British government under pressure over torture claims


London: The British government came under increased pressure Tuesday to answer allegations that its intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects abroad.

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The Joint Human Rights Committee of the British parliament said in a report that there was now a “disturbing number of credible allegations” of British complicity in torture concerning suspects detained in the wake of the Sep 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

“The allegations we have heard about UK complicity in torture are extremely serious,” said committee chairman Andrew Dismore. He described the report as a “wake-up-call” to the government to examine current rules and practices.

“We look to the government to respond positively to our recommendations and not to continue to hide behind their wall of secrecy,” said Dismore.

The allegations raised in the report include alleged abuse of British resident Binyam Mohamed in 2002, before being taken to Guantanamo Bay.

Mohamed was freed from the US camp in February and now lives in London.

But the committee also scrutinised the cases of a number of British men who were detained as terrorism suspects and allege to have been mistreated in Pakistan.

They include Salauddin Amin, who claims that Britain was complicit in alleged torture he suffered following his arrest in Pakistan, and Rangzieb Ahmed, who claims his fingernails were pulled out by a Pakistani official while British intelligence supplied the material for questions asked by his interrogators.

But in all the cases, the parliamentary committee said it could not get to the facts because “too many questions were not being properly answered”.

The committee also criticised top government ministers, intelligence leaders and prosecution officials for declining to testify at parliamentary hearings.

A government spokesman Tuesday rejected the demand for an independent inquiry, saying that the British government would “neither solicit nor encourage torture”.

“We stand very firm that torture is not acceptable,” said Ivan Lewis, a foreign office minister.

Human rights groups Tuesday repeated their call for an inquiry into the allegations.

Clive Baldwin, a senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch said the “nature, level and rapidity” of the allegations showed that they were now “something more than a one-off-case”.

Kate Allen, British director of Amnesty International, welcomed the inquiry call and said the government could no longer “brush the issues under the carpet”.

“Almost every week brings fresh allegations that British agents either turned a blind eye to the torture of illegally-held detainees or arranged for the ‘fruits’ of torture sessions to be delivered to them,” said Allen.

“As the allegations mount it’s no longer enough to simply trot out bland denials about how the government doesn’t condone torture,” she said.

David Davis, a Conservative member of parliament said the report had left him in “no doubt” that Britain had been complicit in the torture of terror suspects.