PM appoints torture watchdog

Associated Press
Wednesday 18 March 2009 15:25

Gordon Brown, responding to allegations the UK colluded in torture, ordered today the publication of previously secret guidelines to spies and soldiers on handling terror suspects.

The Prime Minister's decision followed claims by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed that MI5 was complicit in his torture in Pakistan and Morocco.

The claims increased pressure on Brown to reveal the directions given to interrogators.

"It is right that Parliament and the public should know what those involved in interviewing detainees can and cannot do," Brown said in a statement. "This will put beyond doubt the terms under which our agencies and service personnel operate."

Brown also told MPs that a former judge is being appointed as a new watchdog to check whether the country's intelligence agencies and armed forces are complying with human rights standards.

Peter Gibson, a former senior appeal court judge, will report annually on issues concerning the handling of detainees, Brown said.

The Intelligence and Security Committee said it has sent Brown proposals for policy reforms after conducting inquiries into the claims of former detainees and human rights lawyers.

Mohamed alleges he told an MI5 officer about his mistreatment during an interview in Pakistan in 2002, but was ignored. He also alleges Britain supplied questions to interrogators he says tortured him in Morocco.

The Government has ordered Britain's senior legal adviser to lead an inquiry into Mohamed's case — and prosecutors are investigating whether any intelligence officers will face prosecution.

Britain denies it has colluded in, or condoned, the torture of suspects by overseas interrogators.

"We are fortunate to have the best security and intelligence services and armed forces in the world ... It is vital that we allow them to act to protect our country," Brown said. "But we must do so in a way that is consistent with our unequivocal commitment to human rights."

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