1 Crown Office Row’s Philippa Whipple QC was leading counsel to the Gibson Inquiry. She is not the writer of this post
The Justice Secretary has told Parliament that the Gibson Inquiry tasked with considering whether Britain was “implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11” has been scrapped.
Ken Clarke announced that the police investigations into rendition, which were always to come before the formal start of the inquiry’s hearings, would take so long that the current inquiry could not continue. He said the Government remained committed to a judge-led inquiry, but presumably the current inquiry team could not be kept twiddling their collective thumbs for years longer.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced last week that it would not be bringing charges in relation to some of the historic allegations – particularly in relation to Binyam Mohammed and a 2002 incident at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. It would, however, begin to investigate more recent allegations in relation to Libya and “a number of further specific allegations of ill-treatment“.
The Gibson Inquiry has been controversial from the start. Significant criticism has surrounded the Inquiry’s plans for a mixture of open and closed hearings, and it has recently has been subject to a boycott from the former and current detainees, who allegedly suffered torture with the knowledge of UK security services as well as the NGOs who supported them.
Not all of the now defunct inquiry’s work will be wasted as it will be presenting a report of that work to Parliament. Sir Peter Gibson has said via the Inquiry’s website:
The Inquiry regrets the fact that we are not able to complete the task we were asked to do by the Prime Minister (as set out in his letter to me of 6 July 2010). However we recognise that it is not practical for the Inquiry to continue for an indefinite period to wait for the conclusion of the police investigations. The Inquiry has, however, already done a large amount of preliminary work, including the collation of many documents from Government departments and the Security and Intelligence Agencies. We welcome therefore the opportunity to bring together the work we have done to date. The Inquiry will therefore produce a report of our work, highlighting themes which might be subject to further examination.
It seems that whichever judge is to lead a future inquiry, it has now been kicked into the very long grass. For more information, see this excellent BBC Q&A the links below.
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