UK Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Secretary William Hague [official profile] said Friday that the UK will launch an investigation into allegations that overseas UK operatives were complicit in torture. Hague stated that the new coalition government will initiate a judge-led inquiry into the allegations, but no details were outlined in the legislative program [text, PDF] published Thursday by Prime Minister David Cameron [official profile]. In an interview [text] with the BBC, Hague stated:
We have said again in the coalition agreement that we want a judge-led inquiry. ... We will be setting out in the not-too-distant future what we are going to do about the allegations that have been made about complicity in torture. ... So will there be an inquiry of some form? Yes, both parties in the coalition said they wanted that. Now what we're working on is what form that should take.At least 12 men have filed lawsuits against the UK claiming the government knew or should have known about the torture the men experienced overseas.
Earlier this month, the England and Wales Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that state intelligence agencies cannot use secret evidence in their defense against abuse accusations by Binyam Mohamed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and several other UK residents who were held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The judgment overturned a November ruling [JURIST report] of a UK high court, which held that defendants MI5 and MI6 [official websites] could utilize a "closed material procedure" that would allow them to rely on certain evidence without disclosing it to opposing counsel or committing it to the public record. The procedure, typically employed in criminal proceedings, is designed to allow concealment of evidence where disclosure would cause "real harm to the public interest." In February, the England and Wales Court of Appeal ruled [JURIST report] that the government must disclose several paragraphs [text] detailing the allegations of Mohamed's mistreatment that were previously omitted from an earlier ruling in his criminal trial. Mohamed was returned to the UK in 2009, four months after charges against him were dismissed [JURIST reports]. He was held at Guantanamo Bay for four years on suspicion of conspiracy to commit terrorism [JURIST report].