Examination of Witness

Part of National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:20 pm on 7 July 2022.

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Dan Dolan:

Yes, it would be. Effectively, clause 23 looks a lot like an effort to protect Ministers from criminal liability for actions that they encourage or assist in the UK that could constitute a crime overseas. This is not a hypothetical idea. There have been instances that were extensively documented in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s detainee report, where UK Ministers and officials authorised intelligence sharing that led to appalling torture and mistreatment of people overseas. The ISC has documented that extensively.

A good example is the case of Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, who in 2004 were rendered to Libya where they faced appalling mistreatment, both in Libya and in the course of their rendition by the US CIA. Subsequently, it emerged that the UK Government had provided the tip-off to enable that extraordinary rendition. The couple ultimately received an apology from Theresa May’s Government, recognising that the UK had shared intelligence that had contributed to the couple’s absolutely appalling mistreatment.

That is not an isolated case. During the war on terror era, there were many instances where the UK shared intelligence that contributed to torture. That has been recognised. The then Prime Minister recognised that in her response to the ISC’s report, and pledged never to do that again. What this clause would do is effectively to insulate Ministers from criminal responsibility for those kinds of offences.