Saturday, May 22, 2010

Whitehall officials play down torture inquiry expectations.

I applauded William Hague's calls yesterday for an inquiry into whether or not the British government were complicit in the torture of certain terror suspects.

Today there is a fair amount of backtracking taking place with the Foreign Office suggesting that Hague's remarks "came out of the blue".

It was suggested that any inquiry might have to await court cases, including a civil trial, which has yet to start, in which British residents and citizens held by the US in GuantanĂ¡mo Bay are seeking compensation from MI5 and MI6. It was also being suggested in Whitehall that any inquiry would have to be held in private.
Despite this official dragging of feet, Hague's comments were met with widespread approval.

Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the all-party committee on rendition, described Hague's comments as "a tremendous early success of coalition politics. After years of stonewalling, a British government is going to do the right thing."

The former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said: "This is excellent news. I am glad to see that both parties in the coalition are living up to their pre-election promises."

He added: "It is vital that this investigation is comprehensive, covering all of the torture allegations in full. It is also vital that it is exhaustive, and that the inquiry team have full access to all people and papers, in all security classifications, both at home and abroad. It is also vital that it is fully independent, and this should be guaranteed by it being led by a high ranking and experienced judge who is not involved with the security services."

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: "We cannot learn from history if we do not know what that history is. The previous government made such a concerted effort to cover up the truth that a full and open inquiry is vital to Britain's credibility. Only when the truth is known can we put in place the kinds of rules that will deter a future government, in crisis, from abandoning our core principles."

He continued: "We do not call for retribution, or the opportunity to abuse the abusers. A truth and reconciliation process is more sensible if we want to get to the facts. It is also more consistent with our principles."

I am with Clive Stafford Smith when he makes that final point. I have no interest in retribution. I feel sure that the people who did what they did felt that they were protecting us.

And I will even extend that assumption to George Bush and Dick Cheney. There is no need to jail these people.

But we do need to establish that what they did was wrong. If only to ensure that their actions are never repeated in the quest to keep all of us safe.

But any inquiry should be held in public. It was secrecy which allowed people to behave in the way in which they did. The inquiry needs to be held in the open.

A truth and reconciliation process, in which we assume that the participants all had our best interests at heart, would surely shine a much welcome light on this very dark part of our past.


Balloon-juice pick up on the irony of the Tories doing this rather than Labour:
Isn’t it odd to see Labour utterly fail to rise to the challenge of Bush-era abuses and have the Tories stand up instead. By US wingnut standards I guess that makes the mainstream British right a bunch of terrorist-loving communazis.
Liz Cheney is no doubt already planning an advert asking whose values Cameron and Clegg share, and implying that they favour al Qaeda.

Click here for full article.

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