Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Torture Policy in the United Kingdom Under New Labour

Craig Murray's evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, given yesterday, is now on Youtube.

As Craig himself notes, he does not intend to speak of the nature of the tortures endured, so there is no need to dive for the volume control. What emerges is a change of United Kingdom government policy, a change made at ministerial level by the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, from the policies determined by Lady Thatcher. She had rejected information produced from torture. Straw changed this policy to accepting it.

The reasons for doing so included the argument that rejecting information gained from torture puts at risk the receipt of all information that is part of the information-sharing arrangements with various United States agencies. Why Lady Thatcher's government was not affected by this and rejected information gained from torture, whereas the New Labour government is affected so that torture information is accepted is not clear.

A frightening interpretation offered is that in the period of preparation for the attack upon Iraq a culture of lies was constructed. We know now that Blair lied to Parliament, that lies were told of what intelligence advice had been received on threats from weapons of mass destruction or even their possession by Iraq, of lies about the connection between Al Qaida and Iraq. Because torture's effect, and to a great extent its purpose, is to force from the tortured what the torturers wish to hear, such a culture of lies would be supported by information resulting from torture.

The New Labour regime requires those lies and embraces the means to obtain them. The Conservatives' foreign policy did not require a culture of lies nor was it disposed to accept information evinced by torture. Evidence from Foreign Office training materials on human rights from before 2002 is expected to support the Thatcher stance and its being followed until Straw altered the policy and helped to create a'market in torture' as Craig called it. A representative of United Kingdom security agencies would formally call on torture agencies in Uzbekistan once a year to encourage further cooperation and express satisfaction with what had been done, until Craig ended the practice. The torturing taking place there was just part of the whole torture network which, together with the rendition programme run by the CIA webbed across much of the world and in which the UK was complicit.

No comments: