July 6th, 2010
12:51 PM ET

U.K. to investigate detainee torture claims, PM announces

The British government will establish an investigation into allegations that members of its intelligence services were aware that detainees were being tortured, Prime Minister David Cameron
announced Tuesday.

The investigation will be conducted partly in secret to protect intelligence information, he told the House of Commons. Cameron also raised the possibility of compensation for some detainees who were held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  There are about a dozen court cases alleging that British officers were complicit in the torture of detainees, Cameron said.

"There is no evidence any British officer was directly engaged in torture in the aftermath of 9/11," Cameron said.

But, he said, British officers have been accused of "working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done."

Cameron said the three-member panel will ask questions including:

"Should we have realized sooner that what foreign agencies were doing mayhave been unacceptable and that we shouldn't be associated with it?"Did we allow our own high standards to slip – either systemically or individually? "Did we give clear enough guidance to officers in the field?  "Was information flowing quickly enough from officers on the ground to the intelligence services and then on to ministers so that we knew what was going on and what our response should be?"

The investigation will focus primarily on what happened at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, but will not be limited to that time or place, the prime minister said.

He also published the government's new guidance to the military, police and intelligence services on the treatment of detainees.

Human rights campaigner Clare Algar cautiously welcomed the announcement, but expressed concerns.

"The worry is the weight that David Cameron placed on the amount that is going to be done in secret," she said. "Obviously not all of this could be public, but my listening to his speech suggested that more of it was going to be private than public."

Algar is executive director of Reprieve, which campaigns for legal rights for prisoners around the world. The organization has been demanding an inquiry into detainee torture allegations.

She was pleased about the publication of the new rules for security services, but said it was "interesting that they are refusing to publish the old guidance, which suggests to me that it's dodgy."

Cameron hopes the panel will deliver its report within a year, he said. It is not entirely clear when the investigation will begin.

The prime minister said it was not "feasible" to start it while many civil suits against the government "remain unresolved."

Algar said the timeline "may be a bit optimistic to think they can clear all of the cases and report within a year."

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Smith in Oregon

    I guess one of the sole survivors from a CIA torture dungeon in Moroacco with scars on his groin that he stated were directly the result of interrogators using a straight razor slicing that part among others on his body could be thought to be 'torture'. Sadly, it doesn't appear at this time any American citizen that was kidnapped, drugged and consequently dumped via the CIA rendition Jet into one of their overseas torture prisons, survived.

    SERE's instructors that somehow got into the infamous torture camp in Iraq known as camp NAMA reported took pictures of Iraqi POW's with 'blow torch' burns on their bodys. The photos were confiscated, the SERE's instructors reported the US Army troops in NAMA threatened their lives. Camp NAMA is on the record as having tortured at least two POW's to death although many reports indicate the factual number was far greater. Who was the director at Camp NAMA, the most infamous torture dungeon in all of Iraq? Gen. McChrystal was the man in charge, such a surprise.

    July 7, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Petrus

    I would say that unless you were there, don't make comments you know nothing about. Heresay is just that.

    July 7, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |