Tuesday 20 February 2018

Detainees shun torture inquiry over presumption of secrecy

Wesley Johnson

THE inquiry into British complicity in allegations of torture lacks credibility and threatens to be a "waste of time and public money", campaigners said yesterday as they declared they would take no part in it.

Human rights groups and lawyers said they intended to pull out of Sir Peter Gibson's inquiry following the announcement last month that the final decision on whether material can be made public will rest with the government.

In a joint letter to the solicitor for the inquiry, 10 groups including Liberty, Reprieve and Amnesty International said they did not intend to submit any evidence or attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.

Lawyers representing former Guantanamo Bay detainees also said they were pulling out, saying there was "no comprehension on the part of the government of the gravity of the crimes which representatives of the state may have committed".

But a spokeswoman for the inquiry insisted it would still go ahead, adding that it offered "detainees and anyone else with relevant evidence the only opportunity to give evidence to an independent inquiry".

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "A year ago the government accepted praise for the promise of a public inquiry -- but the result, involving sidelining victims and a presumption of secrecy, is nothing of the kind."

The campaigners' concerns centre on how the final decision on what can be made public rests with the Cabinet Secretary, and on how former detainees and their lawyers will not be able to question intelligence officials.

They feel that the proposed inquiry does not have the "credibility or transparency" to establish whether UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad.

In a second letter, lawyers for several former detainees added: "What is proposed is a 'Detainee Inquiry' in which there will be no constructive participation by the detainees."

The inquiry was announced a year ago after claims that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee was tortured with the knowledge of the British security services while held by the CIA.

Irish Independent

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