May to face questions over torture

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Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The Home Secretary is to be questioned by MPs later over the UK’s involvement in the torture of terror suspects following the exposure of brutal CIA interrogation methods.

Theresa May’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee this afternoon comes as t he Government faces mounting cross-party calls for a new judicial inquiry into Britain’s possible role in the shocking treatment of detainees in the years after the September 11 attacks.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chair of the intelligence and security committee, yesterday insisted he and his colleagues would look into the matter ”without fear or favour”, take advantage of new freedoms to demand evidence and call witnesses – probably including ex-prime minister Tony Blair.

Donald Campbell, spokesman for human rights group Reprieve, said there were several questions that should be put to the Home Secretary by the Committee, which is chaired by Keith Vaz MP.

He said: “Did the British Government seek the redaction or removal from the public version of the report of any information which would demonstrate UK involvement in CIA rendition and torture?

“Why has Government U-turned on its pledge to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into UK torture complicity? And in the light of the gravity of the CIA torture report’s findings, will it make good on its original promise?”

Sir Malcolm also called on the White House to disclose to the committee what the UK Government and its intelligence agencies had covered up in last week’s damning report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA’s use of torture.

Downing Street insists all redactions were made for reasons of national security but the former foreign secretary said it was important to establish that there had not been a move simply to hide embarrassing revelations.

Lord West, who was previously chief of defence intelligence, has acknowledged it was possible individual British spies in the field knew what US counterparts were doing to detainees but denied lobbying the Senate committee over the issue.

The report from the US Senate Intelligence Committee said the interrogation of detainees in the wake of 9/11 was ”far worse” than the CIA had portrayed to the US Government.

Waterboarding methods had deteriorated to ”a series of near drownings” and Agency staff subjected detainees to ”rectal rehydration” – forced feeding through the anus – and other painful procedures that were never approved.

Among other torture methods used by the CIA across its secret prison network were the use of insects placed in a confinement box, sleep deprivation and the now-notorious practice of waterboarding.

Other techniques included the attention grasp, which involves grasping an individual with both hands on each side of a collar opening; walling, which is when an individual is pushed against a wall quickly; and stress positions.

Nick Clegg said those who “were in charge” at the time – Tony Blair and Jack Straw – must be called to give evidence.

Anyone found to have been complicit in torture must face the “full rule of the law”, regardless of how “grand” they are, the Deputy Prime Minister added.

He told a press conference in Westminster: “The next pragmatic step is to let the police get on with their work as soon as possible but also … to go, as Malcolm Rifkind has said, in pursuit of the truth without any fear or favour, including calling as witnesses, as individuals who need to be further questioned, politicians who were in charge … of the government at the time.

“If, after all of that, there are still question marks that need to be addressed, still dilemmas that need to be investigated, then let’s have a full judicial inquiry at the point if it’s deemed to be necessary.

“That’s why I’ve kept an open mind on that. But we have got a long way to go before we understand the full implications of what happened.”

Mr Clegg said the US report raised “extraordinarily troubling” questions about what happened in the days after 9/11.

He added: “If people are found to break the law, be complicit in torture, the full rule of the law should come down on them without fear or favour, however operational or grand they were.”

Amnesty International UK spokesman Tom Davies said: “The Home Secretary needs to explain fully and frankly what information British officials tried to keep out of the public domain as they discussed the Senate committee’s report on CIA torture.

“The Senate’s executive summary report is of course only a fraction of the full 6,700-page report and it seems highly likely that the full report contains numerous references to the involvement of British intelligence officers, their superiors and even British politicians.

“Though the Senate report was far from comprehensive, a few stones were lifted last week and we got to see some of the ugly truth on CIA torture.

“At the moment the UK is still acting like it’s afraid to turn over any stones for fear of what it might find underneath.

“Instead of a fully independent judge-led inquiry that’s properly equipped, the British public is being fobbed off with an under-powered inquiry from the Intelligence and Security Committee.

“Credible allegations of UK complicity in torture are a festering sore.

“David Cameron should honour the commitment he made in 2010 when he promised the public an independent, judge-led investigation – no ifs, no buts.”

A spokesman for Mr Blair’s office said: “For the avoidance of doubt, Tony Blair has always been opposed to the use of torture, has always said so publicly and privately, has never condoned its use and – as is shown by internal government documentation already made public – thinks it is totally unacceptable.

“He believes the fight against radical Islamism is a fight about values, and acting contrary to those values – as in the use of torture – is therefore not just wrong but counter-productive.”

Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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