United States: Interrogation of Detainees — Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:27 am on 23 April 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative 11:27, 23 April 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the methods of interrogation of detainees revealed in the documents declassified by the Government of the United States.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, we welcome the decision to disclose this material. We also welcome President Obama's Executive Order of 22 January restricting methods of interrogation to those outlined in the US army field manual. The UK does not employ any of the techniques set out in these memos during interrogation. The Foreign Secretary has made clear that we consider waterboarding to be torture.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. The Obama Administration have been very honest and have told the world about the interrogation techniques. Will the Minister be equally honest and tell your Lordships' House whether we were aware that these techniques were being used and whether we used the information obtained by them in the United Kingdom?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, as I indicated in my original Answer, these techniques are not used by any British personnel during interrogation. The information obtained by the United States is taken in good faith. The noble Lord will appreciate that it is not possible for us alone to conduct the necessary defensive strategy against terrorism. We need co-operation with other states, and that co-operation is based on the information which they supply. We would not knowingly use any information that involved techniques of interrogation which we were not prepared to use.

Photo of Lord Goodhart Lord Goodhart Liberal Democrat

My Lords, 183 waterboardings in one month for one prisoner—that is, six a day—is surely torture by any standards. Do the Government agree that this will make it difficult, and perhaps impossible, to use any information obtained from prisoners at Guantanamo for prosecutions in this country?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, clearly there are difficulties, and the noble Lord will recognise the important position that the President of the United States has taken on these issues. However, the noble Lord is almost certainly right to judge that evidence submitted in any trial of individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay will, in defence terms, be subject to very serious examination in the light of that information. The noble Lord will also appreciate that it is, overwhelmingly, an issue for the American judicial authorities.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Deputy Shadow Leader, Parliament, Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, following that remark, whether anyone is prosecuted in America for these revolting practices, more reminiscent of communism and the Nazi period than of present-day methods, is a matter for President Obama and, presumably, his Attorney-General. Could we, however, be quite clear about our own position? Is it correct that HMG suppressed details the other day of the apparent torture of Binyam Mohammed, because the US was threatening to deny us vital intelligence material, or is it just supposition that the US was believed likely to threaten us under the new Administration? Has anyone checked that out, and what is the right position?

H

Lord Howell it seems on the facts before the House of Lords alone, that the "...revolting practices..." as you describe (what I also call) the torture-practices of the USA, is not only reminescent of "present-day" methods but is a fact of present-day USA torture methods, aided or condoned by the UK by way of our part in the international abduction and transporting of often innocent victims. ...

Submitted by Hubert Taylor Continue reading

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, clearly it is difficult for me to discuss the case of Binyam Mohammed from the Dispatch Box, given that it is already subject to continuing process. The noble Lord will also know the extent to which the Government have acted in referring issues to the Attorney-General for the police to examine whether any malpractice has occurred, as far as British authorities are concerned. Generally, however, it will be seen that British authorities have dealt with the American authorities on a combined strategy—as we have with others in the battle against terrorism—but have made it quite clear where we stand on techniques like waterboarding, and clearly indicated that it is not possible for a British citizen to engage in such activities without falling foul of the law.

Photo of Baroness Tonge Baroness Tonge Spokesperson for Health

My Lords, does the Minister ever consider that this Government have, by their actions or inactions over recent years, been in breach of international law?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I do not accept that and am having difficulty in identifying the particular illustration that the noble Baroness might have in mind. I emphasise that it is quite clear that the new Administration in the United States are looking at these things rather differently from the previous one, but that does not alter one jot the British position, which is quite clear; we do not condone the use of these techniques, we regard waterboarding as torture, and all instructions to British personnel guarantee that it is not used by British citizens.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, in reflecting in these short exchanges the horror that everyone must feel in seeing the images of waterboarding on our television screens—the frequency with which it was used on individual prisoners has already been stated—I warmly welcome and support the unequivocal statement that my noble friend has made in describing that as being torture. Would it not help everyone's consideration of these issues if all references to this technique, particularly those by the media, were no longer described as interrogation? While it might technically be true, it in no way reflects the reality of the practices as most people recognise them.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, in the not-too-distant past, my noble friend has asked me to do some pretty difficult tasks, and conditioning the response of the media to these issues is probably beyond my powers. But I take on board the point that he makes. The Answer I have given today on behalf of the Government, which the Foreign Secretary made quite clear some weeks ago and will be warmly appreciated by the House, is that of course the Government regard waterboarding as torture. It is for the media to reflect that position as accurately as we hope they ever do.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative

My Lords, where do the Government stand on extraordinary rendition, which is a larger aspect of this other problem?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, we are against extraordinary rendition. When it was suggested that the British Government had been complicit in this because of two flights by United States aircraft landing in Diego Garcia, which is British territory, the British Government clearly were unaware of any aspect of extraordinary rendition attached to those flights.

m

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

Submitted by mick angel Read 1 more annotation