Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Torture allegations in U.K. ringing a bell

There's a bit of symmetry going on in terms of our present debate over Afghan detainees and what the Canadian government knew about torture allegations, what they did in response, document disclosure, etc., and similar issues coming to a head in the U.K. From today's Guardian:
The British government is today accused of involvement in a catalogue of "grave human rights violations" since the September 2001 al-Qaida attacks, in a report published by Amnesty International.

In the most damning Amnesty report on the UK's human rights record for a generation, the organisation says there is "credible evidence" that the government is implicated in torture, unlawful detentions, rendition, the concealment of victims' complaints and a failure to disclose evidence of torture.
Human rights groups and British MPs are calling for...wait for it...a public inquiry:
Human rights groups have joined forces with a group of British MPs to campaign for an independent inquiry into the UK's role in torture and rendition during the so-called war on terror.

Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, Liberty and Reprieve have joined members of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition in writing an open letter calling for an inquiry to examine the role played by MI5, MI6 and members of the British armed forces, and the use of British territory and airspace.

The demand comes five days after Gordon Brown reneged on his pledge to publish new guidelines for British intelligence officers dealing with the torture and abuse of detainees held abroad.
Look who's supporting the inquiry in the U.K., the Conservative leader:
Andrew Tyrie, chair of the all-party group, said: "The case for an inquiry is supported by almost everybody except the government, including Lord Carlile, the government's own independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the joint committee on human rights, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and other experts in this field. This proposal offers a clear way forward. The government should take it.
Opposition calls for an inquiry, sounds familiar. As does the rhetoric surrounding the issues from those seeking transparency and a public resolution versus those opposing:
"Every time a new revelation emerges, it is damaging for public confidence in the Security Services and for the reputation of the UK. We must be sure that we have got to the truth in order to be able to move on. A short, judge-led inquiry would be quicker, cheaper and far more effective in restoring the public's trust than allowing this corrosive state of affairs to continue. It is a mistake to imagine that this issue will – or should – go away on its own."

The government denied that a policy of complicity in torture had been in place, and said no wrongdoing had been covered up. A spokeswoman said: "It would be inappropriate to hold any inquiry while a number of legal processes are already under way. The Metropolitan police is investigating allegations of possible criminal wrongdoing. The UK courts are also examining these issues. Through these procedures, the allegations will be fully tested and the evidence assessed."(emphasis added)
The issue is not going away for the U.K., the same way it is not going away for Canada. We are still waiting on the Speaker's ruling on parliamentary privilege.