With thanks to Andrew.
This is the most important blog post I have ever made. I would be grateful if you could do everything in your power to disseminate a link to anyone you know who has the remotest interest in human rights – or should have. This blog will be silent for a few days now.
Tucked away at Page 15 of its annual Human Rights report, the FCO has finally made a public admission of its use of intelligence from torture.
Despite the Orwellian doublespeak about “unreserved condemnation of torture”, this is the clearest statement the government has ever made that it, as a policy, employs intelligence from torture.
“One example is the question of the use of intelligence provided to the UK by other countries. The provenance of such intelligence is often unclear – partners rarely share details of their sources. All intelligence received, whatever its source, is carefully evaluated, particularly where it is clear that it has been obtained from individuals in detention. The use of intelligence possibly derived through torture presents a very real dilemma, given our unreserved condemnation of torture and our efforts to eradicate it.
Where there is intelligence that bears on threats to life, we cannot reject it out of hand. What is quite clear, however, is that information obtained as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence in any criminal or civil proceedings in the UK. It does not matter whether the evidence was obtained here or abroad.”
Let us take this apart.
Let me start by noting that it confirms precisely the response I was given by the FCO when I tried to stop this back in 2003.
It is worth noting two things. First it follows not just the precise legal distinctions made by Sir Michael Wood between intelligence and evidence, but it also very carefully mirrors the heading of his letter by referring to “Intelligence possibly obtained under torture” – even where there really was no actual doubt.
Secondly, it deploys the argument that you cannot be sure if the intelligence was obtained by torture or not, because the intelligence report does not give you the source. As I explain in my evidence statement to the Joint Commission on Human Rights, that is a deliberate double blind. The name of the source is always omitted from the intelligence report, on purpose so you cannot prove they were tortured to give that intelligence.
I might pause here to say that this stunning new admission by the FCO proves I was telling the truth all along. Given that Jack Straw in particular and the FCO in general have been calling me mad and a liar for the last five years, I hope you might forgive me for asking you to dwell on that for a moment.
Now let me return to analyse what the FCO statement means. It is a piece of mind-blowing hypocrisy. You cannot, in the same paragraph, argue our unreserved condemnation of torture, and that it save lives so we use intelligence from it. I would add that it is also an outright lie. Not a single one of the many pieces of torture intelligence I saw in Uzbekistan had the slightest bearing on saving lives in the UK. In fact the “intelligence” was, on the whole and in detail, highly misleading. Yet the FCO made a very definite policy decision to continue to receive it- because it came from the CIA.
The FCO has in fact under New Labour never rejected any intelligence on the grounds that it came from torture.
The fact that the government accepts that it cannot use such intelligence as evidence in court, is not of great comfort when instead it is used to have people kidnapped and sent on extraordinary rendition, or severely beaten and detained without charge, or deported to home countries where they will be murdered.
The ticking bomb scenario is a Hollywood myth. 99 per cent of the tens of thousands of cases of torture in the War on Terror have been “Fishing expedition”. Torture does not work. The tortured individual will not tell you the truth, but will tell whatever he or she thinks will satisfy the torturer and stop the pain. We know this from history. People confessed under torture that their cat was the Devil and they flew on broomsticks. In my time in Uzbekistan children were tortured in front of their parents and dissidents were boiled alive.
Yet by accepting torture material for “Careful evaluation” we create a market for it. We increase the amount of torture in the World by putting a value on its result. And we are breaking international law by complicity in torture, which is plainly against Article 4 of the UN Convention Against Torture.
The government has set up its usual planned exoneration by allowing their cronies at Scotland Yard to conduct a highly circumscribed investigation into the MI5 agents involved in the torture of Binyan Mohammed.
In fact the guilt lies plainly with those who set this policy of compliance with evil. The most guilty is Jack Straw.