When you wish upon a rendition and torture inquiry…

19 December 2013 by

Detainee Inquiry1 Crown Office Row’s Philippa Whipple QC and Matthew Hill were counsel to the Detainee Inquiry. They are not the writers of this post.

On 6 July 2010, in the first innocent days of the Coalition Government, former appeal judge Sir Peter Gibson was asked by the Prime Minister to enquire into “whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11.” Almost 3 1/2 years later, the Detainee Inquiry has  produced a  report (it was originally presented to the Government on 27 June 2012 but there have been heavy negotiations about sensitive material in the public version).

The report makes clear at the outset that it “does not, and cannot, make findings as to what happened”. Why so? Because the Inquiry was scrapped before it heard evidence from any witnesses, so it couldn’t test any conclusions reached purely on the basis of documentary evidence. The reason given at the time by Sir Peter  was that “it is not practical for the Inquiry to continue for an indefinite period to wait for the conclusion of the police investigations“. The “investigations” are those into claims of collusion by the intelligence services with torture in Libya (see this Q&A for more).

There had already been a mass walk-out of the Inquiry by former and current detainees and Non Governmental Organisations, so the  job of the inquiry was looking increasingly difficult.

The result is that this report reads, literally, like a wish list. Indeed, the word “wish” appears 117 times. Annex A is a “List of issues and areas the Inquiry would have wished to investigate“, and contains 27 in all.

Despite it being preliminary, there is a lot in there which is worrying. As Sir Peter told reporters, “[i]t does appear from the documents that the United Kingdom may have been inappropriately involved in some renditions. That is a very serious matter. And no doubt any future inquiry would want to look at that.”

But will there be a future inquiry? Well, sort of. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), a joint committee whose members are appointed by the Prime Minister, will now consider the issues and produce a report. But when the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) reported on the collusion issue in 2011, it said at §65 that:

The missing element, which the ISC has failed to provide, is proper ministerial accountability to Parliament for the activities of the Security Services.

It is a significant irony that in 2011 the JCHR concluded that the allegations of complicity in torture “should be a wake up call to Ministers that the current arrangements [of review by the ISC] are not satisfactory“, but now the issue has nonetheless been sent back to be investigated by that committee. Ken Clarke (remember him?) emphasised that the ISC was up to the task in today’s announcement to Parliament, but one wonders whether the NGOs which abandoned the inquiry over its alleged lack of openness might now wish they had stuck with it – see the comments, for example, from Reprieve .

None of this is encouraging. The UK has a duty under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights to investigate allegations of complicity in torture and ensure that proper systems are in place to make sure any wrongdoing isn’t repeated (see e.g. this case). Sir Peter has raised serious concerns and they should be independently investigated, as this Government promised. In light of criticisms of the ISC, there must be serious doubts that it will be up to the job. Even with its moderately increased powers, the ISC still falls well short of a judge-led inquiry.

There is a possibility that once criminal investigations are concluded and the ISC has reported, Sir Peter or another former/current judge will be asked to resume this work. But at present, it looks like Sir Peter’s report – despite the fundamental importance of these issues – will remain merely a wish list.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Related posts:

2 comments


  1. Remy says:

    There’s no duty under Article 3 to investigate in collusion if said collusion is in an act which occurs outside ECHR jurisdiction. Baha Mouser involved UK troops involved in misconduct, rather than US ones….

  2. James Lawson says:

    I have it on good authority that ‘Homebase’ and ‘B&Q’ are able to offer a substantial discount on the Whitewash the Intelligence and Security Committee will need to complete their report!

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus coronavirus act 2020 costs costs budgets Court of Protection covid crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Facial Recognition Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecutions Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania round-up Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence shamima begum Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: