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France/Germany/United Kingdom: Wrong Message on Torture

Don’t Accept Torture Intelligence From Abusive Countries


France, Germany, and the United Kingdom use foreign intelligence
obtained under torture in the fight against terrorism, Human Rights
Watch said in a report released today.

The 62-page report, "No Questions Asked: Intelligence Cooperation
with Countries that Torture," analyzes the ongoing cooperation by the
governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom with foreign
intelligence services in countries that routinely use torture. The
three governments use the resulting foreign torture information for
intelligence and policing purposes. Torture is prohibited under
international law, with no exceptions allowed.

"Berlin, Paris, and London should be working to eradicate torture,
not relying on foreign torture intelligence," said Judith Sunderland,
senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Taking
information from torturers is illegal and just plain wrong."

The intelligence services in France, Germany, and the UK do not have
detailed instructions on how to assess and follow-up on information
coming from countries that torture, Human Rights Watch said.
Parliamentary oversight in each country is also inadequate.

Intelligence services in all three countries claim it is impossible
to know the sources and methods used to acquire shared information. But
officials in the UK and Germany have made public statements indicating
that they believe it is sometimes acceptable to use foreign
intelligence even if it is obtained under torture. Such statements send
the wrong message to abusive governments, Human Rights Watch said.

Information tainted by torture has also been used in criminal and
other proceedings in France and Germany, Human Rights Watch said,
despite both international and domestic rules banning the use of
torture evidence in any proceedings.

The report cites the case of Djamel Beghal, whose statements made
under ill-treatment in the United Arab Emirates were used against him
in a French court, where he was on trial for plotting a terrorist
attack. In another example, the alleged confession of a man known as
Abu Attiya under ill-treatment in Jordan was used against terrorism
suspects on trial in France. German courts have allowed as evidence the
summaries of interrogations of three high-profile terrorism suspects in
incommunicado US detention, as well as evidence collected as result of
statements made by Aleem Nasir, a Pakistan-born German citizen
suspected of terrorist ties, while in the custody of the notorious
Pakistani intelligence services.

Human Rights Watch said that in practice, overseas torture material
can end up being used in court because the burden falls on defendants
to prove it was obtained under torture, a nearly impossible task.

"The rules meant to exclude torture from the courts don't work,"
Sunderland said. "It should be up to prosecutors to prove that evidence
originating in countries that torture wasn't obtained through abuse."

The use of torture intelligence in the fight against terrorism by
France, Germany, and the UK damages the credibility of the European
Union, Human Rights Watch said. The actual practices of these leading
EU states contradict the EU's anti-torture guidelines, which make
eradicating torture and ill-treatment a priority in its relations with
other countries. Over the long-term, abuses in the name of countering
terrorism also feed the grievances that fuel radicalization and
recruitment to terrorism, Human Rights Watch said.

The global ban on torture under international law imposes clear
obligations: states must never torture or be complicit in torture, and
they must work toward the prevention and eradication of torture
worldwide. States must repudiate torture in their own territories, and
never encourage or condone torture anywhere in the world. Cross-border
intelligence cooperation is vital in the fight against international
terrorism, but it cannot, under international law, operate in
contradiction to these obligations.

France, Germany, and the UK can engage in necessary intelligence
cooperation without undermining the global torture ban, Human Rights
Watch said. To do so, they must make genuine inquiries of countries
that provide information to determine whether torture was used to
obtain it and to determine what steps the authorities have taken to
hold to account those responsible for any abuse that comes to light.

Cooperation should be suspended in cases where there are grounds to
believe torture or ill-treatment were used to obtain shared
information. There is also a need for tighter parliamentary oversight
of intelligence cooperation, and stronger rules to prevent torture
material from entering the judicial process.

"Europe has been forced to confront its complicity in US
counterterrorism abuses," Sunderland said. "It is time for France,
Germany, and the UK to take responsibility for their own role in
third-party abuse, and to ensure that their intelligence cooperation
isn't perpetuating abuse."

Human Rights Watch called on the governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to:

  • Publically repudiate reliance on intelligence material obtained
    from third countries through the use of torture or cruel, inhuman, or
    degrading treatment;
  • Reaffirm the absolute prohibition on the use of torture evidence in any kind of proceeding;
  • Clarify procedure rules on excluding torture evidence in criminal
    and civil proceedings to make clear that where an allegation that a
    statement was made under torture is raised, the burden of proof is on
    the state to show that it was not made under torture;
  • Ensure that national intelligence services have clear guidance on
    appropriate engagement with partner services with known records of
    torture, and that intelligence cooperation arrangements with third
    countries include clear human rights stipulations, including the duty
    to discontinue cooperation in an individual case if credible
    allegations of torture come to light;
  • Strengthen parliamentary oversight over national intelligence services; and
  • Ensure that any form of complicity in torture is a criminal offense
    in domestic law, and that state agents who are complicit in torture
    anywhere in the world are prosecuted, including those who
    systematically receive information from countries and agencies known to
    practice torture.

To read, "No Questions Asked: Intelligence Cooperation with Countries that Torture," please visit:

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.