Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A whitewash on torture

This morning David Cameron finally announced his long-promised (and long-awaited) judicial inquiry into the UK intelligence services' collusion in torture. Unfortunately, it looks like its going to be a whitewash from the start. Firstly, instead of being headed by an independent judge, it will be led by Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner. This is an equivalent position to NZ's Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence, and it has the same problems of institutional capture and a lack of independence. The UK government is effectively getting the spies to investigate themselves, through their pet judge. And when its put like that, it is clear that the public can have no confidence in the outcome.

Secondly, Cameron tipped his hand in his announcement:

Mr Cameron told MPs that to ignore the claims would risk operatives' reputation "being tarnished.
Which suggests that the primary concern is not bringing torturers to justice and ensuring that it never happens again, but to protect the reputation (what reputation?) of the spies. So, everything will be swept under the rug.

(Also note the focus on ending those embarrassing court cases, which threaten to drag the details out in a manner the government cannot control. This is about PR and damage limitation, not justice).

But finally and most damningly, the inquiry will happen in secret. Meaning we cannot see that it is fair. And if we can't see it, we can't trust it - its that simple.

Crimes have been committed. Their victims deserve justice, not a whitewash. That justice is best achieved by a fair, independent and impartial court of law - not by another secretive, compromised "inquiry" with a mandate to bury the truth.