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UK to reveal secret agents' interrogation methods
Wed Mar 18, 2009 2:47pm EDT
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By Luke Baker
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain agreed on Wednesday to publish for the first time the guidance it gives intelligence agents when questioning suspects held overseas, following a series of torture allegations.
Former detainees, some of them British residents, have said they were tortured while held abroad with the knowledge -- if not the direct participation -- of British intelligence officers, raising allegations of collusion with torture.
Britain has denied involvement in torture or that it has sent terrorism suspects to third countries where they may be subjected to torture. But it has resisted holding a public inquiry into its involvement in what's known as rendition.
In a statement to parliament, Prime Minister Gordon Brown avoided any mention of an inquiry but he said there would be more oversight of the intelligence services, their interrogation methods would be published and he condemned torture.
"Britain condemns without reservation the use of torture for any purpose," he said. "Torture has no place in a modern democratic society. We will not condone it. Nor will we ever ask others to do it on our behalf."
To reassure the public that the secret services were conducting themselves within the law, he said the government would publish details on their methods of interrogation.
"We will publish our guidance to intelligence officers and service personnel about the standards that we apply during the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas, once it has been consolidated and reviewed by the Intelligence and Security Committee," Brown said.
"It is right that parliament and the public should know what those involved in interviewing detainees can and cannot do."
A senior intelligence official will monitor compliance with the rules, parliament's intelligence committee will review its own work and, where appropriate, allegations of wrongdoing.
The ground-breaking move follows repeated accusations, most prominently by Binyam Mohamed, a British resident recently released from Guantanamo Bay after four years in captivity, that British agents were complicit in his torture abroad.
Brown's announcement appeared to be an attempt to silence calls by politicians and human rights groups for a public inquiry into Britain's interrogation and rendition practices.
But Andrew Tyrie, head of a parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said Brown's move was insufficient.
"The prime minister's announcement is inadequate," he said.
"We need a judge-led inquiry. He is isolated in his refusal to allow this. Lord Carlile, the government's own independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has concluded that a judge-led inquiry is necessary. I agree." Continued...
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