Human Rights Watch [official website] on Friday urged the new UK government to set up a judicial inquiry [press release] on torture [JURIST news archive] allegations and reaffirm its support for human rights. The rights group claimed that allegations of complicity in the torture of terrorism suspects have badly damaged the nation's reputation and that steps need to be taken to restore the nation's reputation as "a nation that respects human rights." The group cited reports from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee [materials], which point out specific instances of torture and kidnapping in counterterrorism efforts. Among the many issues the group wants the government to reconsider include the power of the government to detain terrorism suspects for 28 days without a trial and the government's ability to deport detainees to countries where they may be tortured. The organization's London director, Tom Porteous, expressed his desire for the British government to make civil liberties more of a priority.
The two parties in government have indicated they are in substantial agreement on civil liberties. They should translate that into practice by making a clean break with the previous government's abusive approach to counterterrorism and by strengthening the UK's role in bringing to justice those responsible for international crimes at home and abroad.The organization also urged the government to continue its support of the International Criminal Court [official website] and the Human Rights Act [text], which the government adopted in 1998.
Earlier this month, the England and Wales Court of Appeals [official website] ruled that security organizations MI5 and MI6 [official websites] could not use secret evidence in their defense against abuse allegations by Binyam Mohamed and other UK residents who were held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The security organizations wanted to use a "closed material procedure" that would allow them to rely on certain evidence without disclosing it to opposing counsel or committing it to the public record out of fear that disclosure would harm the public interest and the agencies themselves. The court ruled in February that the government must disclose several paragraphs [JURIST report] detailing the allegations of Mohamed's mistreatment that were previously omitted from an earlier ruling. The Human Rights Act, passed to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights, has been a source of debate in the British government since is was adopted in 1998. In 2006, then-prime minister Tony Blair called for an amendment to the act to allow the government greater discretion to protect public safety, while conservative leaders called for the act to be repealed [JURIST reports].