Government urged to publish 'terror guidelines'

By Steve Swann
BBC News home affairs team

image captionBinyam Mohamed's case has raised the profile of interrogation techniques

The government is facing growing demands to publish guidance given to UK intelligence officers interrogating terrorist suspects overseas.

A Human Rights Watch report has called for "publication without delay".

It follows a legal ruling last week, ordering disclosure of the guidelines issued to MI5 and MI6 officials in 2002, updated in 2004.

In a separate hearing on Monday, lawyers indicated existing guidelines would be published "very soon".

The Labour government had refused to publish the 2002 guidelines, because, in the words of former foreign secretary David Miliband, it would "give succour to our enemies".

Extracts from those guidelines were quoted in a parliamentary report, but Human Rights Watch say that does not go far enough.

It is calling for an end to intelligence material obtained from third countries through the use of torture.

It claims "extensive intelligence cooperation with countries known to torture is all the more troubling given that the guidelines governing such work are not yet subject to public scrutiny."

Lengthy battle likely

In March 2009, the then prime minister Gordon Brown promised to reveal the guidelines which are currently in place. That is still to happen.

Though the coalition government has indicated it will release the guidelines currently in place, it has until early next month to decide whether to oppose the order to disclose the historic guidelines.

Lawyers for a group of former detainees at Guantanamo argue that those documents will show what members of MI5 and MI6 were allowed to do during the period when the men were seized and interrogated.

The men allege the British authorities caused or contributed to their ill-treatment.

Last week a judge described their claims as "of very substantial constitutional importance."

He ruled in favour of publication to speed up proceedings in what is set to be a long, costly legal battle.

He said: "The extraordinary past and anticipated delays in disclosure of the guidance documents requires the court to take decisive actions."

Mr Justice Silber told the court there were 250,000 documents which might be disclosable as part of the class action claim.

It was also revealed that there are now six government lawyers, 20 junior barristers and 10 officials working on document disclosure.

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