UK secret interrogation policy revealed

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[JURIST] The Guardian [media website] released a top secret document [text] Thursday revealing details [Guardian report] about the interrogation policies of UK intelligence officials. The document indicates that officers from the UK security and secret intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6 [official websites], respectively, were instructed to weigh the severity of the mistreatment of a detainee with the benefits of possibly obtaining information from the prisoner. The agencies “do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment,” the document said, though the agencies would “consider applying caveats or seeking prior assurances” if they foresee a risk of possibly mistreating or torturing a detainee. Agency officials were also directed not to publicly reveal the secret interrogation policies for fear that disclosure would lead to increased extremism:

If the possibility exists that information will be or has been obtained through the mistreatment of detainees, the negative consequences may include any potential adverse effects on national security if the fact of the agency seeking or accepting information in those circumstances were to be publicly revealed. For instance, it is possible that in some circumstances such a revelation could result in further radicalisation, leading to an increase in the threat from terrorism.

The interrogation policy was first issued to officers in Afghanistan in 2002 and was subsequently amended on two occasions.

The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] in July that secret service organizations cannot withhold evidence [JURIST report] from opposing parties nor conduct closed trials. The British government, on orders from UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website], is engaged in an ongoing investigation [JURIST report] into claims that government agents were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects held overseas. The British government issued a new set of regulations [text, PDF] regarding the use of information obtained via torture in July 2010 shortly after the human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking a review of the country’s torture policy. UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) [official website] expressed concern [press release], however, that the country’s new regulations may still leave intelligence agents vulnerable [JURIST report] to legal action for human rights crimes committed by others. In March 2009, UK Attorney General Janet Scotland [official profile] said that police would conduct an investigation [statement, PDF; JURIST report] into claims that an agent of the MI5 took part in the allegedly abusive interrogation of former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Binyam Mohamed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], an appellee in the aforementioned UK Supreme Court case.

Read more detail on JURIST – Paper Chase

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