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
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test