Torture guidelines

UK intelligence officers and service personnel must adhere to the Consolidated Guidance on the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas, and on the passing and receipt of intelligence retaining to detainees. This guidance makes clear that the UK does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture for any purpose and that UK personnel will in no circumstance ever take action amounting to torture. Compliance with the Consolidated Guidance by our intelligence officers and service personnel is overseen on a statutory basis by the independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

Torture is abhorrent and I condemn it in all circumstances. Publishing the standards that UK personnel must apply during the detention and interviewing of detainees held by others overseas was an important development after a number of serious and concerning allegations of wrongdoing in previous years.

I am aware that the former Intelligence Services Commissioner recommended a review of the Consolidated Guidance in 2016. The UN’s Committee Against Torture has asked the UK to reword the Consolidated Guidance to avoid any ambiguity or potential misinterpretation.

The government has said that it is committed to ensuring the Consolidated Guidance remains fit for purpose and I know that it is considering what changes could be made to it. I appreciate that this is a matter of interest for human rights organisations, such as Reprieve, and the public more widely. I am also aware that the former Intelligence Services Commissioner recommended that the government invite and consider contributions from those with an interest in this subject.

It is right that the public know what those involved in interviewing detainees can and cannot do and that the terms under which UK personnel operate are put beyond doubt. Our intelligence services and armed forces do an outstanding job, often taking significant personal risks and operating across the world in circumstances they do not control. It is vital that we allow them to act to protect our country, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with our unequivocal commitment to human rights.