UK parliamentary body accused government of burying results of investigation into British complicity in torture
British parliamentarians have called for the reopening of a judge-led inquiry into the UK's involvement in post-9/11 human rights abuses, accusing the government of a "woeful" response to an investigation that detailed the country's role in rendition and the mistreatment of detainees.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition accused the government of being evasive when an oversight body published evidence of the abuses following an investigation that lasted several years.
That oversight body - Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) - said it had seen documentary evidence that the UK government and its intelligence agencies had financed, planned or suggested more than 50 rendition operations and had supplied questions to be put to detainees whom they knew or suspected were being tortured on more than 400 occasions.
The chair of the group on rendition, former home secretary Ken Clarke, accused the government of attempting to "bury" its response to the investigation by quietly publishing it unannounced last week on a day when British politicians and media were concentrating on the details of a newly released plan for withdrawal from the European Union.
In the face of overwhelming evidence of UK complicity in rendition and mistreatment, the government has failed to engage in any meaningful way
- Ken Clarke, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition chairman
"This was a classic case of smuggling out bad news on the day when everyone is distracted by a big political event," Clarke said in a statement.
"It is no surprise that the government tried to bury their woeful response to the ISC reports. The response is an exercise in evasion and an attempt to whitewash the past. In the face of overwhelming evidence of UK complicity in rendition and mistreatment, the government has failed to engage in any meaningful way.
"Frequently, they do not even acknowledge that the actions criticised by the ISC were a mistake," Clarke added. "For example, in response to the finding that our secret services outsourced rendition by financing rendition operations carried out by others, the government only acknowledges that 'one of the cases concerned' was a mistake. What about the other cases?
"This seems tantamount to supporting what the ISC called a 'corporate policy of rendition'. This is completely unacceptable."
The members of the ISC - all members of Parliament or peers sitting in the House of Lords - have complained that their inquiry was brought to a premature end.
They also said they were not able to interview government ministers who were responsible for those agencies, or the agencies' staff members, who could have shed light on actions on the ground.
Repeated calls have been made in parliament for the reinstatement of a judge-led inquiry into the country's role in post-9/11 human rights abuses.
An earlier inquiry was shelved to make way for Scotland Yard detectives who were investigating the involvement of the UK's intelligence agencies in the mistreatment of detainees. None of those inquiries resulted in criminal charges.
The British government says it has not decided whether to reinstate any form of further investigation. "These are extremely important issues and the government is carefully considering the calls for another judge-led inquiry," a spokesperson said.