UK spy chief says British intelligence not guilty of torture

Allegations are mounting – have MI5 and MI6 agents been involved in the extreme interrogation and torture of terror suspects abroad? It would not be shocking, given the threat of terrorism, the pressure to stop it in its tracks, and what’s come to light about U.S. interrogation methods…

Sir John ScarlettThat said, the British government and intelligence officials are adamant that British agents have not been involved in the sort of interrogation that violates suspects’ human rights. MI6 Director John Scarlett told BBC Radio: “Our officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else.”

It’s that ‘anybody else’ that has some human rights organizations fretting. Several groups, including the Joint Committee on Human Rights, have been urging the British government to allow for an independent investigation into the allegations. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office and Chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee Kim Howells have said that there is no need for an inquiry at this time.

Howells, whose committee monitors Britain’s intelligence agencies, said, “We’ve found no evidence that there has been collusion between the intelligence services, any government department and governments that torture individuals.”  He also said that “no government on Earth” could say beyond a shadow of a doubt that suspects held abroad had not had their human rights infringed upon. This, of course, is the sort of comment that leads to calls for independent inquiries.

Even if British agents did not torture anyone, anti-terror information garnered through torture carried out by other governments and used by Britain in its anti-terror campaign, could be regarded as complicity in torture. There are also those who allege that British agents provided questions to interrogators of other governments who used torture, and that this is also a form of complicity.

So far though, the British government is standing by its agents – no indie inquiry in sight.

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