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Rights experts rap UK gov’t for complicity in torture

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Two United Nations (UN) human rights experts have blasted the British government for its decision to hand over to MPs an independent inquiry into London’s alleged involvement in torture and abuse of people detained overseas.

The criticism comes a week after an interim report by former British appeal court judge Sir Peter Gibson found that UK intelligence officials were aware of the mistreatment of inmates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

British Cabinet minister Ken Clarke, however, announced the decision to replace the independent judge-led inquiry into the government’s awareness of torture in foreign jails with a parliamentary inquest.

UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights Ben Emmerson raised concerns over the decision, saying the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) “is likely to suffer from many of the same procedural shortcomings” suffered by the Gibson inquiry.

Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez described the British government’s move as “discouraging.”

He said that the UK’s parliamentary committee “previously failed to fully investigate prior allegations of torture, ill-treatment, rendition, and surveillance in the context of counter-terrorism and national security.”

The Gibson inquiry revealed the complicity of British intelligence agents in the controversial US rendition program, which involved torturing terror suspects. The Conservative backbencher and retired judge, has described the involvement as “truly shocking.”

The probe found 27 areas that need further investigation in relation to interrogation, rendition and the way officers were trained.

According to the findings, agents in some areas did not raise the issue in order not to jeopardize the UK’s relations with other countries.

The investigation’s report was initially shelved before any witnesses could testify. That came amid a behind-the-scenes dispute over the control of information that was to be publicized, and after police launched their own probe. But it was completed based on an examination of documentary evidence.

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