Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is a “hopelessly inadequate” watchdog that has failed to hold UK security services to account for 15 years, human rights charity Reprieve warns.
The human rights group’s damning criticism surfaced in the wake
of Sir Malcom Rifkind’s resignation as committee chair. Rifkind
stepped down from the role on Tuesday, following abuse of power
Commenting on the Rifkind scandal, executive director of legal
charity Reprieve Clare Algar said it should not detract from the
ISC’s key problem: that it is unfit for purpose.
She warned the ISC has consistently failed to challenge
government on key issues, such as UK complicity in CIA torture
and depleted privacy rights in an era of mass surveillance.
The executive director of Reprieve said this vital role has
effectively been left to British courts, NGOs and press outlets,
as government officials fail to do their job.
She stressed Rifkind’s resignation highlights the need to address
the government’s prevailing lack of accountability.
Algar said the ISC requires root and branch reform if it is to
succeed in holding the most secret elements of the state to
She called upon the government to honor its original pledge to
conduct an independent, judge-led inquiry into Britain’s
involvement in torture.
— Reprieve (@Reprieve) February
Cameron had announced such an inquiry in 2010. However, in
December 2013, the Tory-led coalition government scrapped the
pledge and appointed the ISC to investigate the matter.
The US Senate Intelligence Committee’s explosive report on CIA
rendition and torture was published in December 2014.
It described how detainees in covert CIA prisons across the globe
were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”
such as brutal beatings, “rectal feeding,” and forcing
detainees into coffin-sized confinement boxes for hours at a
In recent years, some detail on the scope of Britain’s
involvement in US rendition practices post-9/11 has surfaced.
An array of leaks, which appeared prior to the publishing of the
Senate’s report, highlighted Britain’s collaborative role in the
CIA’s mistreatment and abuse of terror suspects.
Of particular note, are allegations that British foreign
territory Diego Garcia was used to transfer detainees via
It has also emerged that MI6 was complicit in a least two
separate CIA rendition cases in 2004, which resulted in the
kidnapping and transfer of two Libyans to prisons run by the
government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
In January an in-depth investigation into unanswered questions
raised by the Senate’s torture report was launched in Britain.
The probe seeks to address crucial gaps in public knowledge,
which linger in the wake of US censorship of the Senate’s report.
The investigation is a collaboration between Britain’s Bureau of
Investigative Journalism and a university research initiative
called the Rendition Project.
Journalists working on the project are seeking to uncover what
was redacted in the final Senate report, and what information
remains buried in the 6,000 pages of unreleased content.