In a significant break from the policy of the erstwhile Labour government, Britain's ruling coalition has decided to order an independent investigation into accusations of intelligence agencies' complicity in the torture of alleged terror suspects by their foreign counterparts such as Pakistan's ISI.
The move, seen as an attempt by the Conservative -Lib Dem government to underline its professed commitment to civil liberties and openness, was announced by Foreign Secretary William Hague during a BBC interview.
He said the inquiry would be “judge-led'' and details would be announced “pretty soon''.
His Labour predecessor David Miliband repeatedly rejected calls for an inquiry and defended the conduct of British intelligence agencies. He maintained that Britain did not condone torture.
Mr. Hague said the government was committed to getting to the bottom of allegations made by several terror suspects, notably Binyam Mohamed, a British resident of Ethiopian origin and a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner.
Mr. Mohamed (30), who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 , claims that his American captors flew him to Morocco where he was beaten, deprived of sleep and his genitals were cut with a scalpel. According to him, MI5 knew about the way he was treated. He has fought a long legal battle for release of documents that, he claims, prove his allegation.
Mr. Hague said the government would 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 we are working on what form that should take. Proposals on this will follow pretty soon,” he said.
In the past, both the Conservatives and Lib Dems have supported calls for an inquiry but it is not mentioned in their common minimum programme published on Thursday.
MI5 has consistently denied the allegations describing them as “conspiracy'' theories.