Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Michael Wood is the legal adviser to the Foreign Office, (it was to him that Elizabeth Wilmshurt's resignation letter was addressed), and he is explaining that the government's position on obtaining information that it is not illegal under the UN to receive or use information obtained under torture. The only limitation is that it may not be used in court. It is addressed to Linda Duffield, who I assume is the same Linda Duffield who acts as UK ambassador to the Czech Republic, which has recently been implicated in the hosting of CIA prison sites. Its Interior Minister claims that the Republic turned down a US request to set up a detention centre on its territory.
And here is the text of the second document, a sequence of telegraphs from Craig Murray to the FCO. In particular, I quote the following:
I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.
On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror.
They are using information obtained under torture, then, because intelligence services consider it "very useful". Further, Murray responds to Michael Wood's legal position:
I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.
The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points.
He further responds to a decision taken to continue to use information obtained under torture:
I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true – the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.
I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence.
So, the Foreign Office does not want anyone to understand that it has taken decisions, in collaboration with MI6, to continue to use information obtained by the use of torture despite the fact that it is, as Craig Murray points out "highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat" or, more prosaically, "dross". At the very least, that serves as yet another introduction to the morally bankrupt universe of the British State.