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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  • actgreen

    Well done Craig!

    Indeed, “What a bunch of self-regarding political pygmies they are.”

    Pretty well says it all in my view, but I think that every reader of this blog post should forthwith contact their own constituency MP (esp Labour ones) requesting that they lobby or use what influence they have to press the government to accept the JCHR report recommendation that a public inquiry should be held to flush out the truth about government complicity in torture.

    Without this it seems that the continued descent of this country towards barbarism is likely to proceed unchecked.

  • Johan van Rooyen

    “This was entirely untrue, as our subsequent decision to ask him to give oral evidence, despite his comments, demonstrated.”

    The pathetic lack of logic in this self-serving sentence along with the rest of the weasely and, as you point out, contradictory paragraph from which it comes is really a total vindication of your efforts.

    Slowly but surely the truth is beginning to embed itself in the public’s mind and in the public record. Well done, Craig!

  • Jon

    Craig, I believe you were going to look further into the claims that Dismore visited the Uzbek embassy. Did you discover anything?

    I wholeheartedly endorse the congratulations from actgreen and Johan; slowly the wheels are turning, and perhaps now their torture policy will start to get embarrassing for government ministers. Perhaps they are hoping for the process to go so slowly that they will be out on their political ear before they are discredited by the exposure.

  • Stevie

    Good progress and the Committee did well to resist some of the pressures they must have been under from senior Ministers. Apparently using evidence gained from torture will make us all safer? Well that was the FCO line on Radio 4 this morning. It certainly doesn’t make me feel safer. I guess they will already be plotting the next supposed terrorist scare as they scramble to justify their actions and distract from this shocking news…

  • cassiel

    For what it’s worth, you got a brief but favourable name-check in the Today Programme’s 8:10 interview on the subject – probably worth digging out via podcast or iPlayer.

  • ingo

    For all its worth, just posted this little snippet on the BBC’s website, not that it will appear, our loveys are just too much into each other.

    Well done Craig, where was/is Chloe Smith on this one???

    It is clear from this report issued today, that Andrew Dismore did not declare his connections and collaborations with the Uzbek Government, he should resign now.

    Equally David Milliband, his refusal to come before the board and answer questions thrown up by Craig Murrays evidence is damning to say the least, both have been lying and should go, honour does not even come into it, both turned democracy into dirty mud.

  • mary

    Has Eddie gone on his hols or are his services no longer needed by his employers now that the NN by-election is over?

  • mary

    They also took evidence on a British national who claims he was tortured in an Egyptian jail while being asked questions which can only have come from UK intelligence, and heard from Craig Murray, the former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, about his *belief* that Britain received intelligence obtained by torture in jails in that country.

    The report did not pass judgment on individual cases. It noted that there was no allegation of direct involvement by British agents in torture, but said that complicity alone would be a clear breach of the UK’s obligations under international human rights treaties.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6738381.ece

    Craig only has a ‘belief’ according to Murdoch’s Times. FFS he actually has the evidence.

  • MJ

    “our subsequent decision to ask him to give oral evidence, despite his comments”

    Despite? “Because of” would probably be more accurate. If it wasn’t for Craig’s robust campaigning on this site and the vigorous response of many of his readers, I suspect he would never have made it to the JCHR.

  • Ed

    “Not that I believe a public inquiry will achieve much”

    Indeed. This is a matter for the DPP, no more, no less. And if NuLab continue to go about suppressing evidence and obstructing justice, then we have criminal statutes already on the books to deal with this too.

    Complicity in torture is a crime, Binyam Mohamed – for example – was tortured, there’s very little still in dispute so this should be right up the DPP’s alley.

    A public inquiry could probably only serve to fudge the discovery process, where the full scope of the Blair torture policy could be brought to light.

  • Paul

    It is funny to hear when the British government says that it does not “support or condone torture”. The Uzbek regime has been torturing it’s opponents ever since Mr Karimov came to power in 1989. This is well documented by the UN officials. Yet, most of the information received from Uzbeks and used by the British services about (mainly) Hizb-ut-Tahrir activity were obtained by torturing the victims or their family members in Uzbekistan. They knew it in London. Anyone who speaks up against the brutal regime or its policy in Uzbekistan can turn up to be a terrorist or extremist. Fabricated accusations would depict a picture describing muslims as an army of unbeatable terrorists willing to blow the whole Central Asian region which would in the end affect the British interests. And this kind of picture would be passed on to some MPs or members of government offices to lobby interests of Uzbekistan in order to minimise the criticism to the address of a most brutal dictator of modern times. Someone here says how we can prove that Dismore had meetings with Uzbek Embassy officials. It is hard to get the minutes of meeting from Uzbek Embassy. However, it might be possible to ask revelation of daily commitments of Mr Dismore for 2002-2003 and the content of discussions or materials that were passed on to him.

  • gremlins3

    In the Today interview, Dismore also took up one of Craig’s main points that we were effectively creating a market for torture. Well done Craig.

    How fashionable it is in weasel-speak at the moment to trot out the phrase “balance xxx (bad thing you’ve been found out doing) against yyy (threat, whether related or not) … Sure enough out came Ivan Lewis with it: obviously not a situation where legal or moral absolutes are too convenient.

    Dismore to his credit was quick to rebut Lewis’ arguments, and much more succinctly (imho); he even mentioned Craig’s documentary evidence in countering the argument that Milliband and other senior officials have nothing to say.

  • Clark

    Well done Craig,

    I think it was in Murder in Samarkand that you wrote “just keep chipping away, eventually the marble will crack” or something similar. Well the cracks really are starting to show, aren’t they?

    If they offered you your old job back, would you take it? I suppose it might be a way of silencing your blog!

  • Clark

    Maybe Andrew Dismore really hadn’t connected his support for the Uzbek government with the atrocities being committed. Thinking in a conveniently compartmentalised manner is something we should all be careful about. We’re only little; we usually have to deliberately look to see the big picture.

  • anticant

    Craig, you have been endorsed as a convincing witness and that is a big feather in your cap. Don’t sour your victory by carping at Dismore and others. You are the guy who has punched the first hole in this granite wall of lies, and it is only a matter of time before decent opinion will demand and get a full enquiry.

    Your bitterness at the atrocious way you have been mistreated in the past is understandable, but having stuck stoutly to your guns it is well to remember the old North Country saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  • Paul Jakma

    Well done Craig! Don’t mind the biters. FWIW, I’m selfishly glad we havn’t lost you to Norwich.

    PS: There seems to be some problems with the HTML of your post – the links in particular don’t seem to be well-formed (it confuses my RSS reader).

  • Polo

    @Mary

    That interview was a beautiful piece of radio, for which thanks. Bears relistening to many times and says it all.

    Compared with the slitherings of the Milliband poodle Lewis, Dismore sounds like a saint, even if like St. Augustine this was imposed on him at an inopportune time.

    @Craig

    You’ve pierced the armour. The death blow cannot be too far away.

    Who is the BBC lady? That sounded like a real BBC interview from long ago. I hope she has a long term contract with Auntie.

  • ingo

    I agree with all the comments above, getting Andrew Dismore to eat his own proverbials and even taking up Craigs descriptive words is great news.

    Revelations abroad and here about matching maroccan visits, as much as the vociferous spam atttacks on this site, something one should see as deliberate and planned, all this makes it apparent that the cover is slowly pulled over their feet, soon they will be staring at their naked selfs and have to admite collusion in torture, who knows, they might have even ordered it.

    If Dr. Kelly was not tortured by whatever was administered to him before he died, what was it, a failed attempt to safe his life? tell me another one.

  • Polo

    If they believe, as they do, that torture is justified to protect the citizenry, they should say it openly.

    It is precisely what they are saying, if you listen carefully, and translate into the King’s english (which has unfortunately become a bit devalued under the Queen, whom may God bless otherwise).

  • ingo

    Forgot to say, this is a small milestone in the history of GB torture Inc. and you should you feel like celebrating at any point within the next 24 hours, let me know where and when…(:-)

  • George Laird

    Dear Craig

    Another interesting piece.

    I am not surprised that New Labour Ministers haven’t come forward to give evidence.

    It speaks volumes of what Labour really thinks about the Human Rights agenda.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • logosity

    At last! The report makes for heartening reading. In particular item 56 is a strong criticism of the government’s evasion, and shows the strong influence you had on their reasoning.

    It seemed to me at the time that Evan Harris’s grilling was chiefly designed to test the committee’s footing should they be challenged on the facts. They were clearly listening attentively, although they may have seemed unduly dismissive.

    The criticisms in the report about the attacks on their impartiality via this blog are worth taking on board IMHO – although they’re well out of place in that medium. It’s true that sometimes you have to shout insults to get attention, but I thought the display of open contempt was potentially counter-productive. Experienced solicitors learn to temper their client’s attack, so that a serious grievance cannot be dismissed as rampant paranoia. And I think the JCHR report will serve this purpose for you now, presenting you as a reliable witness without exposing you to dismissive counterattack. It’s a good step towards getting the establishment to actually listen this time.

    So there are many reasons to celebrate. I’m off to a party tonight and I’ll raise a glass for you. To justice!

  • David McKelvie

    Well, Miliband seems to have pissed off the Law Lords over the Binyam Mohammed Case and Hillary’s threats, so that Lord Justice Thomas stated in no uncertain terms that to suppress evidence of torture is a criminal offence in Britain. It would be nice to see at least one of these political pymies, as you so aptly termed them, carted off to the chowky.

  • Shuggie

    The whole ‘Operation Crevice’/fertiliser/’Ministry of Sound’ bomb plot case was built on the ‘evidence’ obtained through the torture of _Salahuddin Amin_ & on the ‘evidence’ provided by Al’Qaida ‘supergrass’ Mohammed Junaid Babar.

    On 16th December 2005, a court hearing ruled over requests by The Times, Guardian & the BBC, with the result that an injunction was then placed on the open reporting of the Operation Crevice evidence.

    See http://tinyurl.com/m3xdof

    The Judge ruled that the “court will sit _in camera_ for those parts of the trial and the pre-trial process during which there is any evidence given or any reference made to evidence, information or argument which relates to the material disclosed by the prosecution” (i.e that obtained by the torture of “SA” – Salahuddin Amin)

    Why did this happen? According to the judge, “the grave risk to national security at the present time from potential acts of terrorism and the likely obstruction both to the identification of perpetrators and to the bringing to justice those who are identified are so real that an exceptional course is justified”

    The British War of/on Terror is built on torture.

  • Ruth

    It appears to me that torture is used not for obtaining information but to force innocent people to confess to illicit actions so that the US/UK governments can parade ‘Muslim terrorists’ to put the shits up us.

  • dreoilin

    Sorry for the OT, but this is relevant to the whole ‘GWOT’ thing, and I haven’t seen it reported anywhere in these islands.

    “Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder”

    http://tinyurl.com/n2xnbz

    Not only implicated in murder, but according to the accusations, saw himself as a Christian Crusader, who wanted to kill as many Muslims as possible in Iraq, and employed people who were mentally unfit to be allowed to handle lethal weapons. Oh, and apparently he was also into arms smuggling. It’s shocking. And I haven’t seen one word reported in the UK or Irish media.

    BushCo unleashed this crowd in Iraq.

    And I’m still getting the same drivel on US blogs: “they hate us because of our freedom”.

    Craig,

    Well done — Dismore is even using your terminology, if I remember correctly: “Creating a market”. I think Dismore finds he has to agree with you, even if he doesn’t like you personally. They (idiots like Lewis) can’t keep up this obfustication much longer. Or treat their audience like morons. It’s not what they say but what they don’t say that is glaringly obvious to all.

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