A recently released report of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament under the chairmanship of conservative MP Dominic Grieve QC has received remarkably little media coverage in Australia. There are a number of reasons to be concerned about the information contained within the report, not least because it raises serious questions about the level of Australian complicity in the behaviour described in the report.
Following the events of 11th of September 2001 the administration of US president GW Bush announced its “war on terror.” Components of this “war” including the setting up of secret and not so secret detention camps. Prisoners were “rendered” (i.e. kidnapped) to these camps where many have been held indefinitely, without trial, without due process of law, and as the UK report makes clear, tortured.
Information gained by torture, or enhanced interrogation is it was euphemistically described, was then shared by the US with its allies. Two Australian citizens, David Hicks and Mamdoub Habib, were victims of this process.
The UK report makes clear that the British were fully complicit in this process. They knew what the Americans were doing. They were present when interrogations were carried out. They supplied questions to be asked under torture, and in 198 cases documented by the Committee received information they knew to have been obtained by torture.
The definition of torture is found in a number of legal instruments. Its most common form refers to “any act by which severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes all of training from them or a third person information or a confession.”
Torture is prohibited for example, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (ICCPR) the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT); and the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The UK and Australian governments have ratified all of these Conventions and other Articles of international law. The US has neither signed nor ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, although it did ratify the original Convention. It has signed but not ratified the statute of the ICC.
To render someone for the purposes of torture,