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Daily View: Torture inquiry

Clare Spencer | 09:02 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Binyam MohamedCommentators look at the Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement of an inquiry into allegations that UK security services were complicit in the torture of terror suspects.

Peter Oborne says in the Daily Mail that David Cameron is to be congratulated for delivering on a promise to carry out this inquiry which he first made in opposition:

"Ever since the formation of the coalition Government, the intelligence services have been in a running battle at Whitehall to force him and Foreign Secretary William Hague to change their minds, and it is immeasurably to the Prime Minister's credit that he has stood firm. Better still, he has awarded the inquiry strong powers to call for documents and demand to see witnesses. It will be a judge-led inquiry, which holds out the prospect that the investigation will be independent and rigorous."

The Telegraph editorial says the inquiry comes with risks:

"Mr Cameron insists that MI5 and MI6 must not be diverted from this essential task - and yet there is a danger that this inquiry, scheduled to last a year, will have just that effect. We have other concerns, too. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the agencies are "paralysed by paperwork" through having to defend themselves in a dozen court cases - both criminal and civil. Since these need to be completed before the judge-led inquiry can properly get under way, the Government proposes to expedite the civil cases by offering compensation to some of those who were detained overseas."

US political blogger Andrew Sullivan applauds the move, which is not being copied in America:

"The rule of law may have been suspended by Bush and retroactively legitimized by Obama - but it is alive and well in Britain, where Tories have the courage the Obama Democrats lack."

In the blog Fire Dog Lake questions are asked about the pressures put on those involved in the inquiry:

"This appears to put pressure on people like Binyam Mohamed to agree to mediation (between whom? between the US and him, mediated by David Cameron's selected mediator?) if he wants to see a more generalized inquiry move forward. And of course, that generalized inquiry would be led by the British government's hand-picked judge - Sir Peter Gibson - and the promises to complete access to the relevant documentation would be nothing more than promises until Mohamed agrees to settle."

In the Guardian Richard Norton-Taylor points out the limitations of the inquiry:

"It will not summon witnesses from foreign countries, such as current or former CIA officers. And it will not be able to compel any individuals to give evidence. Last night, Whitehall officials said that former Labour ministers, including Tony Blair, will not be asked to give evidence, even though the treatment of British citizens and residents under investigation happened on their watch."

Links in full

Peter Oborne | Daily Mail | Even if it shames Britain, torture inquiry must reveal truth
Telegraph | Will this inquiry help the war on terror?
Andrew Sullivan | Atlantic | Conservatives Against Torture, Ctd
Fire Dog Lake | Is the UK Torture Inquiry an Attempt to Limit Further Disclosure?
Richard Norton-Taylor | Guardian | Torture inquiry will not lead to any prosecutions

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