Socialist Worker

Inquiry will continue torture cover-up

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2210

The government has announced an inquiry into the British security services and torture. It is too little too late.

In 2002 an MI6 officer alerted British ministers that US forces had previously mistreated a man he had just questioned.

He and every other British intelligence officer then received written guidance informing them that they did not need to halt torture but must not be seen to condone it.

Once the guidance was issued, it became possible for MI5 and MI6 to facilitate torture.

Overseas intelligence agencies known routinely to use torture would be asked to detain an individual, a list of questions would be given to those agencies and British intelligence officials would go to see the detainee a week or two later. MI5 and MI6 officers were able to make use of torture while following official government policy to the letter.

The secret interrogation guidance was rewritten in May 2004, following the publication of photographs of the abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Why this was done is unclear.

What is known that Tony Blair declined to answer questions about what he knew about the rewritten guidance. And that David Miliband, the former foreign secretary, said it should always remain secret.

The new inquiry has headed off a series of legal cases brought by victims of torture who wanted the government’s knowledge of torture revealed. The Tory government is saying that much of the inquiry will be held in secret.

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Tue 13 Jul 2010, 17:56 BST
Issue No. 2210
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