Publication of an interrogation policy for Britain’s secret agents has been delayed because of concerns that it may lead to members of MI5 and MI6 breaking anti-torture laws, it was claimed last night.
New guidance on the treatment and questioning of terror suspects held abroad had been expected yesterday after Gordon Brown committed the Government to disclosure last year. The revised rules follow a number of high-profile court cases in which MI5 and MI6 have been accused of complicity in torture.
But a Cabinet Office spokesman confirmed yesterday that the Government would not be able to meet its own deadline because of concerns raised by the committee of MPs which oversees the work of MI5 and MI6.
The admission led to accusations that the delay was because of legal problems over the use of the guidance. It was claimed that the revised guidance would still permit officers to be complicit in the ill-treatment of suspects.
The campaign group Human Rights Watch said: “In a section on counterterrorism, the FCO’s report outlines, for the first time in public, a policy that appears to authorise direct participation by UK security agents in interrogations of detained terrorism suspects by foreign intelligence services, even where there is a risk that those detained are being tortured.”
In a separate development, the ISC claims that government interference has threatened its independence. In a report published yesterday the MPs called on ministers to take steps to protect their independence by cutting the Cabinet Office’s close ties to the ISC.