Human rights groups boycott UK torture inquiry

Human right groups and lawyers are dismissing an inquiry into the alleged complicity of the UK security services in torture, declaring it a waste of money – as much as $16 million, critics say.

­Ten human right groups insist they will not take part in the inquiry announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last year, because it will be a “whitewash.”

The boycott by human right groups, including Liberty, Reprieve and Amnesty International, comes after the publication of the inquiry’s protocol, which says that detainees and their lawyers will not be allowed to question officers. Another cornerstone is that the majority of the security officers will be questioned in private and the inquiry quite possibly will be held behind closed doors.

“There are few key reasons why the inquiry is unable to do its job properly,” Tara Lyle, UK policy adviser for Amnesty International, told RT. “The first of these is the rather shocking level of secrecy that is surrounding the inquiry. Much of the inquiry is going to take place behind closed doors, and no information will be released to the public. The second reason is the involvement of the people who were victims of the US-led global rendition program and who alleged that the UK government was involved in their torture and unlawful detention… they will not themselves likely see the document which outlined the policies… which led to their torture and detention.”

Activists say the inquiry will be a waste of time and security services would rather concentrate on preparations for the Olympics in 2012.

The independent inquiry is to examine accusations against British intelligence (MI6) and British security service (MI5) officers who allegedly tortured detainees held overseas in order to get information. It will also investigate allegations of the mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Moazzam Begg, who spent three years in Guantanamo and other prisons, says he himself witnessed the involvement of British intelligence agents.

“I spoke to British intelligence officers quite regularly in Bagram, Guantanamo and Kandahar,” he said. “They were physically present when I was being abused. They saw my hands shackled behind my back, they saw my legs shackled, they saw guns pointed toward me. I was subject to the sounds of a woman’s scream. I was led to believe that was my wife being tortured.”

“And one of the individuals, in fact, who was present at my abuse I had met before in the UK,” Begg added. “What we want out of this enquiry that’s been ordered by the government is a transparent and clear ability to see those officers who were involved in our abuse, face questions. We want to see them actually sit there and say, ‘we did not know what was happening’ and ‘what we saw we felt was ok.’ We want to be able to see these people.”

Despite the human right groups’ refusal to participate, the inquiry team stated they still are going to proceed with their work and hope the groups will reconsider their stance. The team will start hearing evidence as soon as police investigations are wrapped up. The process is expected to last one year.