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UK plans inquiry into claims its spies were complicit with torture

Will compensate any detainees found mistreated

By Jill Lawless
Associated Press / July 7, 2010

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LONDON — Britain will hold an inquiry into allegations that its spies were complicit in the torture of terror suspects held by the United States and other allies, officials said yesterday.

The government also announced it would compensate detainees found to have been mistreated in the global pursuit of terrorists after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The investigation, by a three-member panel headed by retired judge Peter Gibson, could complicate intelligence-sharing with Washington.

It follows civil cases brought against the government by 12 former detainees who contend British intelligence agents colluded in their mistreatment in Pakistan, Morocco, and elsewhere.

British spies have not been accused of torturing detainees, but several former suspects have alleged that British officials were complicit in their mistreatment while they were held by agents from the United States, Pakistan, and other countries, because they knew of abuse but did not stop it.

Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons that “for the past few years the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries.’’

“It is time to clear up this matter once and for all,’’ he said.

Cameron said the government would ask the 12 to drop their lawsuits in exchange for mediation, possible compensation, and a promise the inquiry will investigate their assertions.

He said the inquiry also cannot start until the conclusion of a criminal investigation underway into allegations against two officers from the MI5 and MI6 intelligence agencies.

“We hope it will start before the end of this year and will report within a year,’’ Cameron said.

The panel is expected to call current and former ministers and intelligence agency chiefs to give evidence, but it is unclear how much of it will be in public. Cameron said intelligence officers would not be required to give evidence publicly.

Gibson is the Intelligence Services commissioner, a watchdog for Britain’s spies.

Like Britain’s ongoing inquiry into the Iraq war, his investigation won’t establish criminal wrongdoing, but may apportion blame.

In the most notorious case, Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who is among those suing Britain, says he was beaten severely, subjected to sleep deprivation, and had his genitals sliced with a scalpel.

A British court has ruled that Mohamed was subjected to “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment’’ by US authorities.

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