MPs call on Obama to reveal torture evidence

By politics.co.uk staff

A group of MPs and human rights activists have written to president Barack Obama calling on him to publish details of secret documents allegedly containing details of UK complicity in torture.

“With the foreign secretary refusing to lobby the US to release these documents, I felt others had to do his job for him,” said Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman and one of the signatories.

“It is a total dereliction of duty for the foreign secretary not to push this case with the Obama administration, given this involves something so serious as torture.”

Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the all party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, Chris Mullin, vice-chairman of the same, Clare Algar, executive director of Reprieve and Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, also signed the letter.

“It is important that a direct request to president Obama comes from British MPs and civil society,” Mr Davey continued.

“The government’s claims to oppose torture sound hollow when it fails to pursue the publication of evidence that may uncover it.

“David Miliband’s weak position inevitably raises suspicions of British complicity.”

The full text of the letter can be read below:

President Barack Obama

The White House
Washington D.C. 20500
Dear president Obama,

We the undersigned share with you the commitment, made plain in your inauguration speech that, “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” We believe your decision to close Guantanamo Bay and the repudiation of torture by your administration are strong signals of welcome changes you are making. We will be calling on the United Kingdom and other European governments to assist you wherever possible in this goal.

We are writing regarding the related case of former British resident, Binyam Mohamed, currently held in Guantanamo Bay, and allegations of his torture. Last week, two senior British judges ruled that a summary of US intelligence documents, held by the UK government, could not be made public. The judges believed that although open justice demanded the release of the documents, the foreign secretary had told them in good faith that the US had threatened to withdraw vital intelligence sharing if this were done, and were therefore unable to publish the summary.

The judges wrote that “there was nothing in the redacted paragraphs that would identify any agent or any facility or any secret means of intelligence gathering. Nor could anything in the redacted paragraphs possibly be described as ‘highly sensitive classified US intelligence’.” Yet it is widely suspected and indeed implied by the judges that publication of the summary would likely expose the use of torture or complicity in the use of torture by Pakistani, US and UK intelligence officials.

In their judgment they wrote, ‘The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials (in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security) would be inimical to the rule of law and the proper functioning of a democracy. Championing the rule of law, not suppressing it, is the cornerstone of a democracy.’

They concluded by saying, ‘If the information in the redacted paragraphs which we consider so important to the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability is to be put into the public domain, it must now be for the United States government to consider changing its position or itself putting that information into the public domain.’

We therefore urge you to publish the information contained in these seven paragraphs.

Yours sincerely,
Edward Davey MP
shadow foreign secretary, Liberal Democrats
Andrew Tyrie MP
chairman of the all party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition
Chris Mullin MP
vice-chairman of the all party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition
Clare Algar
executive director, Reprieve
Kate Allen
director, Amnesty International UK