UK government to overhaul interrogation policy

[JURIST] The British government indicated Monday that it will issue a new set of regulations regarding the use of information obtained via torture. The announcement came as part of the government's defense against a lawsuit filed by the human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website], which has been seeking a review of the country's torture policy. A UK High Court judge agreed that the country's policy must be reviewed [press release], but indicated that because lawyers for the government promised new guidelines would be released shortly, the court would take no immediate action. Similar claims of complicity were made against the government by a new report [materials] released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to HRW, intelligence services in France, Germany and the UK lack proper oversight of intelligence information that is received from countries that torture. HRW also condemned the use of information obtained via torture against suspects at trial. HRW has called on the countries [press release] to "take responsibility for their own role in third-party abuse, and to ensure that their intelligence cooperation isn't perpetuating abuse." It also urged the countries to repudiate the use of information obtained through torture, to establish new guidelines clearly excluding torture evidence in civil and criminal proceedings, and strengthen oversight of intelligence services.

Last month, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Secretary William Hague [official profile] said that the UK will launch an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that overseas UK operatives were complicit in torture. Hague stated that the new coalition government will initiate a judge-led inquiry into the allegations, but no details were outlined in the legislative program [text, PDF] published by Prime Minister David Cameron [official profile]. Also last month, the England and Wales Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that state intelligence agencies cannot use secret evidence in their defense against abuse accusations by Binyam Mohamed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and several other UK residents who were held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The judgment overturned a November ruling [JURIST report] of a UK high court, which held that defendants MI5 and MI6 [official websites] could utilize 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. The procedure, typically employed in criminal proceedings, is designed to allow concealment of evidence where disclosure would cause "real harm to the public interest."

 

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