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July 20th, 2010 - Group Wants Torture Inquiry Change

News article from the Press Association

News article from the Guardian

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Group Wants Torture Inquiry Change

 

From the Press Association

July 20, 2010

 

A human rights group has called for the removal of the judge leading an inquiry into torture allegations against the UK's security services.

 

Prime Minister David Cameron this month appointed former appeal court judge Sir Peter Gibson as chairman of the investigation into claims of British complicity in the abuse of detainees abroad since the 9/11 attacks on the US.

 

However, legal charity Reprieve have written to Sir Peter asking him to disqualify himself because his impartiality was "fatally compromised" as a result of his connections to the security services. As Intelligence Services Commissioner since 2006, Sir Peter is the official watchdog for Britain's spy agencies.

 

Reprieve said he should not be the judge of whether his own work in overseeing the security services was effective, adding that he should be a witness to the inquiry rather than its chairman.

 

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said: "Welcome though the torture inquiry is, the current structure is a sham.

 

"Sir Peter Gibson was perhaps the least appropriate judge to evaluate the security services. The Government must get serious about learning the mistakes of the past, rather than try to cover them up, or we are in for a long, hot summer."

 

Reprieve highlighted former Foreign Secretary David Miliband's revelation in a recent BBC interview that Sir Peter had already carried out a secret inquiry into the torture complicity allegations.

 

It also noted that each of Sir Peter's annual reports as Intelligence Services Commissioner had described all members of the security services as "trustworthy, conscientious and dependable", which it said "entirely prejudged" the issues before the new inquiry.

 

In his letter to Sir Peter, which was copied to Mr Cameron, Mr Stafford Smith wrote: "I invite you to consider whether you can continue to act, with the confidence of both the public and the alleged victims of complicity in torture, in your independence and impartiality." Downing Street said Mr Cameron had full confidence in Sir Peter.

 

The inquiry was announced on July 6 following claims by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed that he was tortured with the knowledge of the British security services while held by the CIA in Pakistan.

 

Copyright 2010 The Press Association.

 

External link: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5goggpiZWS44JzD1YIYzhAG8fKf0g


Judge leading torture inquiry has conflict of interest, legal charity says

Reprieve says Sir Peter Gibson cannot fairly investigate security services he used to oversee but No 10 defends choice

 

By Sam Jones

The Guardian

July 20, 2010

 

A leading legal charity has called on a senior judge to step down from the inquiry he is leading into allegations that the UK has been involved in torture, saying his impartiality is "fatally compromised" because of his relationship with the security services.

 

Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge, was appointed by David Cameron earlier this month to chair the investigation into claims of British complicity in the abuse of detainees abroad since the 9/11 attacks.

 

Reprieve raised a number of concerns about his suitability for the job in an 11-page letter to Gibson, copied to the prime minister.

 

It says Sir Peter, who has overseen the security services for the last four years in his role as the intelligence services commissioner (ISC), cannot be expected to scrutinise his own work.

 

The charity says the former foreign secretary, David Miliband, has revealed that Gibson secretly investigated allegations of misconduct at the previous government's request. His findings remain secret but charity fears they might prejudice the current inquiry.

 

Reprieve goes on to ask Gibson whether he considers his opinion - expressed in three consecutive reports between 2006 and 2008 - that security services personnel were "trustworthy, conscientious and dependable" reflects a bias.

 

It contrasts his assertion with Lord Neuberger's finding earlier this year, in which the master of the rolls concluded that MI5 did not respect human rights, had failed to renounce participation in "coercive interrogation" techniques, and had "a culture of suppression" in its dealings with Miliband and the court.

 

Given that it was part of his job as ISC to supervise ministerial authorisations that would allow the security services to violate the law abroad, says Reprieve, he would have to appear as a witness before the inquiry that he also chairs.

 

The letter asks: "Please could you explain how you are able to preside over an inquiry about British complicity in torture during the time period in which you were responsible for the statutory oversight of the security and intelligence services?

 

"The allegation that you will have to rule on is (with apologies for putting it so frankly) that you were either asleep on your watch or were hoodwinked. Out of fairness to victims of torture, the security services and yourself, do you believe that you can rule fairly on such issues?"

 

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, said there was a "patently obvious basis for a judge to remove himself", adding that given the scale of Gibson's conflict of interest, the matter was really "an incredibly uncontentious issue".

 

He told a press conference this morning that he had repeatedly written to Cameron to raise his concerns, but had not "received the first whisper of a response".

 

He added: "If they refuse to discuss this in private, then we will spend the rest of the summer discussing it in public."

 

Stafford Smith also confirmed that the group would look at its legal options if Sir Peter refused to step down.

 

He added: "Welcome though the torture inquiry is, the current structure is a sham. Sir Peter Gibson was perhaps the least appropriate judge to evaluate the security services. The government must get serious about learning the mistakes of the past, rather than try to cover them up, or we are in for a long, hot summer."

 

A Downing Street spokesman said that the prime minister had full confidence in Gibson.

 

External link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/jul/20/gibson-judge-torture-intelligence

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