NGOs demand fair inquiry into UK’s alleged abuse of detainees abroad

Nine human rights NGOs write to judge leading the inquiry
15th September 2010: Following the announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron on 6 July of an inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, with eight other human rights NGOs, has shot off a communication to the judge leading the inquiry.
The AIRE Centre, Amnesty International, British Irish RIGHTS WATCH, Cageprisoners, Justice, Liberty, Redress, Reprieve, and the Medical Foundation have offer a number of constructive comments to ensure the success of the inquiry. The letter has been written with a view to underline the importance of ensuring meaningful engagement of torture survivors in the proceedings.

In the letter, sent to Sir Peter Gibson last week, the groups set out detailed recommendations for the scope and conduct of the inquiry, demanding that it be prompt, independent, thorough and subject to public scrutiny, with the participation of survivors.

Keith Best, CEO of the Medical Foundation said: “We have welcomed the Prime Minister’s assurance that torture survivors will be invited to deliver testimony to the inquiry in public. It is now important that the appropriate provisions are made to ensure that survivors are supported for the duration of the proceedings, including legal representation funded by the inquiry.”

He added: “It is vital that as much information as possible is released into the public domain, not only to allow the British people the scrutiny they deserve, but to send a strong message to countries around the world that the UK will not tolerate torture in any form.”

The Prime Minister announced that former Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gibson would chair the panel leading the investigation on 6 July 2010.

The letter says: `A sufficiently empowered and transparent inquiry could discharge the United Kingdom’s duty to effectively investigate damaging allegations of knowledge and/or involvement by state actors or agents in the torture, ill-treatment or rendition of individuals that have arisen in the last decade.

`Such an inquiry could also play an important role in clarifying how involvement in torture, ill-treatment or rendition might be prevented in the future.

It is incumbent on governments to promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and other related human rights abuses. In order to comply with basic human rights standards, it is essential that the inquiry be prompt’.

It is also being demanded that the inquiry is independent. `The persons responsible for and carrying out the inquiry must be fully independent of any institution, agency or person who may be the subject of, or are otherwise involved in, the inquiry. Where allegations of involvement in torture and ill-treatment have been made, an independent response is particularly important in order to preserve confidence in the administration of justice’.

The inquiry should also be thorough. ‘The inquiry must be sufficiently empowered, staffed, and resourced to be thorough, wide-ranging and rigorous. It must be able to pronounce on state responsibility for knowledge and involvement in the serious human rights violations that have been alleged and to identify any individuals responsible for such abuses, including establishing the responsibility of superior officers for crimes committed by subordinates under their effective control.

The inquiry must be capable of determining whether any conduct was unlawful and thus must be empowered to: secure all relevant evidence and testimony; interview victims and their families; question any eye witnesses; take statements of any officials alleged to have been involved in violations; secure appropriate medical reports; and consider any evidence which implicates any public officials or agents of the state.

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