NGO Letter to Chair of UK Torture Inquiry, Raising Concerns About Possible Whitewash

27.2.11

In a recent article, Lawyers and Human Rights Groups Criticize Proposed UK Torture Inquiry, As the Government Fails to Address the Return of Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, I addressed the concerns raised by nine NGOs — Amnesty International, Cageprisoners, JUSTICE, Liberty, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, Redress, Reprieve, the AIRE Centre and British Irish Rights Watch — about the terms of reference for the British government’s proposed inquiry into British complicity in torture, and their fears that the government is planning a whitewash. For further information, I refer you to that article, but for the full details of the NGOs’ concerns, I’m cross-posting below the latest letter sent by the nine groups to Sir Peter Gibson, the judge appointed to head the inquiry. Please note that a version of this letter with detailed footnotes (providing references to legal precedents) is available here.

NGOs letter to Sir Peter Gibson, February 8, 2011

The Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson
The Detainee Inquiry
35 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BQ

08 February 2011

Re: Submission to the Detainee Inquiry

Dear Sir Peter,

Thank you for the opportunity to raise and discuss a number of issues with respect to the conduct of the Detainee Inquiry at the non-governmental organization (NGO) stakeholder meeting on 20 January 2011; the openness of the discussion was much appreciated. Following your suggestion, we have put in writing our views on a number of the issues raised.

This submission seeks to address an issue of fundamental importance to the Detainee Inquiry Panel: what constitutes a human rights-compliant inquiry under the United Kingdom’s international legal obligations, in particular the general requirements deriving from Article 3 (prohibition against torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and other relevant international standards.

More specifically, the latter section of this submission addresses two issues with respect to the disclosure of evidence, including recommendations for how the Inquiry should handle material which the government claims cannot be made public due to considerations of national security and the need for powers to compel the production of documents and attendance of witnesses.

General requirement of an Article 3 inquiry

At the 20 January meeting, we discussed the need for the Detainee Inquiry to comply in letter and spirit with the international obligation to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. The protocols for other inquiries were mentioned, such as the Chilcot and Saville Inquiries, but it is important to recognise that the Detainee Inquiry was established specifically to examine allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, which give rise to particular requirements under Article 3 ECHR.

The European Court of Human Rights case law requires that any investigation or inquiry into allegations of torture adhere to the following principles: in general, it must be independent, impartial, subject to public scrutiny, and include effective access for victims to the process. Persons conducting the inquiry must act with exemplary diligence and promptness, and the investigation must be capable of establishing the facts and identifying those who were responsible for the violations. The state’s obligation to investigate is not relieved by its inability to obtain cooperation from other states that have access to some of the relevant information. Every effort must be made to seek and secure information regarding torture violations, including from other states and despite their unwillingness to cooperate (see section below on what constitutes a “thorough” inquiry).

The duty to investigate allegations of torture obtains even when the state in question is not alleged to have directly perpetrated the violations in question, but is alleged to have had knowledge of, been complicit or involved in, or provided help or assistance to another state which has had a substantial impact with respect to the perpetration of the violation. In situations where there appears to be a pattern of serious human rights violations, the investigation should be expansive enough to examine broader questions of the systemic nature of the violations, the chain of command and management within the system, and the institutional culture of the agencies and other governmental apparatus alleged to have perpetrated or been complicit in the violations.

The Detainee Inquiry must be carried out in a manner capable of producing tangible results. It is an obligation of means, not of result. As a consequence, “[a]ny deficiency in the investigation which undermines its abilityto establish the circumstances of the case, or the person responsible, is liable to fall foul of the required measure of effectiveness.” Thus, a failure to conduct the Inquiry properly would constitute a violation by the UK of its obligations under Article 3 that is additional to and independent of any violation of Article 3 arising from the torture itself.

Constituent elements of an Article 3 inquiry

An Article 3 compliant inquiry into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment must be 1) prompt; 2) independent; 3) thorough; 4) capable of leading to the identification and prosecution of persons responsible; and 5) provide for public scrutiny and victim participation. While our letter of 8 September 2010 referred to these elements, this submission provides more detail regarding the legal basis for the requirement of each element and some policy considerations for ensuring adherence to them.

Prompt: European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence has interpreted an implicit requirement for promptness and reasonable expedition into the obligation to conduct an effective investigation capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible for human rights violations. Some of the events that the Detainee Inquiry will examine occurred at least a decade ago, which may present challenges to establishing some facts with regard to the allegations. It is thus vital that the Inquiry is provided immediately with all the necessary resources, both human and material, to enable it to investigate these allegations in as expedient a manner as possible. It is important, however, that the inquiry not be limited to one year if a longer period is required to effectively investigate the allegations.

  • The Detainee Inquiry Panel should publicly announce now that, should it become evident that an extension of the one-year time period provided by the Prime Minister is necessary for the Panel to complete an effective investigation, it will make such a request to the Prime Minister and would expect such an extension to be granted.
  • The Detainee Inquiry Panel should request adequate resources to ensure that the inquiry commences at a pace that complies with the legal requirement that it be concluded in as prompt and expeditious a manner as possible, without sacrificing efficacy.

Independent: An effective investigation requires that the persons responsible for and carrying out the investigation are independent from those implicated in the events. An independent investigation “means not only a lack of hierarchical or institutional connection but also a practical independence” of the investigating authority. The need for independence is particularly important where agents of the state are suspected of having been involved in the violation of Article 3, because, in the European Court of Human Rights’ view, a prompt and independent response subject to public scrutiny is essential to preserve confidence in the administration of justice.

  • The Detainee Inquiry Panel should disclose any conflict of interest that might jeopardize the independence of the investigation;
  • The Detainee Inquiry Panel should consider policies and practices that ensure its practical independence from the government, such as the publication on a public website of as many transcripts and as much evidence as possible, the holding in public of as many hearings as possible, and public acknowledgment of any limitations that have been imposed on the Inquiry by the government or by any state agency.

Thorough: In order to comply with the requirements of Article 3 ECHR the Detainee Inquiry must be thorough, wide-ranging and rigorous, and capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible for human rights violations. It thus must be able to:

  • Establish the facts of the alleged violations and publicly disclose the truth of the allegations to the fullest extent possible;
  • Pronounce on state responsibility for knowledge of and involvement in the serious human rights violations that have been alleged;
  • Investigate the policies and practices that led to involvement in violations of human rights;
  • Identify where government practices or policies deliberately, or inevitably (if not through lack of due diligence), gave rise to human rights violations;
  • Identify any individuals responsible for such abuses, including establishing the responsibility of superior officers for crimes committed by subordinates under their effective control;
  • Refer information regarding criminal conduct and human rights violations to the relevant authorities;
  • Identify measures to prevent reoccurrence of involvement in human rights violations, including recommendations for effective independent oversight of the intelligence services, aimed at ensuring their full accountability.

It is critical to note that the procedural obligation of thoroughness is stricter where the state, as opposed to private individuals or other non-state actors, is implicated in an offence, and requires a wider examination than simply investigating individuals who may have been involved in the violations. For example, wider examination is required if the investigation fails to address the full scope of the state’s involvement in the violations. The European Court of Human Rights has also found that there may be circumstances where issues arise that have not, or cannot, be addressed in a criminal trial, such as where government policy or practices deliberately or inevitably gave rise to unlawful conduct, including by their concealment. In such instances, a wider inquiry may be warranted, as the European Court of Human Rights had found in several of the UK cases related to the killings of alleged IRA members.

A review of European Court of Human Rights case law suggests that the following measures are required of those persons responsible for conducting an inquiry or investigation into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment:

  • (i) take all reasonable steps to secure evidence concerning the incidents under investigation, including forensic evidence and testimony of eyewitnesses and other key witnesses;
  • (ii) attempt to interview the victims/survivors of the alleged violations;
  • (iii) attempt to question eyewitnesses in the immediate aftermath of an incident when memories are fresh;
  • (iv) identify all officials involved in the violations;
  • (v) take careful and prompt statements of officials involved in the violations;
  • (vi) resolve uncertainties and ambiguities in accounts of key witnesses and physical evidence;
  • (vii) secure an independent medical report in cases of alleged torture and other ill-treatment where one is reasonably required;
  • (viii) secure the evidence of a forensic specialist where one is reasonably required;
  • (ix) make efforts to locate and secure key evidence, (including not simply accepting allegations of facts by state authorities, but rather investigating whether there is actually any evidence in support of them);
  • (x) take account of evident or visible evidence;
  • (xi) take account of evidence which supports allegations of involvement of state agents;
  • (xii) not give undue weight to unsupported conclusions or inferences and conclusions that lack sufficient evidentiary support; and
  • (xiii) not reach factual conclusions that require assumptions contrary to the principles under Article 3.

We thus recommend that:

  • The Detainee Inquiry ensure that it has relevant and adequate expertise in terms of staffing to ensure that the skill set required to thoroughly and effectively investigate the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment is secured on the Inquiry team;
  • The Detainee Inquiry ensure that it has powers to compel the disclosure of evidence and the testimony of relevant witnesses (see section below on disclosure issues);
  • The Detainee Inquiry identify and establish the responsibility of individuals for human rights violations, and refer that information to relevant authorities.

Public Scrutiny and Victim Participation: In order to maintain public confidence in the UK’s adherence to the rule of law and to prevent any appearance of its ongoing collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts, “there must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results to secure accountability in practice as well as in theory.” This is particularly so where there are serious issues of public interest at stake, in which case the findings must be given the widest possible exposure.

Aside from determinations regarding public access to information, victims must be afforded effective access to the investigatory procedure and must be involved in the procedure to the extent necessary to safeguard their legitimate interests. (see section below on disclosure)

European Court of Human Rights case law also requires the particularly vulnerable situation of victims of torture to be taken into account during investigations. We were heartened at the 20 January meeting by indications that legal representation will be afforded to the victims (or ‘survivors’ as many prefer to be called) at the Inquiry’s expense. The panel also appeared receptive to NGO representations on the importance of both properly assessing the needs of victims who will be involved in the inquiry and developing appropriate processes that facilitate disclosure by victims whilst minimising the risk of re-traumatisation and other forms of harm.

We propose that:

  • The Detainee Inquiry work with clinical and other specialists from NGOs to develop a written protocol to guide the Inquiry’s approach to involving victims and the special measures that will be adopted to support their participation.

The right to effective remedy and redress for victims

The UK’s obligation to carry out an effective investigation into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment also derives from the right of victims of human rights violations to effective remedy and redress, as firmly rooted in Article 13 ECHR (right to an effective remedy) and other international legal standards.

An effective remedy includes, among other things, the right of victims, their families and society as a whole to know the truth regarding the violations suffered, including the identity of the perpetrators, the causes and facts of such violations, and the circumstances under which they occurred. The right to an effective remedy and redress also includes guarantees of non-repetition which should include measures to ensure that such violations are not repeated in the future. Allegations of UK involvement in serious human rights violations of individuals detained abroad in the context of counter-terrorism operations reaches beyond cases connected to the CIA-led programme of rendition and secret detention. Accordingly the need to learn lessons in order to prevent future violations from occurring is paramount to securing public confidence that such violations will not be repeated.

The need for an independent mechanism for disclosure

The issue of whether material considered by the Inquiry should be kept confidential is one of the most important issues the Panel will have to deal with. In some cases, this may involve a difficult balancing exercise. On the one hand, there may be, in limited circumstances, a public interest in ensuring that, for instance, the identity of a confidential informant whose life may be at risk is not made available to members of the public. On the other hand, there is the clear and constant public interest in the fair administration of justice. In the context of this Inquiry, we take this to mean the public interest in identifying any wrongdoing by those public bodies charged with its protection, based on evidence which is open to the public itself to assess. An inquiry which reaches its conclusions based entirely or substantially on closed material cannot be expected to command the confidence of the general public, let alone the confidence of the individual victims of the human rights violations it will investigate.

As Collins J noted concerning the 2007 inquest into the death of a British soldier in Basra, it is fundamental that any official inquiry does not simply accept at face value the claims of secrecy made by the government:

[A]ny claim that material should not be disclosed on national security grounds must be considered by the coroner. His is an inquisitorial, not an adversarial, process. He must have all the information, but he must bear in mind the requirements of the procedural obligation which include enabling the family to play a proper and effective part in the process. (Smith v Assistant Deputy Coroner for Oxfordshire [2008] EWHC 694 (Admin) at para 36, emphasis added).

At the very least, then, compliance with the investigative obligation under Article 3 requires that as much material as possible is made public.

In addition to the well-established purposes applicable to every Article 3 inquiry, it is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons on 6 July 2010 that there were further pragmatic reasons for commissioning this particular Inquiry. He spoke of a need to “resolve issues of the past” where allegations have been made about the UK’s involvement in the mistreatment of detainees held by other countries, in order to restore the reputation of the security services. He warned: “Our reputation as a country that believes in human rights, justice, fairness and the rule of law … risks being tarnished.”

This additional purpose can only be achieved if the victims and the public can have confidence in the Inquiry’s conclusions. This will depend in large part on how much of its work takes place in public. Lord Neuberger recognised the dangers of closed proceedings in this regard in Al Rawi and others v the Security Service and others [2010] EWCA Civ 482 (para 56):

“While considering practical considerations, it is helpful to stand back and consider not merely whether justice is being done, but whether justice is being seen to be done. If the court was to conclude after a hearing, much of which had been in closed session, attended by the defendants, but not the claimants or the public, that for reasons, some of which were to be found in a closed judgment that was available to the defendants, but not the claimants or the public, that the claims should be dismissed, there is a substantial risk that the defendants would not be vindicated and that justice would not be seen to have been done. The outcome would be likely to be a pyrrhic victory for the defendants, whose reputation would be damaged by such a process, but the damage to the reputation of the court would in all probability be even greater.”

We respectfully suggest that the same considerations apply with even greater force to the work of the Inquiry. The Prime Minister’s letter to you of 6 July 2010 also implicitly acknowledged that, notwithstanding sensitive subject-matter of the Inquiry, as much of the Inquiry’s work as possible should be done in public (emphasis added):

“The Inquiry will have access to all Government papers it requires as relevant to its examination. There are obvious limitations to what can be considered in public. Almost all of the operational intelligence details will need to be reviewed in closed session.

I invite you to consider what can take place in public. It is open to the Inquiry to invite evidence from those who allege mistreatment and other interested parties from outside Government, including in open session. I would look to you to agree with Government a protocol on the treatment of information and the balance of public and private evidence. This protocol will be published.

… I intend to publish the report and any supporting documents you recommend, with redactions only where necessary in order to avoid damage to the public interest.”

In light of the above, we believe that the protocol for the Detainee Inquiry must:

  • (a) expressly recognise the need for as much material as possible to be made public;
  • (b) set out the grounds on which information may be kept confidential, limited to those which are strictly necessary;
  • (c) establish an independent mechanism for determining whether material should be withheld from the public, which includes the ability of the Inquiry Counsel or other independent counsel to test, including through cross-examination, the government’s claims; and
  • (d) ensure that any such determination properly balances the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in withholding the material in question.

Powers to compel evidence

Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s assurance that the Cabinet Secretary and heads of the intelligence services will “require staff in their departments and agencies to cooperate fully with the Inquiry”, we have serious concerns about the lack of any current powers to compel the production of documents or the attendance of witnesses.

We believe that both the effectiveness and the credibility of the Inquiry risk being seriously damaged by the absence of such powers and we would ask the Panel to convey to the government an urgent need to remedy this. Even assuming all existing members of staff cooperate with the Inquiry, it is quite possible that those who have left office will – unless compelled – refuse to do so. As for private companies whose activities may be relevant to the Inquiry (such as those who are alleged to have facilitated the use of UK airports and airspace for extraordinary rendition flights), it is almost inevitable that those implicated will refuse to cooperate.

An expression of disapproval or disappointment by the Inquiry is simply an inadequate deterrent to anyone who is reluctant to comply with a request to attend or produce documents.

Further submissions on relevant issues

This submission provides legal analysis to support the proposition that the Detainee Inquiry must include specific elements in order to comply with the UK’s obligation to conduct a human rights compliant inquiry. The Inquiry can expect to receive additional submissions from the NGO community regarding specific topics of interest (e.g. the liability of corporations for their role in the operations that led to the human rights violations under scrutiny) and we hope that further engagement will be invited in relation to the operational aspects of some of the key issues of concern (e.g. participation and protection of victims and witnesses), among others.

Yours sincerely,

The AIRE Centre
Amnesty International
British Irish Rights Watch
Cageprisoners
JUSTICE
Liberty
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
Redress
Reprieve

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

26 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Luke Brandt wrote:

    Thanks for all your work on this Andy. It is only by fully exposing what Bush and his sympathetic Neocon conspirators (both in the US and the UK) got up to in the cause of ‘defending democracy’ that justice will be done, and be seen to be done. The paperwork trail must not be allowed to gather dust, and ultimately be ‘weeded’ to keep it from the public.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    “Our reputation as a country that believes in human rights, justice, fairness and the rule of law … risks being tarnished.”
    Good point! What is the point of making laws if you won’t abide by them? A little credibility would be nice.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Jack Cajones Jacksie wrote:

    You should precis the letter. I was well educated and I found it hard reading. A lot of people will give up after the first paragraph.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’ll share this in a minute, Andy. You know how much I despise torture and torturers.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Jack Cajones Jacksie wrote:

    You should precis the letter. I was well educated and I found it hard reading. A lot of people will give up after the first paragraph.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Andy. I think Jack is right. I too am well-educated but had trouble following this doc. My advice is to leave it as it is but to publish a summary of its main content that refers back to this one. OK. I am sharing this now.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, I think I understand that this was written by lawyers. I am happy they tried not to leave anything out. I don’t have a problem with that. Sure, do a short summary for the media release. I am glad this is in the public domain. Re-posting – you bet!

    I am glad to see that this government’s attempt at a ‘milktoast’ inquiry that lets everyone off the hook (rather too similar to the Chilcot one) has not gone un-noticed. WikiLeaks revealed how the Cameron government would handle this.

    I hope that British people will not allow themselves to believe that torture somehow started with GWB and Tony Blair. It is ingrained in the Imperialist soul of the nation along with secrecy, deceit and denial. The stories of torture from Ulster would fill several books.

    I repeat here that bogus ‘milktoast’ inquiries are still expensive and leave the victims’ families with a twenty year struggle for a new inquiry, which then misses the fresh memories and actual evidence because people have lost their memories or died. These new inquiries also cost even more money. Think Bloody Sunday. People like Shaker Aamer need justice now, not further suffering. All the way with you, Andy.

    … and we have to flag a very necessary Royal Commission on torture for Australia. That has to come too and before long!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger ‎wrote:

    Willy—It is possible that the Inquiry will do its best to cover up the history of American- British torture before GWB and even before Bloody Sunday. It started in the early 1950s at McGill University in Montreal. The details are obscure at crucial points. It is clear that there was a meeting about it sponsored by the US, UK, and Canada. The main academic organiser was psychologist Donald Hebb, and there is strong evidence that Tizard attended it too. But the few things I have read about this are vague and/or confused about their roles. I feel very strongly that the entire history must be unearthed. I have posted this here before, but it can’t hurt to refer to it again:
    http://hnn.us/articles/32497.html

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    George, thanks, I recommend Alfred McCoy’s book, which I have, and Richard Matthews, ‘The Absolute Violation’. Britain too tortured throughout its genocidal imperial reign. Long before the 1950s. We have to stamp it out now. Tell David Cameron to think of the future and get real now.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger ‎wrote:

    Willy—I started by reading McCoy’s book. If you look at the part on Hebb you’ll see the obscurity I referred too. I’ve been meaning to write to McCoy about this, but have been unable to. It seems that Tizard covered his tracks pretty well. It’s not even clear that he was at that meeting. Well, thanks for the reference. There are many more sources now, some of which are medical. Check under the phrase “psychological torture.” I know nothing about the legal aspects, but a bit about the medical and psychological matters.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Excellent Andy,
    You are copied in to a letter to my lawyers re Public Inquiries..do what you want with it, if its of any use… Moazzam copied in too…I have told them I will not stay silent…despite a silence clause being imposed on me… I don’t give a damn!!!

    …. also someone should start asking Hilary to condemn human rights abuses in her own backyard…(dear husband Bill and the blood trade at Arkansas)…before they condemn other countries…it will come back to haunt them…!!!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, everyone. Sorry if some of you found the legal aspects rather hard going. However, I thought it was an important aspect of the negotiations. For an article covering some of the main points, I recommend the article I published yesterday putting this letter in context and picking out parts of it for emphasis:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/26/lawyers-and-human-rights-groups-criticize-proposed-uk-torture-inquiry-as-the-government-fails-to-address-the-return-of-shaker-aamer-the-last-british-resident-in-guantanamo/
    There’s also a shorter letter written by the NGOs last September, which is easier to digest:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/09/14/nine-human-rights-organizations-and-lawyers-groups-propose-crucial-guidelines-for-british-torture-inquiry/
    And Reprieve’s unique take, via Clive Stafford Smith, from July, just after the announcement of the torture inquiry was made:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/07/20/reprieve-demands-resignation-of-fatally-compromised-head-of-uk-torture-inquiry/

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s Carol Anne Grayson’s letter to her lawyers, mentioned above (for background to the Penrose Inquiry, see this BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11231986):

    There is a considerable backlash now regarding UK and US human rights violations internationally and hypocrisy especially considering that both countries are criticising other countries on their human rights record. Different campaign groups are joining the dots, have some similar concerns and plan to tackle our governments… like other countries that have experienced serious human rights violations we have simply had enough!

    As mentioned I am now refusing to particpate in a UK public inquiry (Penrose Inquiry, Scotland) into contaminated blood and will copy you in to my letter… my arguements are well reasoned…and I am condemning the UK government for failing to have an adequate system in place to properly address human rights issues. Terms of reference do not include finding negligence or accountability and the legal system over the years has let haemophiliacs down very badly, I cannot forget seeing a legal note when I accessed files from the 1991 litigation stating, “I can no longer lie to my clients”. Then of course we had the aptly named Whally struck off for embezzling clients legal aid funding and sending unwanted cannabis in the post to clients… it took two years for ALL my complaints to be upheld by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and for him to be struck off, this was during my period of intense grief losing my husband. Also it is taking years with legal cases, my friend Peter Mossman for example (he is happy for me to mention his case) started a legal case in 1989 and has still not stepped in to court yet!!! 2,000 have died and many without seeing any justice… what about the 2,700 remaining alive wanting justice but too sick to fight…where is their justice… !

    I am not alone in my criticism of public inquiries and my fellow writer/campaigner /investigative journalist Andy Worthington has written the following regarding the forthcoming Gibson Inquiry into the experience of former Guantanamo detainees whilst in captivity: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/26/lawyers-and-human-rights-groups-criticize-proposed-uk-torture-inquiry-as-the-government-fails-to-address-the-return-of-shaker-aamer-the-last-british-resident-in-guantanamo/

    There are some crossover issues regarding the British and US governments covering up on US prisons whether it be Guantanamo or the Arkansas prison plasma programme set up in a prison where people were tortured, where there were gross safety violations including the resharpening of needles with sandpaper and re-using of blood collection equipment spreading infection and where unethical medical experiments took place…no proper investigation… no justice! As the years go by our witnesses too die off…

    A number of us will be meeting up shortly, we are sharing information across the world with those involved in activism on the ground so that now people globally can also see how a western “democracy” operates in reality with regard to investigating human rights abuses…I hope other countries do pull away from working with exploitative and abusive governments including the US and our own…!

    I want to go to Europe on “the right to a fair hearing”…haemophiliacs and their families have been denied this… The privately funded Archer Inquiry did not have the funding or jurisdiction behind it to be fair as it had no legal power/money to bring in many of the US witnesses we needed to give evidence…any document I had which showed negligence could not be used in the final report. If you can’t help me yourselves with this, will you at least help me find a lawyer to take my case to Europe regarding “the right to a fair hearing for the worst medical treatment disaster in the history of the NHS” covered under the Convention: http://www.echr.coe.int/ECHR/EN/Header/The+Court/Introduction/Information+documents/

    The reason we were denied a full and open inquiry from the UK government in writing was that they lied and said that all the information was in the public domain. I have already proven that wrong by accessing many documents from a lawyers office that weren’t in the public domain (which we later had to return to government) featured on a Newsnight programme which was nominated for a Royal Television Award for its investigative journalism on “bad blood”. Still the UK government held key documents back and some of those documents are being withheld on the grounds of “commercial interest!” What is more important investigating gross safety violations that led to over 2,000 deaths or commercial interest. Our community was nothing but “collateral damage”! Documents show that both the UK and US authorities knew what was going on in those prisons and why they didn’t want to investigate…

    What can you do now to assist me regarding my human rights…this is about truth and justice!

    I will be writing to Ban Ki Moon at the UN to at least inform the UN about my concerns regarding the human rights record of the UK and US in relation our community and also making reference to others.

    I am forwarding this to documentary maker Kelly Duda (from Arkansas) who made the excellent film, Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Scandal and has supported me for years even coming to England and was himself threatened at times whilst investigating President Clinton’s involvement in “bad blood” … Hilary should investigate the human rights violations in her own backyard before criticising other countries!

    I have copied in Andy and former detainee Moazzam Begg as former Guantanamo detainees are also raising concerns regarding their right to a fair hearing through a UK public Inquiry, As someone who has campaigned for many many years I see the same government tactics used on this group too… and anticipate another whitewash …see Andy’s article on public inquiries:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/27/ngo-letter-to-chair-of-uk-torture-inquiry-raising-concerns-about-possible-whitewash/

    I have also copied in Hank Alborelli (who I will be meeting)… who has investigated past CIA experiments on citizens and written a book… so is well aware of what the US authorities are capable of doing to ordinary people!

    I will not be silenced either… I was suffering from very bad depression after bereavement when I was asked to sign a silence clause re the US pharmaceutical companies… I told you that…its not worth the paper its written on… Ask yourself WHY DO THEY NEED A SILENCE CLAUSE!!!

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Maria Allison wrote:

    Admittedly, the legal aspects are heavy, but I’m thankful that you have posted this material, Andy. One of the first thoughts I had when reviewing material re: this inquiry was something Margaret Thatcher said during the legal proceedings concerning Pinochet. Political types seem to be pretty big on law unless it affects them and there friends.
    That problem was supposed to be corrected with establishing the ICC. Frankly, I think that is the most likely place in which legal accountability will occur if it occurs at all.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Maria. Without the US signing up to the ICC, that’s not going to happen, but I don’t think Bush and Co. will get away with it forever. The torture investigations in Spain and Poland are looking very interesting right now!

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Maria Allison wrote:

    Agreed that Bush and Cheney basically have immunity from the ICC, but what about leaders of countries that are party to the treaty? Just thinking out loud more than anything else right now. I mean arguably, UNSC p5 members can argue Chapter VII to preclude ICC investigations, but that also can’t last forever.
    On Spain and Poland, I’m watching that with great interest. :)

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    At the moment I’m also feeling rather pleased that George W. Bush can’t travel to any country with competent lawyers, because they’ll be out to pursue him for torture using the indictment that prevented him from recently visiting Switzerland!
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/15/george-w-bush-war-criminal-is-not-welcome-in-europe/
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/19/the-indictment-for-torture-filed-against-george-w-bush-part-one-the-facts/

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    My own view is that there will be a very impressive and well conducted inquiry, many distinguished people will be involved; but it will amount to nothing. I cannot envisage the authorities finding themselves guilty of lots of wrong doing. Life is very strange, and I think there may be much more wrong doing than just torture; I think this whole thing goes much deeper.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm, yes, I agree that it permeates the whole of our political system, but I stand by what I wrote yesterday:
    “What encourages me is, if nothing else, the public profile the torture story has here in the UK, the vocal critics of the government – including certain lawyers – and the focus in the media, in particular the Guardian, and also Channel 4 News and the Independent. I suspect that any attempt at a whitewash will be met with decisions to publicize the stories anyway. It’s not as if the former Guantanamo prisoners have been gagged in any way, fortunately …”

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Maria Allison wrote:

    Thanks for the url, Agreed re: the competent lawyers. Also important is some element of political will, or at the very least judicial independence.
    btw, We celebrated the Switzerland incident in our house. :)

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Excellent! I was touring “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” in Poland when the news came through, and it certainly cheered up audiences there:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/08/bringing-guantanamo-to-poland-and-talking-about-the-secret-cia-torture-prison/
    It could have done with a little more celebration in the mainstream US media, of course, but you can’t have everything, it seems …

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Maria Allison wrote:

    Sweet! :) Thanks for making my day!

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    I didn’t know I had, but you’re more than welcome, of course! Thanks for the engaging chat.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Maria Allison wrote:

    The pleasure was mine, Andy. Seriously you did make my day because you’re keeping the spotlight on the situation. You’re doing a public service by writing about these developments and frankly yes, when something makes Bush & Company squirm, it makes my day. It will be an all out celebration if or when they are held to account.
    Thank you again.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Peace Man wrote:

    This is what they called Human Rights by treating Human beings worse than animals. If Raymond Devis kills ppl then he got full immunity under the Vienna Convention 1961 and on the other hand Afia Siddiqi shoot at us army in self defence then she became a most wanted terrorist, abducted and mentally tortured, sexually abused several times in Afghanistan and then they put her in Guantanamo. This is what they called Justice because we are not human beings but they are.

  26. CRY says...

    I Really appreciated this blog Human rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national, color and religion.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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