Britain must continue to work with international intelligence agencies in the fight against terrorism even if they are not commited to UK standards on the abuse or torture of detainees, the Foreign Office has warned.
In its annual report on human rights around the world published last night, the Foreign Office said the UK could not afford the "luxury" of co-operating only with agencies in countries which do not share UK standards on human rights.
It said British agencies endeavoured to minimise the risk that detainees held overseas were mistreated when they were involved in operations, but it was not always possible to "reduce the risk to zero".
It follows a number of high-profile court cases – most notably by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed – that claimed MI5 officers were complicit in the mistreatment of detainees by foreign agents, including those of the US and Pakistan.
While the UK had put in place measures to ensure detainees held in its custody were not subjected to torture or abuse, it could not always have the same level of assurance when they were held abroad, the report said.
"Some of them share our standards and laws while others do not. But we cannot afford the luxury of only dealing with those that do. The intelligence we get from others saves British lives," the document added.
The former shadow home secretary, David Davis, said the report's comments about torture presented "a different strategy to the one the Government have used to date".
"It is frankly not good enough to slip this out in two paragraphs of a 200-page report," he added.