19 December 2013
Lawyers for the Libyan politician Abdul-Hakim Belhaj have called today’s decision to hand over the work of the Detainee Inquiry, headed by Sir Peter Gibson, into the improper treatment of detainees overseas, to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) ‘a waste of everyone’s time and money ’ after it was revealed that it would not lead to a judge-led inquiry, as promised by the Government.
The Inquiry report released today (19 December 2013), but completed over 15 months ago, reveals that UK agents were aware that detainees were being maltreated in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere.
However, the report makes clear that the Inquiry will now be headed up by the ISC, which has been condemned for failing to report on the surveillance operations being conducted by GCHQ, until after details became public.
The decision to hand the Inquiry to the ISC comes despite assurances from the Government that a senior judge would head it, with a personal recommendation to MPs from the Prime Minister that no other arrangement would command public confidence.
Sapna Malik from law firm Leigh Day who represents Abdul-Hakim Belhaj who was illegally rendered to Libya with his pregnant wife in 2004, said: “The Prime Minister has in the past made it clear that the only way for the public to have any trust in the activities of the security forces would be to have a judge-led public inquiry.
“However, the announcement today that the Government are handing the Inquiry to the ISC, which has a poor record of exposing similar unlawful behaviour, means that it has been a huge waste of everyone’s time and effort.”
The Detainee Inquiry was created in 2010 to look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, which may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11. The Prime Minister promised the inquiry following claims of MI5 collusion in an abusive interrogation of Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident. Chaired by Sir Peter Gibson, along with Dame Janet Paraskeva and Mr Peter Riddell, the Inquiry delivered their report to the Prime Minister 15 months ago but has only just been published.
A hearing in the High Court in October heard the Government argue UK courts do not have the jurisdiction to rule on the legal case against the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the former head of MI6 Sir Mark Allen and the security services, in relation to their apparent role in the illegal rendition of Mr Belhaj.
The Inquiry was stalled and finally wound up in January 2012 after the allegations of British collusion in the unlawful rendition of Mr Belhaj and his pregnant wife from South East Asia to Libya led to criminal investigations by the Metropolitan Police, which are still on-going.
The Justice Secretary at that time, Kenneth Clarke, promised the Government would publish the Inquiry’s ‘preparatory work’ based on its examination of thousands of classified documents.
At the time Sir Peter said: “This task now set for us remains an important one: it will ensure that the work we have done is not wasted and we hope that it will materially assist the future inquiry that the government intends to establish.”
Ms Malik concluded: "Sir Peter Gibson has stated in his report that there are serious allegations of the UK's involvement in the rendition of our clients to Libya that plainly require investigation. “We will continue to pursue our clients’ claim for accountability through the courts and our clients await the outcome of the ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation with interest.”
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