UK can’t guarantee allies don’t torture detainees

Associatedpress and Associatedpress

LONDON — Britain’s government can’t completely rule out that its allies torture detainees while seeking to tackle the threat from terrorism, according to an official report released Wednesday.

An annual report on human rights, issued by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, said Britain must work with intelligence agencies overseas, not all of whom share U.K. standards and laws.

“But we cannot afford the luxury of only dealing with those that do. The intelligence we get from others saves British lives,” the report said.

The government said in the report that it does all it can to check that people detained by other nations who are considered intelligence sources aren’t badly treated.

But the government acknowledged “there are times when we cannot reduce the risk to zero.”

Police are investigating the actions of two British intelligence officers over their alleged complicity in the torture of people held overseas.

A dozen ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees — 11 of whom now live in Britain — have begun legal cases against Britain, accusing the government of being involved or condoning their alleged mistreatment overseas.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown had repeatedly insisted Britain does not condone torture, or solicit others to torture on its behalf.

Launching the report, Miliband said Britain has a responsibility to cooperate in probes about such cases as terror networks in South Asia and drug trafficking in the Caribbean — even though “engaging with foreign justice and security organizations may expose us to human rights risks.”

The minister had previously acknowledged that Britain has stopped operations with allies to question suspects when officials believed they could not guarantee detainees involved would not be mistreated.

“This is never an easy judgment, and we would be failing in our twin duties to defend the country and uphold human rights if we pretended that there was never a tension between the two,” the report said.

Last week, the former head of the country’s domestic spy agency MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, said U.S. intelligence agencies misled key allies, including Britain, over its treatment of suspected terrorists.