Gibson report: British role in al-Qa'ida renditions exposed

 

Deputy Political Editor

MI6 agents in Afghanistan were told they were not obliged to intervene if they witnessed suspected terrorists being harmed by their American captors, an official inquiry into allegations Britain was complicit in torture has disclosed.

It also concluded that UK operatives "may have become inappropriately" involved in some cases of rendition of captives who were believed to be al-Qa'ida fighters.

Sir Peter Gibson's investigation listed 27 areas he believed needed further inquiry, including whether the Government should have done more to obtain the release of UK nationals locked up at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

It suggested that the Labour minister Jack Straw should have asked more questions when he was Foreign Secretary about the UK's possible involvement in activities in breach of the Geneva Convention.

Documents released by Sir Peter, a former High Court judge, showed an MI6 officer reported back to headquarters in London what he had seen as American officers interrogated captives at Bagram airbase, near Kabul, in January 2002.

A telegram he received in reply read: "It appears from your description that they may not be being treated in accordance with the appropriate standards. Given that they are not within our custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this."

He was reminded that the "Americans understand that we cannot be party to such ill treatment nor can we be seen to condone it".

But the telegram made clear there was no automatic requirement to intervene if UK officers witnessed inhuman treatment of captives. It said: "If circumstances allow, you should consider drawing this to the attention of a suitably senior US official locally."

No official complaint over the episode was passed to the American authorities and seven days later Tony Blair reassured MPs that detainees in the US detention camp of Guantanamo were being treated humanely.

Sir Peter said he wished he has been able to investigate further "whether in some cases, UK officers may have turned a blind eye to the use of specific, inappropriate techniques or threats used by others and used this to their advantage when resuming an interview session with a now compliant detainee".

The inquiry was set up two and a half years ago by David Cameron but was heavily criticised by human rights lawyers who abandoned co-operation.

It was scrapped last year and responsibility for examining alleged complicity transferred to a parliamentary committee. Human rights groups denounced the decision as a "whitewash".

Sir Peter on Thursday published an interim report setting out the reasons he believed his inquiry should be re-established.

In a damaging finding, he said: "A theme that runs through a number of the lead cases considered by the inquiry is whether treatment issues - such as sleep  deprivation, hooding and media reports of waterboarding - were raised appropriately with the relevant liaison partner responsible for the detention and treatment in question".

He said the inquiry had received papers suggesting that in "some instances there was a reluctance to raise treatment issues" for fear of harming relations with the United States.

The inquiry also found that while no formal request was put to the UK, records show the Government was aware that US officials were considering the use of Diego Garcia, an island in the British Indian Ocean Territory, for holding or transiting detainees between November 2001 and January 2002."

The report said: "There is an issue as to whether the Government and the Agencies may have become inappropriately involved in some cases of rendition."

Mr Straw told MPs on Thursday: "As Foreign Secretary I acted at all times in a manner which was fully consistent with my legal duties with national and international law. And I was never in any way complicit with the unlawful rendition or detention of individuals by the United States or any other state."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence