MPs want to see interrogation guidance for security services

Roles of MI5 and MI6 in the treatment of British nationals still unclear
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The Independent Online

An influential group of MPs last night demanded the publication of the official interrogation guidance used by the security services at the time of the alleged torture of Britons abroad.

Members of Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights also renewed calls for an independent public inquiry into the allegations of collusion and complicity by intelligence officers in the torture of British nationals first made last August.

Andrew Dismore, chair of the JCHR, said the government-appointed Intelligence and Security Committee must be replaced by a more transparent body that is better equipped to hold the security services to account.

The call followed an unprecedented demand from the Government's own human right's watchdog for an "independent review process" to investigate more than 20 allegations of abuse. The victims claim the illegal detention and torture were condoned by British intelligence officers.

The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday received a letter from the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) saying it was unable to ignore the growing body of torture allegations made against MI5 and MI6 officers. In his letter, Trevor Phillips said the Government had failed to convince the commission or the public that the allegations were unfounded, despite a series of denials.

An accompanying dossier details the claims of 25 British residents made to various human rights organisations about alleged abuse dating back to 2000, in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It includes the case of Binyam Mohamed who is bringing legal proceedings against the Government over his alleged torture while he was being held in Pakistan and Morocco. The Court of Appeal will this week rule on whether to release a paragraph of damning criticism about the role of MI5 in Mr Mohamed's interrogation written by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, which was removed from the final judgment after representation by lawyers acting for the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

Yesterday's highly unusual move by the EHRC increases the pressure on the Government to concede an inquiry into the issue.

Dr Evan Harris, a Lib Dem member of the JCHR, said: "We, the Liberal Democrats, the JCHR and others, will continue to press for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of this, a call fuelled by the Government's refusal to release the guidance issued to intelligence officers on interrogation, which suggests they have something to hide. An independent review called for by the EHRC would not necessarily be public, which is what is needed here."

Tom Porteous, from Human Rights Watch, said: "We have to have a public inquiry into this because Britain's reputation is at stake. If there have been shortcomings, they need to be fully investigated to get Britain back into the community of nations that respect human rights. The Intelligence and Security Committee has clearly failed to get to the bottom of these issues and there is not enough distance between it and the Government."

The Foreign Office yesterday showed no obvious signs of bowing to the pressure and continued to deny any complicity in the torture of Britons abroad. A spokesman said: "It would be inappropriate to hold any inquiry while a number of legal processes are already under way. The Metropolitan Police are investigating allegations of possible criminal wrongdoing. The UK courts are also examining these issues. Through these procedures, the allegations will be fully tested and the evidence assessed.