feel able to ride roughshod over the aspirations of the majority who genuinely want a better world for themselves and others.

    The crucial issue for democracy is how to make the voices of the ‘little people’ who are in fact the majority count, both in the US and the UK. That is why it is so important to get an effective hearing for many more independent voices like Craig’s.

  • John D. Monkey

    Happy to agree to disagree.

    But I wouldn’t judge a nation of 300 million people on the basis of the contributers to an online discussion.

    We in the UK are not exactly paragons – look how much attention we (rightly) pay to the deaths of our own armed forces – but how little to the hundreds of Afghans that are also being killed weekly. And even the head of the Taliban presumably had family and loved ones…

    Sure the US are worse than us in this respect, but no-one is immune from “small earthquake in China, only 5,00 dead” news values. Focus on your own family, then village, county, country etc. is a pan-human trait.

  • dreoilin

    John,

    It’s not “on the basis of the contributers to an online discussion”.

    It’s ten years of activism online, including on group blogs with American activists. And although I haven’t been there, my offspring have, and they walked out of “excellent” corporate jobs (with all the $$$ and perks) to live and work elsewhere, because they couldn’t stand the culture.

  • dreoilin

    “look how much attention we (rightly) pay to the deaths of our own armed forces”

    I know about that, John, but I’m not in the UK and I’m not British. I tend to focus globally.

  • John D. Monkey

    Anticant

    “The crucial issue for democracy is how to make the voices of the ‘little people’ who are in fact the majority count, both in the US and the UK”.

    Agreed, but we have never had real democracy (= government by the people) anywhere in the world. No UK government in modern times has had a majority of the votes cast, let alone of the electorate. And Obama’s “landslide” came from 53% of the votes on a turnout of 63% of registered voters, in turn only about 80% of adults (i.e active support of about 26%, roughly the same as supported Labour at the last UK general election.)

    I have no answer to this conundrum, and suspect no-one else does either! But modern technology COULD make genuine participative democracy possible in a country like the UK – you’d give a secure voting handet (mobile phone based?) to all citizens over 18, or something like that.

  • anticant

    The problem is the ignorance and apathy of large swathes of the electorate in all countries, not least those with a reasonably honest voting system (and ours is very flawed).

    Even if one used modern technology to make participation easier – which is desirable, I agree – how do you motivate to electorate to be interested in politics or to want to vote? Somehow they have to be convinced that voting is not merely a duty, but is in their own best interests. Making voting compulsory would be wrong in principle and wouldn’t work in practice.

    So, like you, I have no easy answer. We just have to slog on with blogging, personal discussion and so on, and little by little the public’s political consciousness will be raised. The low turnout at the recent Norwich North by-election was not, I believe, because people weren’t interested, but because they were turned off by all the main political parties after the expenses scandal and so forth, and as Craig and other independents experienced, the media conspired to ensure that their dissenting voices weren’t given a fair airing.

  • mary

    Sir John Scarlett now comes into the NuLabour offensive following Miliband and Johnson at the weekend. Craig’s evidence is not referred to.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8188307.stm

    MI6 ‘is not complicit’ in torture

    By Gordon Corera

    BBC Security Correspondent

    Sir John Scarlett formerly chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee (photo)

    The head of MI6 has told the BBC there is no torture and “no complicity in torture” by the British secret service.

    Sir John Scarlett said his officers were committed to human rights and liberal democracy, but also had to protect the UK against terrorism.

    There has been growing concern about the role of the intelligence services in the mistreatment of suspects abroad.

    The Joint Human Rights Committee of MPs and peers recently called for an independent inquiry into the matter.

    In a highly critical report, the committee said there was now a “disturbing number of credible allegations” of British complicity in torture.

    These allegations include the rendition and alleged abuse of British resident Binyam Mohamed from Pakistan to Morocco, prior to being taken to Guantanamo Bay.

    However, the committee said it was unable to draw conclusions about the involvement of British officers because ministers and the head of the domestic security service MI5 refused to testify at parliamentary hearings on the claims.

    The Metropolitan Police are investigating the role of MI5 in Mr Mohamed’s case.

    Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has also said it has grave concerns that British officers were complicit in torture.

    Independence

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s programme MI6: A Century in Shadows, Sir John Scarlett defended the actions of his organisation, the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6.

    “Our officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else,” he said.

    “They also have the responsibility of protecting the country against terrorism and these issues need to be debated and understood in that context,” he added.

    He denied that British intelligence services had been compromised by their close relationship with counterparts in the US.

    “Our American allies know that we are our own service, that we are here to work for the British interests and the United Kingdom. We’re an independent service working to our own laws – nobody else’s – and to our own values.”

    He insisted there has been “no torture and there is no complicity with torture”.

    ‘No regrets’

    Sir John also discussed the controversy over the reliability of intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

    At the time, he was the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which had ownership of the 2002 dossier which contained the controversial claim that Saddam Hussein would be able to deploy weapons of mass destruction “within 45 minutes”.

    The newly launched Iraq Inquiry is expected to revisit the question of how the intelligence was presented in the dossier.

    Citing the earlier Butler inquiry’s findings on the matter, Sir John acknowledged that “a number of the reports and reporting lines proved to be unreliable and had to be withdrawn”.

    “This of course is a regular issue in any kind of intelligence work and if you have lines, reporting chains if you like, then of course there are issues about how you validate them,” he said.

    Sir John said he had no regrets over the issue, but conceded that the episode had been “a difficult time for the service”.

    He will step down as the head of MI6 in November.

    ——————————————————————————–

    MI6: A Century in the Shadows is a three part series for Radio 4.

    The final episode, New Enemies, will be broadcast on Monday 10 August at 0900 BST and 2130 BST or listen again via iPlayer.

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