On Tuesday 6 July the Prime Minister made a statement to Parliament in response to the serious allegations that have been made about the role the UK has played in the treatment of detainees held by other countries. He set out how the Government intends to settle the issues of the past, make clear the rules of operation for the future, and build a framework for justice that enhances both security and liberty.
As part of this work, and to be as clear as possible about the standards under which the intelligence agencies and armed forces operate, the Government has published “Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees”, together with a note of additional information from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, and the Defence Secretary.
The Guidance was subsequently made the subject of two linked legal challenges. The Government was successful in defending one of these challenges. However, as a result of the Court’s judgement in the second challenge regarding hooding of detainees by foreign States, we have amended paragraph d (iii) of the Annex to the Guidance to make clearer that hooding of detainees by foreign States in any circumstances could constitute Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (The Ministry of Defence had already banned hooding by its personnel in all circumstances.) To be clear, the Government stands firmly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. We do not condone it, nor do we ask others to do it on our behalf. Officers whose actions are consistent with the Guidance should have confidence that they will not risk personal liability.
The Prime Minister also announced an independent Inquiry to examine whether, and if so to what extent, the UK Government and its intelligence agencies were involved in improper treatment of detainees held by other countries in counter-terrorism operations overseas, or were aware of improper treatment of detainees in operations in which the UK was involved. The Inquiry, chaired by Sir Peter Gibson, was due to begin once related police investigations had been concluded. On 12 January 2012, a joint statement by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Metropolitan Police Service announced that they would not charge any named individuals in the Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service in relation to the investigations in Operations HINTON and IDEN. However, they also announced that allegations made in two specific cases would be investigated now rather than at the conclusion of the Gibson Inquiry.
In a statement to the House of Commons on 18 January 2012, the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said that in light of these new investigations, there appeared to be no prospect of the Gibson Inquiry being able to start in the foreseeable future. Following consultation with Sir Peter Gibson, the Government decided to bring the work of this Inquiry to a conclusion. The Inquiry will provide the Government with a report on its preparatory work to date, highlighting particular themes or issues which might be the subject of further examination. The Government is clear that as much of this report as possible will be made public. The Government fully intends to hold an independent, judge-led Inquiry, once all police investigations have concluded, to establish the full facts and draw a line under these issues.