Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

Review of UK Torture Policy Launched in U-turn From Theresa May

WASHINGTON -

A public consultation has been launched into changes to the UK’s torture policy or “Consolidated Guidance”, which tells UK personnel how far they can go in participating in the interrogation suspects held by a foreign country or receiving intelligence that could have been obtained through torture.

This move follows a leaked Foreign Office memo which revealed that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was planning to ignore a recommendation to hold a consultation and instead have only a “light-touch” review of the policy. This will be the first public review of the guidance since its publication in 2010.

The Consultation is being overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO), the regulator for the intelligence services. It comes shortly after a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee revealed systemic UK involvement in mistreatment and just three months after the Prime Minister issued an unprecedented apology to former Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar over the Government’s role in their torture and rendition.

Last December, the Intelligence Services Commissioner revealed that in a single year GCHQ had wrongly failed to apply the Guidance in a total of 35 cases, and that in 8 of those cases the Guidance would have blocked information being shared as the risk of torture and mistreatment was too great.

Commenting, Dan Dolan, Head of Policy at Reprieve, said:

“This review is sorely needed and long overdue. At a time when the US President has endorsed the use of ‘waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse’, the UK should stand firm against any involvement in torture. Unfortunately, the current torture policy is so riddled with loopholes that it is simply not fit for purpose.

“The most recent figures from the UK’s intelligence watchdog showed that on average GCHQ officers wrongly ignore the Guidance every eleven days, and that this risks involving the UK in torture once every seven weeks. It cannot be right that these errors come to light months if not years after they happen. We now need a strong system of prior oversight of the UK’s torture policy, by which regulators can pre-emptively halt actions which could see the UK mixed up in torture."

###

Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


'Surreal' and 'Distressing': Climate Experts' Predictions Come True With US Heatwave

"The current heatwave and drought leave no doubt, we are living the dangerous effects of the climate crisis."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·