MI5 and MI6 expected to be cleared of torture allegations

The Gibson inquiry into the treatment of prisoners abroad, which has been
boycotted by human rights organisations, can now go ahead following the
conclusion of criminal proceedings.

But there will be anger among many intelligence officials that such serious
allegations have been allowed to gain common currency.

The decision comes almost exactly ten years after the opening of the
Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

It is not alleged that British officials mistreated prisoners themselves but
that they allowed torture to take place by foreign government, including the
US.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said in November last year that
allegations of British complicity in extraordinary rendition leading to
torture “undermined Britain’s standing in the world as a country that
upholds international law and abhors torture.”

He said that torture was “unacceptable in any circumstances” and added: “It is
abhorrent, it is wrong, and Britain will never condone it.”

At the same time he said Britain should have “great pride in the history,
standards and ethos” of the intelligence services.

“The dedication and professionalism of the people who work for our agencies
and the accountability to democratic government within which they operate
has few equals, and possibly no equals, among any of their counterparts,” he
added.

The government has paid out £14m to 16 Guantanamo detainees, including Shaker
Aamer, who is still in the US military prison.

The payments were made because MI5 and MI6 felt secret intelligence would be
made public in court and resources were being diverted from saving lives.

A series of previous investigations, claiming that the intelligence and
security services had allowed mistreatment to take place by the Americans
and other foreign intelligence services, have also led to no action being
taken.

Baroness Scotland, then the Attorney General, rejected five allegations made
by the organisation Human Rights Watch in 2010 because four had already been
considered by British courts.

A senior MI5 officer was cleared of threatening Binyam Mohamed, the former
Guantanamo prisoner in November 2010 after an investigation lasting two
years.

Mr Mohamed had claimed that an officer, referred to as “Witness B”, knew the
Americans planned to send him to Morocco to be tortured because the officer
offered him a cup of tea and told him: “Where you are going you will need a
lot of sugar.”

However the Metropolitan Police Serious Crime Directorate continued a wider
investigation into whether MI5 had facilitated the mistreatment of foreign
prisoners by foreign countries.

MI6 referred an unidentified case involving alleged complicity in torture to
the Attorney General in September 2009 who in turn referred it on to the
Metropolitan Police.

The case is thought to refer to mistreatment that an officer witnessed by the
Americans and reported to his superiors.

Sir John Sawers, the chief the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, said
in 2010: “I am confident that, in their efforts to keep Britain safe, all
SIS staff acted with the utmost integrity, and with a close eye on basic
decency and moral principles.”

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