David Davis MP and Labour’s Dan Jarvis MP want to overturn a decision by Theresa May to ditch a promise to hold a judge-led inquiry into the involvement of British intelligence in torture and rendition following 9/11.
As reported in the Guardian:
Court proceedings reveal files involving British intelligence during ‘war on terror’
Fifteen potential cases of torture or rendition involving British intelligence at the height of the “war on terror” were examined last year in a secret Whitehall review, whose existence was revealed in court proceedings on Tuesday.
None were deemed by officials to have involved British spies being party to human rights abuses – a decision that is being challenged by two MPs and the human rights charity Reprieve as part of a high court judicial review.
Lawyers acting for the former Conservative minister David Davis and Labour’s Dan Jarvis want to overturn a decision by Theresa May to ditch a promise to hold a judge-led inquiry into the involvement of British intelligence in torture and rendition following 9/11.
Ben Jaffey QC, representing the MPs, told the high court that the existence of the 15 torture or rendition files had only emerged in a witness statement made by an MI6 officer known only as AA as part of disclosure proceedings.
“This material is central to the case,” Jaffey said. “There are fifteen potential cases that might require further investigation. But the government’s view is none of them in fact do – and there is no detail about any of them.”
AA’s statement, which was read out in court by Jaffey, however, says it is the government’s position that “none of these 15 cases presents an extant and unmet investigative obligation” after the Whitehall review, which was ordered on behalf of May in October 2018.
Tuesday’s hearing was to decide whether the judicial review should be heard in secret. The government argues that because the charity and the two MPs are not victims, there is no need for them to hear the detail of the case in open court.
But Jaffey told the court the claimants believed the government had a requirement under article 3 of the European convention on human rights, which bans torture and inhumane treatment and requires allegations of it to be fully investigated.
That could only be discharged if the judicial hearing was heard in public and more details about the 15 cases emerged so it could be tested whether May was right to have concluded no public inquiry was needed, Jaffey said. In this area “the government has repeatedly been found to have given incomplete accounts”, the barrister added.
The most notorious case is that of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a Libyan dissident who was abducted by the CIA in 2004 from Thailand and sent back with his wife, with the help of information supplied by MI6. While back in Libya he was tortured and sentenced to death, although he survived and ultimately received an apology from May.
Few other cases have been as thoroughly investigated. A public inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson was halted by the government while the Belhaj case was concluded in the courts – and an ensuing inquiry by the intelligence and security committee was abandoned after being prevented from taking evidence from witnesses.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Davis said he wanted to see the case dealt with transparently, “not this unBritish, Kafkaesque, secret courts process”, while Jarvis said: “I believe the public has a right to know what was done in its name.”
The director of Reprieve, Maya Foa,said: “Evidence of British involvement in kidnap, torture, and rendition must be opened up to public scrutiny.”
Judgment as to whether the full proceedings would be heard in public or private was reserved by the presiding judges, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mrs Justice Farbey. The full case is due to be heard in the autumn at the earliest.