Rights groups boycotting UK detainee torture inquiry

[JURIST] Ten human rights groups said Thursday they would boycott a UK government inquiry into allegations that its secret services were complicit in torture of detainees in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites], sent a letter [text, PDF] to the Detainee Inquiry [official website] saying they would no longer participate after receiving information on the protocol and transparency of the inquiry. They argue that the inquiry conducted in the manner described to them would not comply with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] on the prohibition of torture. The joint letter states:

We are particularly disappointed that the issue of what material may be disclosed to the public will not be determined independently of Government and, further, that there will be no meaningful participation of the former and current detainees and other interested third parties. As you know, we were keen to assist the Inquiry in the vital work of establishing the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad. Our strong view, however, is that the process currently proposed does not have the credibility or transparency to achieve this. If the Inquiry proceeds on this basis, therefore, and in light of indications from the lawyers acting for former detainees that they will not be participating, we do not intend to submit any evidence or attend any further meetings with the Inquiry team.
AI released a public statement [text, PDF] on its decision to boycott the inquiry saying, "[c]rucially, [AI] believes that the Detainee Inquiry risks failing in its intended aim to systematically get to the truth of these allegations, and ensure that such abuses never happen again." The Detainee Inquiry released the protocol exactly one year after UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] said he would set up an inquiry [JURIST report] to investigate the allegations of torture. The announcement came after 12 ex-detainees brought civil cases against the government, claiming that British agents took part in their mistreatment while they were held in prisons in foreign countries, including Pakistan and Morocco.

HRW urged [JURIST report] the new UK government, in May 2010, to set up the inquiry on torture 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 HRW wanted 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.

 

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