Leading article: Only a proper investigation will suffice

Share
Related Topics

The story we relate today regarding the behaviour of the British intelligence services, on the face of it, looks relatively benign. A Moroccan national was extracted by MI5 from a jail in Belgium. He subsequently agreed to work as a spy for the UK authorities, monitoring domestic extremist groups. There was no kidnapping and no torture. Indeed, the individual was facing deportation to Morocco, where he feared such barbaric mistreatment. But his removal from Belgium, if it occurred in the manner described, was nonetheless a breach of international law. No legal process was followed, and there were no safeguards. This might have been a consensual rendition; but it was rendition nonetheless.

And we need to remember some history. For a long time the previous Government flatly denied that the British intelligence services were involved in anything like this. In the words of the Foreign Office: "The UK's position on torture is clear. We abhor torture. We don't participate in, solicit, encourage or condone it. We unreservedly condemn any practice of extraordinary rendition for torture."

But in recent years cracks have begun to appear in this wall of denial. In 2008 it emerged that individuals had been transferred by the CIA through the British airbase at Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. The then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was required to apologise for incorrect information given to MPs on this point.

Then came the publication of details from the disturbing case of the Ethiopian student and British resident, Binyam Mohamed. Mohamed was questioned by British intelligence officials in 2002 after being rendered from Pakistan to Morocco by the CIA. British officials did not kidnap Mohamed. They did not torture him. But his lawyers say they must have been aware that he was being mistreated in Moroccan custody. If that is true, the British intelligence services will be exposed as piggy-backing on the dirty work of others.

What is more, they frustrated efforts on the part of the legal authorities to discover the truth. Lord Neuberger, the top civil judge, who examined this Mohamed case, cast doubt on the veracity of the testimony he had received from the intelligence services. His verdict also left a question mark over the conduct of Mr Miliband (who tried to suppress a court document showing the involvement of MI5 in the Mohamed case). And now it would appear that there exists a British rendition programme – that our intelligence services are not only a passive player in the shady world of transporting individuals secretly across national boundaries, but an active one too. We urgently need to get to the bottom of all this; to discover exactly what our intelligence services have been doing in the so-called "war on terror".

Last month the coalition Government announced a judicial inquiry into the activities of the intelligence services since 2001. Yet this is to be chaired by the retired judge Sir Peter Gibson, who, as the Intelligence Services Commissioner, already oversees this sector and who has publicly praised all those who work for these services as "trustworthy, conscientious and dependable". The conflict of interest is glaring. An inquiry chaired by such an individual can have no credibility.

We need a debate on the methods used to thwart international terrorism. A plausible case can be made for the kind of rendition which this Moroccan national underwent. In some respects it is similar to the Cold War practice of "turning" a foreign intelligence agent. It is, however, much harder to make the case for allowing the intelligence services to kidnap individuals and deliver them up for mistreatment in repressive regimes. But first we need to find out what has been going on. The sad lesson of recent years is that we cannot rely on our elected politicians to tell us the truth. To get that, we need a rigorous and fully independent inquiry.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering