LONDON, Feb 11: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been asked to join Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in appearing before the parliament’s human rights committee amid growing concern that the government may have breached international law by colluding in the alleged torture of Britons in Pakistan.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that MPs and peers from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) had also asked Attorney General Lady Scotland to explain by the end of next week what action she had taken to investigate allegations of “possible criminal wrongdoing by the intelligence and security service personnel” in Pakistan.
In letters made public on Tuesday night, the JCHR also asked the foreign secretary and the home secretary a series of questions about legal provisions which appeared to offer British intelligence officers immunity in the UK for any crimes committed overseas.
The committee’s move came as lawyers acting for Binyam Mohamed, a former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay, and those for the Guardian and other media organisations asked the high court to reopen its “gagging” judgment after accusing Mr Miliband of giving a misleading account of why he wanted to suppress evidence of alleged torture.
The JCHR also expressed concern about the Mohamed case, telling the ministers that it “raises a number of issues about the alleged complicity of UK security service operatives in torture and mistreatment by overseas agencies”.
The JCHR has embarked upon hearings that are expected to focus on MI5’s role in the alleged illegal detention and torture of a number of British citizens in Pakistan in recent years.
Mr Dismore wrote to the ministers on Tuesday after hearing evidence last week from both Human Rights Watch, which has been investigating the allegations, and the Guardian, which has been investigating and reporting on the allegations for the last two years.
He told Mr Miliband and Ms Smith that the allegations, if true, “cast considerable doubt on the UK’s compliance with the UN convention against torture and the intelligence and security services’ compliance with the Human Rights Act”. He also said that if there were any truth in the allegations they would “call into question repeated assurances from the government that it is fundamentally opposed to the use of torture”.
Neither minister can be compelled to appear. And it is unclear whether either will choose to do so. If they do, they are expected to face awkward questions about the alleged illegal detention of British citizens, for months at a time, by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).