Former MI5 head: Torture is 'wrong and never justified'


Eliza Manningham-Buller: Torture is "wrong and never justified"

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The use of torture is "wrong and never justified", the former head of the security service MI5 has insisted.

Eliza Manningham-Buller said it should be "utterly rejected even when it may offer the prospect of saving lives".

Giving the second of her BBC Radio Reith lectures, she acknowledged recent disclosures about alleged British intelligence operations in Libya would "raise widespread concerns".

"No-one could justify what went on under Gaddafi's regime," she added.

Baroness Manningham-Buller's lectures examine the issues of terrorism and security on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

She said that the use of torture had not made the world a safer place, adding that the use of water-boarding by the United States was a "profound mistake" and as a result America lost its "moral authority".

Allegations have recently emerged that the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) was involved in the rendition of Libyan terror suspects, following the discovery of papers suggesting close ties between MI6, the CIA and the Gaddafi regime.

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The second of Eliza Manningham-Buller's Reith Lectures will be broadcast on Tuesday 13 September 2011 at 09:00 BST on BBC Radio 4.

Baroness Manningham-Buller, who was director-general of the security service MI5 between 2002 and 2007, stated that she "would like to say more" on the recent allegations.

However, her position made it difficult to do so as she anticipates being called to give evidence to the Gibson Inquiry which will investigate the subject.

Sir Peter Gibson is chair of the ongoing detainee inquiry, which was set up last year by Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate the alleged involvement in torture by UK security agencies.

A statement issued by the inquiry said it would also be considering the new allegations of UK involvement in rendition to Libya. Some of the inquiry will be held in secret to protect intelligence sources and methods.

Following the lecture, which was held in Leeds City Museum, Lady Manningham-Buller answered questions posed by members of the audience.

The Conservative MP, David Davis, asked the former MI5 head if she thought Britain's resistance to the use of telephone intercept evidence in court had hindered the conviction rate of terrorists in the UK.

Baroness Manningham-Buller replied that MI5 had first suggested the use of intercept evidence in 1988, and she would "still like to see that happen" - but successive British governments have found the idea "procedurally difficult".

The second of Eliza Manningham-Buller's Reith Lectures, which is entitled Security, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 13 September.


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    Comment number 281.

    My uncle was brutally tortured at the hands of the Japenese during WWII. Having seen the impact this had on him the rest of his life and that he died so much earlier than most of his peers as a result of his incarceration;
    Torture can't be justified. I'm sure the Japanese though they were justified, as the Germans thought they were and the Serbs, more recently thought they were. It needs to stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    It's incredible, all of this talk of war from people who most likely have never experienced one. As a former soldier I can say that the Geneva Convention is as important to most of those protecting you as it is to the Human Rights lobbyists. It's just a shame that so many countries who have signed up to it don't adhere to it. As for winning this 'war on terror', hearts and minds are the key.

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    Comment number 161.

    Torture of terrorists MAY be justified if it results in information that saves many innocent lives, but the torture of just ONE innocent person can never be justified.Like capital punishment, one can argue for it..........until you execute the innocent ?!
    Man's inhumanity towards his fellow man knows no bounds - be it on the side of "good" or "evil". Such is the one of many flaws in our make-up.

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    Comment number 153.

    " All is fair in love and war ". Make no mistake, we are at war.Our adversary, is not bound by the constrictions of morality; our enemies view turning the other cheek as a sign of weakness and lack of will. It is all very well to take the moral high ground, but the first duty of any state is to the wellbeing of it's people, at any cost , and by any means, fashionably acceptable or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    The purpose of "talking" to suspects is to gain intelligence from them. Torturing them is usually counter-productive, recruiting them as agents is more useful. A friendly voice in the context of the shock of capture is usually more lethal than a cattle prod in terms of getting information. I think we Brits learned that a long time ago. Its subtle which is why the US will never get it.


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