Tony Blair knew of secret policy on terror interrogations

Letter reveals former PM was aware of guidance to UK agents

Ian Cobain , The Guardian/UK, Thursday 18 June 2009

Tony Blair was aware of the ­existence of a secret interrogation policy which ­effectively led to British citizens, and others, being ­tortured during ­counter-terrorism investigations, the Guardian can reveal.

The policy, devised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, offered ­guidance to MI5 and MI6 officers ­questioning detainees in Afghanistan whom they knew were being mistreated by the US military.

British intelligence officers were given written instructions that they could not “be seen to condone” torture and that they must not “engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners”.

But they were also told they were not under any obligation to intervene to prevent detainees from being mistreated.

“Given that they are not within our ­custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this,” the policy said.

The policy almost certainly breaches international human rights law, according to Philippe Sands QC, one of the world’s leading experts in the field, because it takes no account of Britain’s obligations to avoid complicity in torture under the UN convention against torture. Despite this, the secret policy went on to underpin British intelligence’s ­relationships with a number of foreign intelligence agencies which had become the UK’s allies in the “war against terror”.

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