Call for judge investigating torture claims to resign

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:14

The former judge heading the inquiry into Britain's complicity in torture faces calls for his resignation.

In a letter copied to the Prime Minister, Reprieve has requested that Sir Peter Gibson step aside as his impartiality is fatally compromised.

As the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC), it has been Sir Peter's job for more than four years to oversee the Security Services; he cannot now be the judge whether his own work was effective. Reprieve has identified a number of reasons that his recusal is required:

Firstly, David Miliband has stated publicly that Sir Peter has already conducted a secret inquiry, at the previous government's request, into allegations of misconduct. Yet because it is secret, none of us may know what his conclusions were.

Secondly, Sir Peter has – in each of his three annual reports – opined that all members of the Security Services are "trustworthy, conscientious and dependable", thereby entirely prejudging the issues before the inquiry. Contrast this to the criticisms levelled by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

Thirdly, part of Sir Peter's job, as ISC, was to oversee ministerial authorizations that would allow the Security Services to violate the law abroad, including sanctioning British involvement in abusive interrogations. Since evidence will be presented that such interrogations have continued during Sir Peter's tenure, he either validated these actions, or he has been hoodwinked as ISC. Either way, he should be a witness at the inquiry.

Clive Stafford Smith said: "Welcome though the Torture Inquiry is, the current structure is a sham. Sir Peter Gibson was perhaps the least appropriate judge to evaluate the Security Services. The government must get serious about learning the mistakes of the past, rather than try to cover them up, or we are in for a long, hot summer."

Omar Deghayes, former Guantánamo Bay prisoner, said: "The Inquiry will send a great message to the world that Britain will not tolerate torture – but only if it is clearly separate from the Secret Services and gets to the real truth about what happened. We hope the inquiry helps everyone to come clean about their mistakes, so that we can put them behind us and look to a good future."

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